Tag Archives: digital photography

A Village Trapped in Amber?

I always have a camera close to hand; you never know when you’re going to need one. A case in point is this one…

It’s a screen shot from a TV show that was filmed thirty years ago in the village that, for the last ten years, I have called home. I can still recall crowding around the TV set when it was first aired on the ITV network in 1993, to see how the production company had ‘tarted up’ the conurbation in which my mother lived, and into which I was born…

The tale, itself, wasn’t one of Ms Rendell’s best, particularly because it was stretched out to a three-parter, when two episodes would have sufficed. Having snapped several screen shots, I had the fabulous idea of recreating them – to see how the old place has changed during the intervening decades in which I went from being a young dad, to a grey-haired pensioner. So I grabbed my little Canon compact and went hunting locations. The first was inaccessible – being a thicket of vicious thorns and stinging nettles; but I managed to get very close. Close enough to take this…

Not a lot of change, I think you’ll agree.

Here’s an establishing shot during the titles…

To replicate this I would have needed to access someone’s property, so I just stood outside their gate and took this…

Well someone forgot to take their dustbins in: and I don’t think anyone has milk delivered to their doorstep anymore. Here’s a closer Panaflex shot of the shop at the bottom of the hill…

The TV production company changed the name of the shop. Here it is today, with the original name…

No one bothers with window baskets; not in real life. The production company must have thought it would look nicer with them. Here the central character is seen outside of a Limo-hire establishment…

Inside, the building was decked out very like it had been during my childhood: a car sales garage. The apparent antiques shop was actually a private home, and still is. The modern picture shows the ‘garage’ looking very much as it had for eternity…

…but it is, in fact, now a private dwelling, but some stupid by-law forbids the owners to change the outward appearence: so it still looks like a car showroom, but with blacked-out windows, so passers-by can’t see the occupants watching TV. Dumb. Oh yeah, and someone else forgot to take their dustbin from the street. We’re a forgetful bunch – us carrot-crunchers.

Here we see the back of the central character as she turns into the high street. Note the time on the  church clock. Everyone is out at work: those are production company ‘props’ parked in the road. Also note the red Ford Sierra: it will, as of by magic, swap position. Today’s picture…

…includes an ugly warning sign that suggests that very stupid lorry drivers should refrain from taking their huge vehicles up the tiny, narrow road. Presumably one of the aforementioned once tried it, and wrecked several cars whilst trying to reverse back down the hill. God I hate that sign: it’s a blot on the landscape!

Oh look, it’s that red Sierra again. I had one, myself, in the same shade of red. Very bouncy back end, I recall. Blew a head gasket – just a few weeks before I was due to sell it and move to Spain. The florist closest camera was never such, and until recently was an insurance broker. It’s now empty, and will probably become a private residence: they all do eventually. Opposite is the George Hotel. It was actually one of three public houses in the village (now down to one). Today it is an partment building, but retains it’s original ‘look’…

Here is a scene from inside the building…

…which, for me is rather poignant. It is the place (in 1981)  where I met the woman who would become my wife of thirty-eight years, and the mother of my children. So, in summation, apart from in-fill between existing buildings and the street in which I now live – which was constructed in 2011…

…not a lot has really changed. But that’s the English countryside for you. Glacial. And I would be the last to complain.

 

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs: Spaceship Window

When it comes to source material for my Earplug Adventures, there are no depths too deep for me to sink to in pursuit of  it. Actually that isn’t entirely accurate: it’s very unlikely that I would lower myself into a sewer or go wading in a slurry pit. But I would root through a garbage can; especially if I were to unearth a nugget such as this…

“What?” I hear you bellow, “How can the torn cardboard sleeve of a sweetener dispenser be termed ‘a nugget’? You’re pulling my dangly bits, Nolan!”

In response I say this: “You haven’t seen my other Making Art Out of etc etc, have you? If you had, you’d know that a carboard dispenser sleeve with a diagonal slash across its ‘window’, is just begging to become transformed into a real window. The window of a parked spacecraft, perhaps…

My, I do believe that’s Don Quibonki, the fantasist conquistador, riding Gargantua outside upon a dusty plain, with his aide, Panta Lonez, peering in at Nigel – the Golden One. Very nice. Quite spectacular actually. But this particular ‘window’ was just too good to use only once. Look what might happen to the aforementioned spacecraft, should my imagination (and some directed energy weapons) be let loose upon it…

Pretty much only the window remains. Oh dear. And this is what might happen in the next Earplug Adventure. Shucks, we can only hope that Nigel wasn’t home.

Earplug Adventures and pictures 2 & 3 © Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 24) An Earplug Adventure

THIS IS IT: THE FINAL EPISODE. IT’S A MUST-READ!

Of course, there had only ever been one Hair-Trigger. She had no need to seek out her twin. Instead, she fetched herself a ghastly cup of Café Puke’s finest…

…and wondered what might have happened if she and the boys hadn’t been off world when the temporal catastrophe struck. The vague feeling of dread didn’t last long though: the sound of the first space submarine freighter arriving from far away broke the tableau…

Epilogue

Inevitably, late evening gave way to full night, and before long twelve midnight struck. Hambledon Bohannon took the sound of a chiming bell as his cue. ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’ boomed out across the Grand Hall abruptly – shattering the growing murmur of congregating earplugs…

Within seconds of Hambledon’s driving rhythm making its presence felt, people began to move with the beat…

Of course, the song was so out-of-date that no one remembered how to Slip Their Disco Disk – so no one got hurt. As the song segued into another classic dance floor boogie…

…any remnants of conversation were despatched. This suited Nature Beast: his conversation was monosyllabic at best.

Rupert Piles did make the mistake of trying to interview Princess Agatha about her discovery of the functioning Tunnel Temporale…

…but when she gave up the unequal battle and instead joined in with the well-known chorus of ‘Gut Churning Music’, so too did Rupert, and contented himself with recording the party for posterity. This was fortunate because he was able to capture the image of Susan, the amorphous green blob from the Age of Stone exhibit (and Chester’s principal love-interest) making her entry into the hall…

She didn’t disappoint.

“Hey, will you look at that.” One of Los Natillas said to the other two, “wouldn’t our show look so much better if we hired her to dance to our Latin rhythm?”

They agreed, but doubted the financial aspect of the deal. “That’s one big stomach.” One of them observed.

“And how would we fit her on the tour bus?” said the other.

Soon Susan was performing what was rapidly becoming her signature dance…

That is – wriggling like an idiot in front of everybody whilst carrying all five Earplug Brothers upon her huge form.

“Ooh, Rudi,” Magnuss moaned, “please ask her to stop: I’m feeling motion sick already.”

“Hey, man,” Rudi joked in reply, “some great hero you make: throwing up on the dance floor!”

And so it continued – deep into the early hours of the next day. Then word got out that the Greenhorn Girls had decided that, instead of standing like wallflowers against the mighty flanks of the Grand Hall, they had agreed to give a kicking line exhibition…

The consensus was, “This I gotta see.”  So, without too much further ado everyone backed off and allowed Margret and her girls to step away from the wall…

From somewhere – no one asked where – Hambledon Bohannon produced a show number track. The rhythm was perfect – as was the lighting – and soon the girls were high kicking across the floor…

Then it was back to disco, and everybody was ‘getting down’…

…except the Angel with a Huge Nose, who was ‘getting up’ by unfurling her wings and flying above the dance floor. This, in turn exposed a facet of the museum’s Avatar that no one was aware of…

She had wings too! So, whilst the Museum of Future Technology bathed itself in the glow of disco lights, and Magnuss and Hair-Trigger donned their jet packs so that they could join Angel and Avatar as they flapped about clumsily above the towers…

…Margret Greenhorn slipped away from the Grand Hall – in search of someone who had long-since disappeared from the celebration. She found her in her beloved arboretum…

“You know, Margret,” Cushions said, as she allowed her gaze to wander across the vast expanse of the museum, “I’d give everything for this place. Without it I am nothing.”

“I know, Cushions.” Margret replied. “And I love you for it. We all do.”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that charming in every way! Better still, you can now read the whole thing on PDF – either on-line, or to download and read at your convenience. Just visit All Earplug Adventures in PDF Format Unexpurgated & Free!

P.S  I know that tale was a bit brief. Certainly shorter than normal. However, the up-side of this is… with this one out of the way, I can now plan the next Earplug Adventure.  Everyone say “Yeah!”

P.P.S Why not click on the e-book cover (below) and become instantly transported to the full PDF version of The Epoch of Dung!

The Epoch of Dung (part 23) An Earplug Adventure

Alone, standing atop her Omnipresent Scanner, Cushions gave silent thanks to the Gods for returning the Earplug Brothers and her other self, safe and intact…

Now, she realised, she would need to show great leadership. She would have to be the first person to reintegrate her two temporal selves. Worse still, she would have to perform the act in public. “Gotta set an example, Cushions.” She whispered to herself. “Otherwise we could have two of everyone wandering about the place, taking up space; getting into arguments about whose turn it is to wash their underwear; and eating me out of house and home.”

Obviously, her twin had drawn the same conclusion. Therefore, before anyone could even try to settle back into the museum, her two selves appeared on TV together…

Crowds began to form around the public television screens…

Throughout the Museum, tension grew as the two Cushions’ moved closer to one another. No one dared breathe whilst the two bodies appeared to coalesce…

However, no sooner had the brief flash of temporal energy subsided, and Cushions, alone, stood before them, then everybody gasped in desperately needed air and cheered with relief…

“Hey,” she shouted above the din, “that wasn’t so bad. Piece of cake. If I could, I would do it again. Now it’s your turn.”

Initially people were sceptical. The pink background against which Cushions had merged made some earplugs wonder if it might be the result of special effects. So, donning their metaphorical ‘hero’ hats again, the Greenhorn Girls stood before the camera of one of the Rupert Piles: took up their dancing positions…

…and high-kicked their way back into their single selves…

…which might have been a mistake, because, during their duality, they had each lived very different lives – with two sets of memories. One in which they had survived a tsunami and lived in the brief Epoch of Dung: the other where they played the role of heroes. This left them all very confused – and it showed in their faces and gait…

Also, for a while afterwards, they appeared to suffer residual after effects…

Nevertheless, an example had been made. Quickly others followed their lead…

Mandy and Candy (times two) chose the Main Thoroughfare to re-join…

The disused roller skate park proved popular with the two Ninja Perkins’, Auntie Doris’s, and K’Planks…

Rupert Piles even filmed himself becoming one again. “Pity,” one of them said to the other, “as a duo we could have covered twice as many stories.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Epoch of Dung (part 22) An Earplug Adventure

However, despite their near miss, fear continued to grip the hearts of the escaping earplugs. There was no guarantee that the time rift would not evaporate – with them still inside it…

It was in this most tense of moments that seven of the Tankerville Norris’ passengers chose to reveal their presence…

“Excuse us,” Margret Greenhorn said, following a discrete cough, “is it alright if we come to see who’s driving this bus?”

Well, of course, it was perfectly alright. In fact, the crew were delighted that such heroic dancers should deign to join them upon the bridge. This was especially true of Miles, who took an instant interest in Belle.

“Hello,” Miles whispered, “my name’s Miles.”

“Oh, hello: I’m Belle, by the way. I thought you might be Chester, but I’m glad you’re not: he’s spoken for. Oh, sorry, am I being a little forward?”

“You be as forward as you like.” Miles said through a smile that was broadening with every passing nanosecond. “I think Belle is a lovely name. Not sure about the Ching, but never mind.”

The conversation would have continued along these lines for as long as both protagonists drew breath, but Magnuss announced that they were free of the time rift, and invited them to watch it’s closure on the main screen.

“Okay, take up your duty stations – it doesn’t matter which one you choose – the ship flies itself – we’re headed for Earth. The real one, that is.”

Chapter 7

It was night in the environs of the Museum of Future Technology…

Its inhabitants waited in their domiciles with bated breath. Very few were active in the vast building’s many corridors. Bilious Botner was an exception…

He had the idea that, because business was quiet, the Café Puke might sell him some croissants at half-price. Both he and a strange female with tall red hair were disappointed when the proprietor told them to, “Sod-off – I’m watching the TV news: the fleet’s due back: I don’t wanna miss this.”

Of course, in any society, one is always going to find dozy bleeders who don’t follow the news or give a toss about real-world problems. In the case of four science-fiction mad youngsters, they were far more interested in the final act of this week’s episode of Destination: The Stars…

Hambledon Bohannon, on the other hand, was planning for later. He had every confidence that the heroes of Earplugdom would return triumphant. He was also certain that they would like nothing more than to ‘get down’ to the disco beat. So already, he was warming up the turntables…

“Yeah,” he mumbled to himself as he ran an eye over his vast repertoire of Disco Hits, Ancient and Modern, “best start with one of my own grooves, I guess. Sho’nuf gotta be ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’. The popular dance routine that accompanies the record is a bit painful for oldsters and people with an underlying skeletal problem, but I figure it’s worth the risk. What’s more, Nurse Consuela is a practising chiropractor, so that’ll be just fine and dandy if someone collapses on the disco floor in agony, sho’nuf if it aint.”

The heroes for whom Hambledon planned his disco celebration were still far from home. At the controls of the Gravity Whelk, Placebo Bison had noticed a certain degree of sluggishness when adjusting course…

“Hey, Folie,” he said to the co-owner of the old, but wonderful vessel, “Get aft, will you? Check out the ship’s mass balance.”

Folie duly obliged. Initially all seemed well, but when he reached the moving corridor section, the sight of unrestrained passengers greeted his gaze…

“Oh curse these automatic moving corridors,” he wailed, “they really are of doubtful use. They’ve brought everybody together in one place. The ship is unbalanced: anything could happen. And who hung that stupid sign up in my bulkhead access tunnel?”

The situation was little better aboard the Chi-Z-Sox. Several passengers, including Mister Pong, had grown weary of their dreary cabin walls and ventured into parts of the ship from which they’d been barred – including the bridge…

The K T Woo crew were suffering similar hardship…

“Honestly,” the Engineering Crew Manager, a former End Cap Hyperspace Pirate who had been taken prisoner during the failed invasion of the museum several years previous, complained when his engine room was ‘invaded’ by rubberneckers, “I can barely hear myself think. What if the Captain calls and instructs me to make a sudden swerve to avoid an asteroid? I’ll tell you, shall I? I won’t make that swerve, and you’ll all die of vacuum inhalation when the hull breaches.”

The four pink former monks of Lemon Stone didn’t believe a word the End Cap said. Crew-plug, Gusi Ghandar stood at the back and smiled faintly. He knew it was nonsense too. “You can’t breathe vacuum,” he said quietly. “Vacuum is the absence of anything. Or am I being pedantic?”

There were no such problems aboard the much smaller Tankerville Norris

Everyone had chosen a role to play, so boredom never reared its ugly head.

“Ah-ha,” Magnuss called out to gain everyone’s attention, “looks like the good old Solar System’s dead ahead and coming up quickly.”

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, gigantic screens displayed the fleet, as it approached the planet…

“Hoorah,” Auntie Doris cried out to K’Plank the Space Wanderer, “the boys are nearly home. I can’t wait to give that Magnuss a big hug.”

If there had been a race to see who could land first, Folie and Placebo would have been the winners. As the Tankerville Norris made its final approach, Hair-Trigger noted the other ship settling upon a landing tower…

“Don’t care.” Magnuss responded. “I don’t like that tower anyway: the elevator doesn’t work properly. It goes up and down too quickly, and makes me feel sick.”

Meanwhile, down in the depths below the museum, the Earplug Brother’s cousins, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross, finally received the news that the world wasn’t ending. They cheered uproariously as they emerged into the light…

Well Clancy did: Brad was a bit annoyed that he’d let the family down by running and hiding when everyone else did what they could in the circumstances.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Surprise Package

Regardez vous the montage below…

Notice anything unusual about it? Yeah – a dearth of earplugs. Could this suggest an Earplug Adventure without earplugs? Well, no actually: without earplugs it wouldn’t be an Earplug Adventure. But, as you can see, the planned follow-up to The Epoch of Dung will include Nigel – The Golden One – and several Ethernet Cable End inhabitants of Scroton. The development of this story – even before the final episodes of The Epoch of Dung are posted on-line (which usually coincides with cerebral somnolence from the  author, following a prolonged period of creativity, hurried camera clicking, and manic typing) was kick-started by the appearence of this little artistic ditty…

Tooty asked himself – who are these guys? Does that have to be London in flames? Could the event depicted therein be twisted slightly and turned to good use in an Earplug Adventure?  Could that smoking ruin be Ciudad de Droxford – the closest city to the Museum of Future Technology instead? Might it’s destruction be a warning or threat to Cushions Smethwyke and the other curators of the museum? An idea began to form. How could (long-term ally of the MoFT) Scroton be involved with the situation? What if Nigel – The Golden One – decided to make a surprise visit to the museum…

…and found it entirely empty? Well discover what might happen, should these events conspire to tell a tale, dear Earplugger, by salivating over these hints of the next story – Surprise Visit!

P.S And, oh look, I’ve already begun snapping pictures: we can’t have them go to waste, can we!

 

The Epoch of Dung (part 21) An Earplug Adventure

Indeed she did. Already, those who were yet to be carried to the orbiting ships via matter transmission were boarding landing tenders…

 

Bert Frogget and young female earplug, who had only been visiting the museum on a half-day pass, paused to regard a vast plugmutt poo.

“I won’t miss those.” She said whilst recalling the number of doo-doos she had earned her three meals a day converting into building materials.

Bert said nothing, but he felt confident that, for the following couple of months, he would suffer terrible night terrors about them.

Only when a sensor sweep confirmed that the evacuation of everybody from the ruin of the Museum of Future Technology was complete did Magnuss host a video conference with the other ship captains…

The conversation could only be about one subject: making sure that ‘their’ museum survived the approaching reconnection with the normal time-line.

“Well we have the garbled suggestion from the Time Techs.” Placebo aboard the Gravity Whelk opened. “Have we figured what they’re trying to tell us?”

Sinclair Brooch spoke next: “Well them Greenhorn gals sure are pretty, but they aint tech-savvy. They only brought back half what them Time Techs told ‘em. My guys figure they mean to blow the hell outta this planet: they just can’t figure out how. My proton torpedoes sure aint up to the task.”

“I believe I have the answer,” the brainiest earplug included in the discussion spoke up. “My charming and intelligent wife and I have spent considerable mental energy in deep thought. We believe that the planet’s magnetic iron core is the answer to the problem. Put simply, we must tear it apart. The planet will surely follow.”

Magnuss, ever quick on the uptake, said, “You’re talking Gravitonic Multiplicitor time again, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed, young, heroic earplug.” Hydious Gout replied. “It will almost certainly destroy your apparatus, but Putridity has calculated that a sustained burst from both your vessel and the Gravity Whelk, should be enough to provide the magnetic imbalance necessary to disable the core and make it go all wobbly and explode outwards. Magma will abound, believe me.”

Magnuss had no way of knowing whether they had days in which to act, or mere seconds; so he chose the safest path and assumed the worst. Ending the conference, he and Hair-Trigger made straight for their Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

“It’ll be a shame to see it go up in smoke.” Magnuss said as he ran inexpert eyes over the potentially uber-destructive device. “Does it look in working order?”

Hair-Trigger probably knew even less about Gravitonic Multiplicitor maintenance than Magnuss. She shrugged. “It seems to have survived the opening of the time rift. It should work. Of course, while the time rift remains open, we won’t need it to open another, so I guess wrecking it won’t really matter.”

Unseen by either earplug, Magnuss’ brothers had slipped into the room…

Rudi reminded them that whatever happened to the ship and themselves, the destruction of the alternative Earth was their first priority.

“Hey,” he concluded, “even if this ship blows up, and the wormhole collapses – leaving everyone stranded in this time-line – we gotta save the Museum of Future Technology. It’s what we do, guys.

Chester, Miles, and Valentine nodded in agreement.

“Right on.” Valentine added for good measure.

“Okay,” Magnuss replied. “Adopt the position, whatever that means. Contact the Whelk: there’s no time to use that lovely clean toilet over there: let’s do this!”  

Moments later, after a sensor scan by the K T Woo found a weak spot in the planet’s magnetic field, the Tankerville Norris and Gravity Whelk moved to a location that placed them above the southern hemisphere. There was no spectacular countdown. As soon as both ships had aligned their Gravitonic Multiplicitor emitters, they let rip with one hundred percent energy release – or Number Eleven on the twist dial…  

The surface of the ruined world succumbed in an instant…

Minutes dragged by. Only the K T Woo’s sensors could detect the disturbances in the planet’s core…

Superheated flows of inner planetary material …um…flowed… freely around the equator and from pole to pole. It was just a matter of time before one of them broke through to the surface…

Great rends, vast enough to swallow the museum whole, opened across the globe, causing continent-wide rivers of magma to spread across the darkened landscape…

As the Gravitonic Multiplicitors strained to maintain their gravimetric toil, the surface of the land melted and bubbled like a really hot lasagne…

…spitting magma high into the air. Then the toughest bedrock cracked open…

…and everyone that dared watch could see that the end was near. But which would go first – the planet – or the time-line? They held their breath. Shortly an expanding ball of molten material consumed the atmosphere…

“Ooh, bugger.” Magnuss exclaimed. Into his radio, he screamed, “Woo and Sox – you’ve got the most passengers: get the heck outta here.”

Then, with their Gravitonic Multiplicitors reduced to expensive junk, the Gravity Whelk and Tankerville Norris broke for open space – headed for the time rift. And not a moment too soon either. As they accelerated towards freedom, the alternative Earth exploded like a mini-nova…

Placebo and Folie watched it on their rear camera…

“Pretty.” Folie observed. “And it’s made our screen go all wonky too. We’ll have to get that fixed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I’ve been hanging on to these pictures of planetary destruction for yonks. I knew I would need them eventually. I do like a dose of planetary destruction you know.

The Epoch of Dung (part 19) An Earplug Adventure

As they plunged into the cauldron of impossible energies…

…Doctor Putridity Gout said to her husband, “I know this is fun and all that, dearest; but would you might awfully if I went to the toilet? I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

If truth be known, several bridge crewmembers felt much the same way.

“Oh, of course, darling.” Hydious replied. However, to the bridge crew he said, “You lot can use the polystyrene cups provided in those little cubby holes beside your work stations. As ship designers, my wife and I think of everything, you know.”

No one had the first idea how long the transit between time-lines would take. They assumed it would be measurable on an earplug scale. It wasn’t. Only an incomprehensibly brief period elapsed before the Tankerville Norris found itself approaching the alternative Earth…

“Just getting the main screen back up.” Hair-Trigger informed Magnuss.

“No probs.” Her relatively new husband replied. “I’ve opened an exterior shutter. I can see our target through the side window. It looks very blue. Not the usual blue either. I don’t like the look of that.”

He barely had sufficient time to reseat himself, when the main screen readjusted itself for the alternative time-line, and came back on-line.  What it displayed caused havoc inside the psyches of the earplugs who looked at it…

“Ugh, where’s the surface of the Earth?” Magnuss asked. “The ruins of the museum are over to the left; but the neighbouring city of Ciudad de Droxford should be just there. All I can see is a huge plain with some distant, worn-down mountains…

Aboard the larger, better-equipped K T Woo, Hamish McHaggis had turned the ship’s sensitive sensors upon the scene…

“Oh-oh,” he reported to Sinclair Brooch, “it seems that, with the exception of the ruins and mud village, the Earth is both uninhabited and uninhabitable, captain.”

To which Sinclair responded, “Oh bum.” Before adding, “Hey maybe the other captains have a handle on this. Get on the horn: let’s jaw.”

Meanwhile several inhabitants of the mud village thought they heard something ‘funny’ and had decided to see what was going on outside…

“It’s a spaceship.” They cried as one. “As if being disconnected from the river of time and seeing our beloved museum torn to shreds isn’t enough; now we’re being invaded from outer space! Everyone back inside.”

Of course, they weren’t being invaded at all. Soon many curtains twitched nervously as the Tankerville Norris kicked up dust, straw, mould spores, and stray sequins as it landed in the village’s largest plaza…

Shortly after that, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stepped out into the village. Following a brief journey via matter transmitter, Hydious Gout and Sinclair Brooch joined them. Using their innate sense of direction, the foursome proceeded along a poorly lit alleyway…

To their surprise, they heard the voice of Cushions Smethwyke beckoning them into a mud hut…

They were not as surprised however, when upon entering the mud hut, they found familiar faces awaiting them…

“Wow, this is weird.” Magnuss said. “Hi everyone.”

To which Cushions responded with, “Hi yourself. Have you come to save us? Or are you alternative time-liners, like us – trapped here until reconnection with the river of time and possible utter destruction?”

Hydious Gout assured the watching curators and Rupert Piles (sans camera) that his plan was to take them all back to their correct time-line aboard the four ships, where they would reintegrate with their alternative selves.

“It will all be perfectly safe and painless.” He assured them further. “You won’t be mutually repulsive. You won’t fly across the room or explode or anything ghastly like that.”

“Will we remember this life?” the biological android, Montagu inquired. “This horror?”

“Probably.” Hydious replied. “You’ll probably feel a little disoriented. You’ll have two sets of memories. It will leave you a bit confused, and you might suffer a headache or a sore throat for a couple of weeks; but nothing discombobulating – at least not permanently.”

“Oh, right.” Yabu said to Cushions, “we’d better get our set of Time Techs to fire up the restored Tubo Di Tempo, and then have Margret and the girls make a report to the proper time-line via carrier wave.”

So they did…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I can’t get over how realistic that mud village looks. You can almost smell the straw and dung. Oh, sorry, I mean the opposite. That has to be the worst model-making effort in the history of earplug literature! Never mind though; back in the 70’s, Dr Who used to look terrible; but that didn’t stop millions from loving it.

The Epoch of Dung (part 17) An Earplug Adventure

The following episode could be titled ‘Earplugs Assemble’.

Yes, Earpluggers, some ‘big names’ are about to appear. See how many you can remember from earlier tales. All of them. I expect.

Chapter 6

At that moment, but in the regular space / time continuum, the Wetworld star ship – Chi-Z-Sox hung motionless in the depths of interstellar space…

Its captain – noted scientist of Wetworld, and designer of the Chi-Z-Sox, Professor Hydious Gout sat in the captain’s chair, with his wife (and co-designer) Doctor Putridity Gout beside him…

Despite cosmic interference, Cushions Smethwyke and several Museum of Future Technology curators appeared aboard the Omnipresent Scanner upon the ship’s main viewer. Cushions wasted no time getting straight to the point. It was a pre-recorded message that summed up the situation of Earth in as few words as possible. It also instructed all vessels to return to Earth with utmost haste.

At the same time, but on the Ice Planet, the Tankerville Norris was conducting a low-level sweep with the ship’s sensors…

Thereafter the occupants – Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug, dismissed all thoughts and concerns for the underbelly of the planet’s crust…

…as they too received the message.

“Flipping heck,” Hair-Trigger yelled as the ship altered course for open space automatically, “I didn’t expect that.”

“Me neither.” Magnuss agreed. “Let’s get to Mars: I want to pick up the boys.”

Hair-Trigger was out of her space seat like a scalding tea bag…

“If we’re having guests,” she called over her shoulder as she strode towards the door, “I’m going to clean the toilet before they come aboard.”

Much farther away in space, The Gravity Whelk hung motionless in a Scrotonite space station – transportation umbilical conduits attached at several access points…

Placebo Bison and Folie Krimp had just received confirmation that their systems upgrade was complete…

…when Cushions’ message arrived…

“Right then.” Folie said. “We’d better ask for permission to detach the umbilicals. Time waits for no earplug.”

“Or polystyrene blob.” Placebo added.

The K T Woo, Worstworld’s first star ship…

…was taking the scenic route home when Cushion’s message arrived…

The captain – former Sheriff of Busted Gut, Sinclair Brooch, was nonplussed…

“Oh dear, that sure is unexpected.” He sighed. “Guess that’s our sight-seeing done with.” Then, to his helms-plug, Busti Missenthrope, he said, “Put a call through to the engine room: tell ‘em to pile on the coals. Set course for Earth.”

In the K T Woo’s engine room, the End Cap engineers went straight to work…

“I wasn’t enjoying the sight-seeing anyway.” One of them complained. “My cabin’s got the smallest porthole in the whole ship – and it’s set really high upon the wall. I have to use a stepladder and cardboard periscope to see out.”

“That’s nothing.” Another replied. “My toilet hasn’t worked for weeks.”

Listening absentmindedly, the earplug getting a coffee from the Café Puke machine said, “You’re an engineer: why don’t you fix it?”

To which the aggrieved End Cap replied, “Below my paid grade, pal. I don’t fix toilets. I got my pride, ya know.”

Moments later, the ship was underway – at supra light speed…

Whilst the Gravity Whelk debarked from the space station…

…the Tankerville Norris was hammering through a hyperspace conduit…

 …on its way to a rendezvous with Magnuss’ four heroic brothers.

Professor Hydious Gout, meanwhile, had received a second communication from the Museum of Future Technology…

It came from none other than the Time Techs themselves…

Gregor was, perhaps, a tad overly familiar:

“Hydious, baby, how’s it hangin’, man?”

Professor Gout would have preferred the Time Techs behave with a little more reverence. “Fine,” he snapped, “What do want? I’ve already got the throttles wide open: I can’t go any faster.”

“No – no, it’s nothing like that.” Twinkles assured the captain of the Chi-Z-Sox.

“We’ve thought of something really important.” Runt added. “You being a brilliant scientist and all that, we figured we might run it past you.”

“That’s right.” Gregor continued. “You’re the earplug, right? It’s about accessing the alternate time-line that Cushions mentioned in her communique earlier.”

Gout smiled at this. “I think I might be ahead of you, young earplug.” He said to the image of Gregor Koch. “My charming and intelligent wife and I were just in the lavatory. We discussed this very subject.”

“Gravity waves, right?” Twinkles ventured.

“Gravity waves, indeed.” Gout confirmed the middle Time Tech’s hypothesis.

“Really intense ones.” Doctor Putridity Gout interjected.

“Very precisely aimed.” Runt joined in.

It appeared that all five scientists were in accord, so whilst the Chi-Z-Sox barrelled through the vacuum of space…

…they lay their fledgling plan upon the metaphorical table.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Whatta ya think of the ‘landscape’ in the picture of the Tankerville Norris over the Ice World surface? Convincing, right? Okay, I agree, it does look like what it is: my bedsheet.

P.P.S I use the text-to-speech app, ReadAloud for finding typos that I missed. Unfortunately it pronounces the Chi-Z-Sox as Chy Zed Sox, when, of course, it should say Chee Zee Sox. Just thought you should know.

P.P.P.S Ah, I finally get to use that Earplug Wallpaper of the Gravity Whelk disembarking from the space station. Nice shot.

The Epoch of Dung (part 16) An Earplug Adventure

It was later, after dusk was a mere memory that an exhausted Gobby stumbled from his abode…

A single streetlight, burning plugmutt piddle for fuel, illuminated him. He sent a silent plea into the evening sky. Elsewhere in the village, Rupert Piles was doing much the same…

However, his concern was immediate. Incredibly, his camera’s energy levels had dwindled and run down. Despite the presence of the working Nul-Space generator, the power was failing. It didn’t take a genius to work out that the generator could not produce the power from Nul-Space, because there was no Nul-Space to draw it from. Clearly, their time-line was on the brink of non-existence. Re-integration with the River of Time was imminent. However, he kept the information to himself: it had been a great show, and he wanted people to go to bed happy.

“Arse!” He said quietly to the increasing darkness.

The Angel with a Huge Nose – being an angel, of course – may have understood that their time was drawing near. Perhaps it was, as an act of desperation, which made her take the former weightlifters, Mandy and Candy, with their boyfriends – former zombies, Vic and Bob – up onto the roof of the mud village…

…to perform in the only way they could. However, instead of the spectacular three-dimensional farts for which the quartet had become famous, they produced just one. But, incredibly, it was invisible. More significantly, it was silent and deadly. When it struck Gobby, as he stood in the dregs of the day…

…he reacted against the foul smell to end all foul smells by sending it back in time by fifteen minutes. Moreover, it was then that the earplug presence in the fractured time-line finally became noticed…

…by the Tiny Pixelated Gods of Scurrying Things, who passed on the information to…

…the God of Red-Faced Fish. The God of Red-Faced Fish knew very little about earplugs, so it passed the recording of the show to the God of Water Butts and Sundry Liquid Containers…

This God was a high-level dude in the realm of the Supreme Being. Noting that time was tight, it reacted instantaneously. The Supreme Being was in the act of enjoying a warm bath…

It was only a shallow bath, but it was very nice and steamy. It was a rare moment of bliss for the hard-working creator of everything silicon. But his moment of reverie was broken suddenly, when he became aware that he was not alone…

In an instant, the steam evaporated, and all the water’s heat went with it.

“What the heck?” He began.

Then he recognised the eight figures standing before him…

Ninja, in particular, was giving him the ‘evil eye’. “Earplugs.” She said. “Just in case you’re wondering.”

The Supreme Being became enraged…

 “How dare you!” He roared so loudly that Margret feared she might develop tinnitus. “This is a shallow bath: there are insufficient bubbles in the water to hide my willy. It is outrageous that eight female earplugs should see my doo-dads without my permission. It’s not like you’re nurses or anything like that: you’re dancers, for flip’s sake!”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Ninja growled…

…”do you really believe we’d be here if we wanted to? No, we’d like to be going about our business being earplugs in the regular space / time continuum. We’re here because we need your help. And you owe us – that’s earplugs in general, by the way. Do you recall how the false SB tossed you in a big wooden crate…?

…and had you bound and gagged?

That is until the Earplug Brothers freed you and helped you defeat the false Supreme Being?”

Margret didn’t wait for an answer: like her dancing girls, she had assumed that the question was rhetorical. “We’re the female equivalent of the Earplug Brothers, S B. This time we need your help. Savvy?”

As is the way of Gods, the Supreme Being had no need of a towel. In no time at all he was dry and clothed. He also held Ninja Perkins in the palm of his hand…

“Of course. Of course.” He said – all anger abated. “I always have time for my most accomplished creations. What ails thee, Ninja Perkins?”

Ninja looked back at the Supreme Being…

“Well,” she said, “I’d always wanted to be a dancer; but that seems rather pathetic now. I’m giving up on that. No, what I really need from you is…”

However, the Supreme Being had read her mind. “The Ion Storm in the Solar System is quenched.” He said. “Now it’s up to your kind to save the day. I know you can do it. Bye Ninja, Margret, Poki, Ragi, Belle, Wendy, Delia and Nokaks: have a happy existence.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S If it hadn’t been the for the timely placement of my hand upon the bath grabrail, it would have been more than the Greenhorn Girls who saw the Supreme Being’s willy!

P.P.S have you noticed how much SB has aged since he first appeared in the Earplug Adventures. I have no explanation for this. Curious.

P.P.P.S That bloody yellow t-shirt again. It must be SB’s favourite colour!

The Epoch of Dung (part 15) An Earplug Adventure

Fortunately, for the following dance, someone had found a large piece of green stained glass, which he or she then placed in front of the lantern that lit the plaza…

The timing was perfect, because Belle took the central role in what Margret called her ‘Nut Jobs in the Wood’ dance. She’d even designed the hazelnut hats they wore, and was understandably proud of her work.

A pseudo-waltz then took centre stage…

…with Margret, Belle, and Poki swirling around the plaza in the only flouncy dresses they had managed to bring with them through the Tubo Di Tempo. It was an artistic delight, and everyone who saw it knew they would probably never forget this moment of perfect earplug elegance. Some even sobbed with joy at the beauty of the spectacle.

Of course, with his camera fully powered by an internal Nul-Space generator, Rupert Piles captured every moment and movement of the show…

For a pastoral routine, and in the absence of the maypole, the girls chose, instead, to dance around an enormous poop…

However, the fumes given off by the extreme excrement…

…meant that Margret had to abbreviate the routine before they collapsed. Fortunately, a few gulps of cool evening air soon had the girl’s wits reunited with their feet, and it was on to the show-stopping Kicking Line that showgirls, the world over, are most famous for…

Then it was over. Done. Finished. The curtain, had there been one, would have fallen. Cushions came on to calm the frenzied crowd…

She addressed those for whom the show had really been performed.

“Gods,” she said, “did you see that? Did you see what earplugs are capable of? We call out to you, in your weird realm of weirdiness. We beseech you take a bit of bloody notice, you stuck-up gits. Look at what your creations can do. Look at the crap we’re in too. So show yourselves. Take these lovely, leggy dancing girls, and listen to what they have to say. That’s it. Oh, and yeah: help!”

With Nature Beast’s support, Gobby staggered forward…

“I’m doing it.” He groaned. “I’m repeating this show, over and over, at fifteen minute intervals. If the gods don’t see it the first time, they can use the temporal catch up facility.”

“That’s good,” Cushions said as the light of the distant sunset made the plaza glow a pleasant shade of yellow…

…”coz you’re also re-broadcasting Rupert’s televised version as well…

…Surely some higher-order sod’s gonna spot it.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now, Earpluggers all we can do is sit back and wait for a response. Will one come? Pray that it does: we can’t have those pesky Incence Cones destroy our beloved Earplugs!

The Epoch of Dung (part 14) An Earplug Adventure

Whilst word spread, Margret discovered a broken piece of technology that originated in the ruined museum. It was covered in plop, and smelt nasty too. Nevertheless, she pressed on, and the latent sound technician in the experienced dance troupe owner soon noticed the tonal qualities of the debris…

So she placed her tape player behind it.

“Hmm, what with that wall to bounce the sound off it too,” she said to herself with satisfaction, “the reverb should prove excellent. They’ll probably hear this clean across what remains of the Woven Expanse. ”

As it transpired, the natural amplifier worked better than she’d imagined. Her almost silent words had entered every one of the nearby domiciles – drawing their occupants out to see for themselves what dancing girls looked like…

…on every side of the plaza…

“An earplug cannot live on bread alone,” a droopy moustachioed earplug in dark glasses was heard to yell. “He’s gotta have some entertainment too. Bring on those leggy lovelies.”

Once Margret was satisfied with the quantity of watching earplugs, she and the girls took up their opening positions, whilst Ninja, Yabu, and Cushions introduced them…

Margret was particularly impressed with the way that Ninja fluttered her eyelids, and wondered where she had found the false eyelashes and mascara.

Then the pre-recorded band struck up, and those waiting upon balconies and in upper windows held their collective breath…

Some became so excited that they lost their sense of balance, fell over, and allowed their eyes to bulge from their heads in a vile, leering manner…

Of course, the Curator Elite retained their decorum. In fact, Pretty Boy Plankton looked in the opposite direction completely; and Winston Gloryhole’s eyes only bulged slightly more than was usual…

Unseen by many, Gobby waited in the ‘wings’ to play his part. His friend, Nature Beast stood beside him in support, both spiritually and physically…

Should Gobby’s body fail through the effort of turning back the chronometer of life a multitude of times, Nature Beast would hold him up and give him strength to continue. If his will weakened, Nature Beast was there to give him a good kick in the shins and shout threatening, if incoherent, monosyllables at him loudly.

Then suddenly, just when everyone was on the brink of getting impatient, the girls snapped into action with a dance that Margret named The Runway Wriggle, which showed, in minute detail, their incredible buttock control and the brevity of their sequined knickers…

A tribute to Mariachi bands quickly followed…

…entitled: “Hola, I like your trumpet: why don’t you give me a toot.”

Sadly, Poki developed a nasty cough – probably from breathing in fungus spores that blew around the piles of mouldy straw in darkened corners – that ruined the vocal chorus by removing the alto facet completely.

This was followed by a disgusting clichéd routine that had no place in the modern world, which supposedly represented Old China…

However, no one cared one jot because the girls looked fabulous.

“Who gives a fig anyway?” Cushions whispered to Yabu. “This is our mud village: we’ll be as racially clichéd as we sodding want. Who’s gonna tell us off?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What – no support act? Who needs support acts when you’ve got the Greenhorn Girls!

Wallpaper 639: The Breakfast Sentinel

Every morning, before breakfast, I shuffle to my garden shed to feed the wild birds in my garden. The first to arrive is Jacques, the Robin, who flutters in front of me like an inebriated humming bird, demanding access to perch upon my hand and pick through the tit-bits I have for him. Then, as I emerge fully, and begin to place the food upon the various feeders in my quince tree, the resident crow  starts calling to the other birds  from my roof – announcing that breakfast is served… 

Why it has taken on this role, I have no idea: but the pigeons and jackdaws seem particularly pleased that it has.

 

The Epoch of Dung (part 12) An Earplug Adventure

Shortly Angel was only too pleased to report recent events to Cushions Smethwyke…

“This can’t be coincidence,” Yabu said as he and Cushions were appraised of the situation.

“It can’t?” Cushions questioned the leader of Yabu Youth.

“Well yes, obviously it can; but it’s very unlikely.” Yabu replied. “Funny, don’t you think that just when something goes seriously awry with the Tunnel Temporale, we find a bunch of enemy Incense Cones hiding in the bowels of the museum?”

“When you put it that way, I guess you’re right.” Cushions acknowledged the logic of Yabu’s reasoning. “But how are we gonna find out: they don’t speak our language – and they think like weird aliens!”

“Leave that to me.” Angel said. “Let me remind you that when the museum was attacked by End Caps from Hyperspace, I used my power of illusion upon them. It even worked upon their Attack Robots. I have a plan for this bunch of evil subversives. They are going to tell us everything they know.”

Five minutes later Angel had joined the captives in the museum’s jail. Five minutes and one second later, all six captives had forgotten they’d ever been in a fight, and were safely ensconced inside their hidey-hole. Moreover, their leader – Emperor Conrad Moose – appeared to…uh…appear on their com-panel…

“Right then,” Emperor Conrad Moose’s voice seemed to roar from the tinny speaker grille, “I’ve been very, very busy running my enormous empire, and I’ve kind of, sort of, forgotten why I sent you to the Museum of Future Technology. So I want you to bring me up to speed with my plan and what you’ve been doing whilst I’ve been very, very busy. Oh, and by the way, I’ve decided to learn Earplug really well, so use that language. Use our own language, and I’m gonna get really angry with you. Understand? Right: go.”

The Incense Cone Infiltration and Temporal Dislocation Squad – as they liked to call themselves – were slightly taken aback by this: their emperor usually despised anything related to earplugs, except news of their failures and disasters. To demand they use the cursed language of their enemies confused them: but they rallied quickly…

“Um, where would you like us to start?” The pink Incense Cone inquired.

Major Flaccid, who was providing the voice of Conrad Moose, decided to take a chance: it would be inadvisable to rouse his captive’s suspicions by knowing nothing whatsoever about their mission. “Well obviously I remember the earplug’s horrible Tunnel Temporale is involved: but I can’t quite recall exactly what you’re supposed to do with it. Like I said, I’m a very, very busy emperor.”

This seemed to settle the Incense Cones. It was the turn of the pink Incense Cone to preface his opening line with the word ‘well’. “Well,” he said as he tried to ignore a nagging and implausible ache in his groin, “we travelled the requisite amount of distance in time to this era, where we set off a chain reaction in the Temporal Cascade Equaliser. Coming from a period in which the technology is more advanced than it is in this era, it was easy-peasy to kick-start the troublesome Tunnel Temporale with a remote hyperspace signal. The first the locals knew of it was when the Tunnel burst into life. But then something unexpected happened, and we don’t really know why.”

“We suspect,” the blue Incense Cone, volunteered, “that the activation of the Tunnel Temporale initiated an instantaneous time storm. Rather than destroy the current Museum of Future Technology, as planned, which would then instigate a massive incursion into this portion of space/time, by our gallant assault troops from the future, and the annihilation of any surviving earplug resistance, something else happened.”

Major Flaccid – a keen ‘amateur dramatics’ actor in his spare time – decided to ‘go large’. “What?” He roared. “What?”

Angel inserted a suitable visual representation of Conrad Moose…

This resulted in the exposing of Incense Cone physical characteristics that earplugs were unaware of…

…those being enormous gobs; startled expressions; and nasty odours that erupted from their hindquarters.

 The pale Incense Cone with yellow lips was the first to overcome its shock and horror. “It’s not all bad.” The creature said hurriedly. “We seem to have created a divergent time-line.”

“Explain to me how this is ‘not all bad’.” The Moose/Flaccid apparition demanded.

“When the alternate time-line reintegrates with the flow of time,” The Green-Eyed individual at the end of the line interjected – and therefore hoped to gain some ‘Brownie’ points – “disaster will be invoked. One of the time-lines will be destroyed. We are currently in the process of constructing some advanced devices, of my design, that will guarantee that it’s this time-line that fails to survive re-integration. We’ll poke them down the Tubo Di Tempo as we leave, just before temporal re-integration commences.”

Flaccid gulped at this news. Fortunately, his ‘subjects’ put this down to a case of ‘wind’. “Yeah-yeah,” he mumbled as he tried to collect his wits, “But won’t the accursed earplugs spot the devices and remove them?”

“No probs.” The pale blue Incense Cone – sensing that it was in danger of being a mere spectator in the Emperor’s eyes – said quasi-confidently. “We’re wrapping them in Bags of Invisibility.”

Again, Flaccid found himself caught unawares. This time, however, an involuntary and enormous fart enveloped his entire body, which was serendipitous because it gave his brain the energy it required to think quickly and with precision. “Oh, good. What do they look like? Do the earplug’s Cones of Invisibility interact with them – rendering their contents visible?”

“They look like unused plastic roasting bags.” The grey Incense Cone, who was beginning to feel like a bystander, answered. “Inflated ones, of course, with the little plastic ties pulled tight. We’ve calculated the likelihood of an earplug-built Cone of Invisibility making contact with our Bags of Invisibility, and therefore rendering it visible, as less than one in a million. Don’t worry, Emperor Moose, the earplugs won’t know what hit ‘em. In fact, they won’t even know they’ve been hit. They won’t exist.”

The pink Incense Cone didn’t want to appear to have lost control of the conversation: “Yeah, that’s right.” He said. “We don’t know what the alternate version of the museum is gonna be like exactly; but it aint gonna be pretty. We can clear them out in no time at all – excuse the pun.”

Naturally, Angel took this startling information to Cushions and Yabu…

Cushions quickly shifted mental gears. “Okay,” she said, “I’m not quite sure what we can do with this info, but at least we’ve got the perpetrators under lock and key. Let’s hope Margret Greenhorn and her leggy dancing girls are on the case in the other time-line.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 11) An Earplug Adventure

Part 11 already? Flipping heck, time sure does fly when you’re having fun!

However, they were alien thoughts. Thoughts that Angel simply couldn’t decipher – even if she really concentrated, screwed up her eyes, and pricked her bum with a hatpin. She was able to understand that the Incense Cones were planning – or had planned – something of vast magnitude that placed everyone in the museum in danger: but there were no specifics. If she were to learn anything from these back-door invaders, she would require the services of professional interrogators. To this end, she quickly made her way to a seldom-used com-panel…

…where she placed a call to Major Flaccid in the control room of the TWIT headquarters, Swottan Hetty…

Naturally, Flaccid was in the middle of talking a load of old rubbish very loudly to his troops when the call came through. “Excuse me, guys.” He said as he answered. However, when he finally comprehended some meaning from what Angel told him, all bombast was forgotten. “Follow me.” He snapped as he made for the door. “Prepare to repel boarders!”

Therefore, it was a satisfied Angel who turned away from the com-panel…

“Hmmm, I like this,” she said as she flexed her wings in triumph, “it makes me feel all sexy. I’m going to go disco dancing. I think I still have my old tight spandex pants in that cardboard box under my bed. I certainly hope so. Gonna knock ‘em dead on the dance floor tonight – huh!”

In Swottan Hetty, the laboratory-created TWIT operative, Nature Beast was in the toilet when Flaccid had led his troops from the control room…

“Ugh, where everybody go?” he asked the room as he re-entered. When he received no reply, he grunted again, before adding: “Nature Beast smell nervous sweat on floor. Team going on operation without Nature Beast. Matter not: Nature Beast track scent of scared TWIT boys. Nature Beast reckon gonna be a punch-up.”

Whilst Nature Beast made best speed in pursuit of his comrades-in-arms, Flaccid had used a shortcut to apprehend the Incense Cones before their meeting had broken up…

“Ah-ha,” he bellowed as the Incense Cones turned to face the threat, “got you. Now surrender without a fight and I won’t beat you senseless with a tyre iron during your subsequent interrogation.”

Now it is possible that the invaders had studied Major Flaccid, and as a consequence knew full well that he was nothing more than a big blow-hard who caved whenever anyone stood up to him. However, whatever, these Incense Cones were all too happy to give him a fight. They quickly waded in…

Flaccid was the first to go down. With their leader incapacitated, it would have been forgivable for the TWIT operatives to flee in fear of their lives: but perhaps because they were fighting on home soil, as it were, their pride would not allow them to retreat. They fought back. But not well enough. Three Incense Cones broke through their line…

In a second or five, Flaccid was on his feet again. “After them. After them.” He bellowed through a lip gone sore from a punch in the mouth. “Oh where is Nature Beast when you most need him? Oh curse his recalcitrant bladder!”

Then, as if on cue…

…Nature Beast’s grotesque countenance stole from the shadows…

“Nature Beast here.” He said as a look of delight spread across his aforementioned grotesque countenance.

At this point, the pink leader of the Incense Cones would have done well to hold up his hands and say: “Okay, it’s a fair cop: I surrender.” But he didn’t get the chance. Nature Beast didn’t believe in taking prisoners: he kicked the pink Incense Cone somewhere where it really hurts…

Then he clobbered the others who stood against him with his trusty rubber mallet that he always kept in his waste-band…

“Nature Beast says ‘game over’.” He grunted with satisfaction.

“Well done Nature Beast.” Flaccid said as he slapped his subordinate upon his powerful shoulder.  “I knew I was right when I recruited you. Shows what a damned good leader I am!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Gosh, aren’t these fight scenes so realistic? It’s almost as if you’re there! Almost.

P.P.S If you enjoyed this episode, you’re really going to like the next one. Lots of exposition: very silly.

Country Life Wallpaper: The Lab Chase

Here, a huge hulking male Labrador chases it’s playful offspring…

Later I met with them, and the youngster’s mother. Being Labs, of course they were kind and gentle. Well the mother and son were. The father ambled up to me with his tongue lolling and his jaws agape; mis-judged his speed, and nearly took my patella off.

P.S If you look carefully at the centre of the upper half of the picture, you will note a blue portable toilet. Just for the record: I didn’t use it.

The Epoch of Dung (part 7) An Earplug Adventure

It was a fabulous tale, told expertly; but Margret felt that she hadn’t crossed the temporal void to hear fabulous tales told expertly: as far as she was concerned, the Greenhorn Girls were here to save the Museum of Future Technology. In order to accomplish this task, she felt it best that her troupe collect and collate as much ‘first hand’ information that they could. To this end, she sent them off to see, with their own eyes, what the situation was in this alternative time-line. She, of course, remained with her host…

She was about to say, “it’s a bit smelly in here: let’s adjourn to the outdoors.” When, to her surprise, Ninja spoke almost the same words – except she suggested they find another location, without mentioning outside…

“I want to show how much events have affected the communal psyche.” She said. “People react differently to unexpectedly stressful situations, like being separated from almost everything they’ve ever known. Look over there.”

Margret acquiesced to Ninja’s bidding…

“I don’t understand.” The puzzled choreographer muttered. “Why is that cup of coffee sitting below that spotlight?”

“It was placed there almost a week ago.” Ninja answered. “We’re still digging all sorts of ‘tech’ out of the mud: most of it is smashed beyond repair or use; but sometimes we find items that still function. On that particular day, the earplug who found the working spotlight had a cup of coffee handed to him when a colleague discovered a functioning Café Puke dispensing machine. In a moment of quasi-religious euphoria, the earplug placed his coffee upon the floor here, and lit it with the spotlight. It’s like I said, that was almost a week ago. The coffee is yet to spoil: and it’s still warm too. It defies the laws of physics.”

Margret pondered this for a moment. Eventually she responded with the words: “No corruption, huh? The effect of temporal dislocation, do you think: or divine intervention?”

“Beats the heck outta me, Miss Greenhorn.” Ninja replied. “I wonder how your girls are doing on their reconnoitring.”

Chapter 3

Well, actually, the girls were not doing very well at all upon their mission. They absolutely hated the hurriedly constructed mud caves…

“Horrible,” Belle complained bitterly. “And I’ve lost my false eyelashes too.”

A floor below the dancing girls, two female earplugs stood in the doorway of their mud cave. “Well,” one of them said to the other, “if that’s all she has to worry about – good for her. But wait until her bra strap chafes her shoulders beyond endurance, and she can’t find any soothing balm, coz there isn’t any: then she can start complaining.”

“Nice carpet,” the other replied. “Dried moss – or lichens?”

On a higher level, a recently married couple were just moving into their cave…

“Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs,” the husband bellowed as he overheard the earplugs below, “they have carpets. Why haven’t we got carpets?”

“Who needs carpets,” his wife whispered for fear of antagonising the neighbours, “when we have a charming safety rail made from re-purposed bean sticks?”

Higher still, Wendy Rucksack and Poki Kitchener overheard the marital exchange…

“Honestly,” Wendy said to Poki, “somethings never change – even when the world seems to have ended. Keeping up with the Joneses never dies.”

However, any such thoughts of one-upmanship between neighbours evaporated for Wendy, when Horst and Greta Stenchlinger found her nervously eyeing a narrow structure that bridged a gap between floors…

“Oh, flipping heck, Mrs Stenchlinger – you cannot be serious!”

“If one is wanting to use the toilet, young female,” Horst said from behind her, “one is not having very much choice: over there the toilet is being.”

Yet higher still, the former female weightlifters, Mandy and Candy watched Wendy’s first tentative steps upon the ‘bridge’…

“For a dancing girl,” Mandy said from behind a roughly hewn sheet of welded steel mesh, “she sure is showing some pluck.”

“Dancing girls are known for showing things.” Candy replied. “Pluck isn’t usually one of them. An ocean of thigh, yes; but pluck? Less so.”

Mandy might have said something in response, but their upstairs neighbour in the penthouse hovel called down to them…

“Hey, ladies,” he shouted, “I like your clock. If it’s a classic wind-up version, would you care to swap it for a TV with no remote control and a plug-less power cord?”

The subject of their classic timepiece gave the weightlifters a warm glow of self-satisfaction and well-being: it being the only object they owned that had survived the destruction of their apartment.

“No, it’s alright.” Candy called back. “It doesn’t have a key anyway.”

“Naughty,” whispered Mandy, “telling fibs. I know you keep it on a length of string down the back of your knickers.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 6) An Earplug Adventure

Part six already: doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

“Ooh, it was terrible – it really was. It all happened straight after that odd, green, shape-shifting Susan won the Woven Expanse Annual Wind-Breaking Contest…

Everything was going fine. The museum was facing no obvious threat. The local heroes all took themselves on various jaunts off world…

 In fact, I think it was quite possibly lining up to be the most relaxed era in which the museum has ever existed. Then something tripped the dormant Tunnel Temporale. No one knows what it was, but some have conjectured that it might be an attack from extra-terrestrials.”

Ninja then held aloft her cell phone for all to see. It displayed this image…

“As you can see,” Ninja continued, “it was pretty spectacular. A ‘temporal event’, some called it. Well anyway, this happened next. I snapped it from my toilet window…

All seven dancers stared in bewilderment at the cell phone screen.

“It’s a time storm.” Ninja explained. “Well at least we think that’s what it is. It tried to re-set the time-line back to the Year Blob.”

“The Year Blob?” Delia questioned.

“The very first year of earplug existence.” Poki informed her. “There is no time before the Year Blob.”

“But it wasn’t entirely successful.” Ninja continued. “The Time Techs managed to throw up some temporal defensive shields that slowed its effects. Instead of re-setting Earplug history, it destroyed everything it touched. Very quickly, it melted all the ice in the Ice World and Future Alps exhibits. That in turn flooded the Arboretum and Wide Blue Yonder… 

Then the artificial sun that lights and heats the museum fell off its stand and dropped into the resulting super-lake…

…causing tsunamis and all that sort of stuff…

Luckily, most people had either taken to high ground, buildings with solid foundations made from bedrock, or boats…

Then, as the raging waters stilled themselves against the unbreakable outer walls of the museum, everyone set about rescue missions. The Age of Stone exhibit became a refuge for many earplugs; but they all needed rescuing because Cushions Smethwyke had cut costs by building it on unstable scrubland…

Eventually the waters found their level, and an inland ocean had formed…

Of course all that sploshing about effected the Nul-Space Power Generator, which quickly got out of control and became a volcano. Also luckily, we had a Space Submarine Freighter in for repair work, so we used that for ferrying people and equipment around. As is the nature of ‘tech’ it eventually conked out and sank in several fathoms. So scouts were dispatched in small boats to find a way out…

…but every exit was blocked with millions of tons of debris. And, of course, we were left with huge quantities of mud and sand…

“How awful. That’s a real bummer.” Poki said carelessly. “In our time-line everything is much as before – except for the divergence in time, of course.”

“And the Ion Storm that’s stopping all the heroes from returning to help.” Ragi reminded her dancing chum.

This shocked the watching quartet of earplugs so badly that they stepped into the light…

Ninja’s face fell. “That explains everything,” she sobbed. “We wondered why all the museum’s heroes had failed us simultaneously. Worse still, with no surviving tech, we can’t even call out. No one outside these hallowed and impregnable walls knows that anything is wrong. They probably think we’re closed for renovations or something.”

“Or we’ve gone on holiday.” Billy Bromide added.

“Sí,” the unnamed member of Los Natillas said sadly, “No hay vacaciones para nosotros. We work real hard instead.”

“Indeed,” Ninja took it up, “with no weather control or roof, which fell in by the way – when the supporting towers were swept away by the tsunami – we’ve spent our time building houses from the resulting mud. Fortunately, the Seventh Cavalry’s plugmutts all survived…

…so we have plenty of dung to mix with the mud.”

“What about binding materials?” Margret inquired.

“Oh, we got lucky there.” Ninja answered. “There was an old exhibit that comprised thatched cottages and an old barn.”

“Yeah,” Billy Bromide interjected whilst examining his calloused hands, “it got destroyed real proper: but the thatch floated to the top. I’m a country boy, so it was my job to collect it all so other folks could mix it with the mud ‘n’ dung.”

Margret turned to her troupe. “Told ya.” She said.

“Of course,” Ninja continued, “we had precious few mud-building specialists in the museum at the time…

In fact, we had only one – and he’d only spent six months on day release at college learning the trade, before giving up and becoming a tax inspector. He was very good though: he only complained when night fell, and the winter chill froze the mud, his nose, and eventually his nether regions.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 5) An Earplug Adventure

The photo-novella featuring sentient earplugs continues apace…

Whilst this brief conversation was taking place in one time-line, in the other temporal hiccup time-line, the Tubo Di Tempo burst into crimson life…

Moreover, as the unimaginable energies abated, and the device began to glow coolly…

…the Greenhorn Girls stepped into an altered reality. As Poki Kitchener gasped in surprise, Margret Greenhorn said:

“Er, what’s with all the wattle and daub wall coverings?”

“Maybe we’ve landed in an exhibit that represents a period in history when they ran short of tech and had to resort to Twelfth Century European construction practices.” Delia suggested.

Belle, a dancer who often looked for details that other dancers might have missed, stared straight ahead in horror, and wailed:

“Flip me sideways – the smell…it’s ghastly. These aren’t just mud walls: they’ve got poop mixed in with them too. And not long ago either: they’re still fresh!”

As trans-dimensional dancing girls, it was very easy for the troupe to become collectively fixated upon one subject. Consequently they continued talking about the unexpected nature of the building though which they passed…

“They would need straw to bind the mud and excrement together.” Nokaks informed the others knowledgably from the rear. “Not something commonly found in the Museum of Future Technology, I would have thought.”

Ragi Half-Nelson had been reading up on the recent history of the museum – specifically since the arrival of the Earplug Brothers, which coincided with events becoming vastly more interesting and numerous:

“Well there was that old barn they hid the museum’s interceptor craft,” she reminded everyone. “You know – the saucers that defended the museum from Hyperspace Pirates in their earliest adventure.”

Margret was also quite well versed upon the subject of the Earplug Brothers – particularly Magnuss, whom she thought was ‘kinda cute’. She cast her mind back to the event and place to which Ragi referred…

“Of course,” she cried out in revelation. “The barn contained the remnants of marsh reeds. They must grow them in the arboretum!”

“But why would the Curator Elite waste time and energy on simple, non-teccy stuff like marsh reeds?” Wendy Rucksack inquired in her best ‘oh that’s so stupid’ voice. “I mean, like, this is the Museum of Future Technology after all. Duh!”

“To save money, of course.” Margret explained. “There’s a rather unpopular exhibit that includes a delightful hamlet that comprises several thatched cottages. I don’t know what era it’s supposed to represent, but it appears quite pastoral. Maybe it was here first, and they decided to keep it, despite the need for occasional re-thatching of the roofs. But, whatever, it’s obviously cheaper to grow the reeds in-house – rather than import them at exorbitant prices from outside.”

“Yes, of course,” Belle said as she examined the walls of the narrow alley, down which they now found themselves wandering, “that would explain so much. But where do they find their poop? The smell alone tells me this isn’t earplug doo-doos.”

“It’s a mystery alright.” Margret said with a sigh of exasperation. “We’ll just have to wait until we find someone to ask.”

By the strangest of coincidences, the alley down which they travelled did a quick left-right, and, in a moment, they found themselves facing a solitary female earplug…

None of them recognised her from their time-line, so they each tried a warm smile of welcome.

“Howdy,” Margret said before the mysterious earplug could take both fright and flight, “I’m Margret Greenhorn: these are the Greenhorn Girls.”

“I know!” The yellow earplug squealed with delight. “I’m Ninja Perkins: I’m your greatest fan. One day I wanna be in your troupe. I’m a really good dancer – and, look, I’m already wearing false eyelashes and mascara!”

Margret was suitably impressed: she had plans to expand the troupe’s repertoire, which would require at least two more dancers. Ninja certainly looked the part. “Lovely,” she said, “but first of all we’d like to know what the heck has happened in this time-line. Where is the Museum of Future Technology?”

At this, four more figures appeared from the shadows of a mud hut…

Margret recognised country singer / songwriter Billy Bromide from both her original quantum reality and the one to which she and the girls had escaped. Although two were strangers to her, she thought the earplug beside the doorjamb nearest Ninja Perkins might be a member of the mariachi band, El Custardo Y Los Natillas – so beloved, by the Future Museum of Mars curator, Frisby Mumph…

However, before she could wave daintily in his direction, Ninja was explaining everything:

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 4) An Earplug Adventure

Ah-ha, finally we break new ground. In Part 4 you will find pictures that you have never before seen. How exciting!

Chapter 2

At that precise moment, at the main entrance to the Museum of Future Technology, the Robot Ticket Collector was greeting the subjects of conversation…

“Hi, girls,” it said in its pre-programmed cheerful voice. “May I say how lovely you all look – bathed, as you are, in the rays of the setting sun?”

“Thank you,” the troupe owner, Margret Greenhorn replied, “we’re here on official business. No sequins. No high kicks and skimpy leotards. We want to see Yabu Suchs.”

If a Robot Ticket Collector could look disappointed, this particular Robot Ticket Collector would have. “Enormous piles of doo-doo,” it bellowed electronically, “I really like fishnet stockings: I was hoping to see your show – even if it was rubbish and you were all out of step. Oh well, I suppose you’d better come in then.”

Margret, although a generation older than the members of her dancing troupe, was well used to being ogled for her timeless beauty, so took no offence at the robot’s attitude. “Come on, girls,” she said, “show a leg.”

However, five minutes wandering about inside the museum left all seven females concerned…

“Where is everyone?” Poki Kitchener inquired nervously. “Erie or what?”

“This is redolent of that time when everyone was abducted by aliens in our own space-time continuum.” An unusually eloquent Delia Stodge remarked.

“Hiding, I expect.” Margret replied. “Probably under the stairs – with a thermos flask and some sandwiches wrapped in cling film.”

Then she noticed the Robot Guide in front of her. “Hi,” it said even more cheerfully than the Robot Ticket Collector, “you guys must be looking for Yabu Suchs: follow me.”

The streets, thoroughfares, and corridors had remained empty for the duration of the walk from the foyer to the front door of the Yabu Youth Centre…

“Well here you are; my task is complete.” The Robot Guide informed them. “Now go straight in – Yabu’s waiting for you.”

“Aren’t you coming in with us?” Belle Ching asked the automaton. “Mister Suchs has such huge, scary eyes: If I feel my knees knocking, I’d like to hide behind you.”

“Sorry,” the mechanism replied with false sorrow, “but one of my caterpillar tracks is all wonky and pulls to the left. I have to get it straightened out before my limited slip differential explodes in an exhortation of red-hot steel shards and boiling oil. That’s a health and safety issue: it overrides your silly girly fears. See ya.”

With those words still echoing off the museum walls, the Robot Guide was gone, and Margret decided to lead the girls into the Yabu Youth Centre…

…where they were somewhat horrified to discover that the large-eyed male was not alone. The chief curator – Cushions Smethwyke – stood beside him. They gulped as one – especially when the museum’s Artificial Intelligence appeared upon a wall screen beside them…*

Cushions had never been one for preliminaries: she got straight to the point:

“Right, you lot,” She said, “Yabu can give you the details; but the crux of the matter is – we need someone with guts and brains to go into an alternative, divergent time-line; find out what the heck has happened. They have to make sure that this time-line survives when time itself re-integrates – even if it means the total destruction of the alternative time-line and everyone in it. Got that?”

Well, Margret Greenhorn wasn’t entirely certain that her troupe of high-kickers were ideal candidates for such a daring mission: but they had traversed trans-dimensional space without injury; and time-travel wasn’t a complete stranger to them either. “Whatta ya think, girls?” she inquired of her employees.

Six pairs of eyes turned to regard each other. The dark-eyed beauty, Wendy Rucksack was the first to find her voice:

“If it means missing rehearsals for a couple of hours, I say… go for it!”

Five minutes later seven pairs of eyes regarded the Tubo Di Tempo in minute detail for the first time…

Cushions sighed and allowed her gaze to wander to the ceiling. “Do we really have time for this?” She asked herself sotto voce.

Yabu, whose hearing was monumentally fabulous, heard her. He smiled. ‘Cushions,’ he thought to himself, ‘despite all her experience, still doesn’t really understand the principle of time-travel.’

“Ooh,” Belle Ching said to Delia Stodge as the troupe peered into the dormant device, “I used to have a pair of knickers that colour. But they got stolen off my mum’s washing line.”

“Sorry to hear it.” Delia responded. “Were they really comfortable?”

“Very,” Belle answered, “though they did fall down repeatedly during netball practice. But it kept the boys in the maths lesson entertained, so I think it was worth the inconvenience. It’s what got me into show business.”

The conversation might have continued, but any thoughts of loose elastic evaporated when the Tubo Di Tempo activated…

Yabu passed Margret a hastily written guide, then stepped back.

“Off you go, then.” He said with a cheerful smile. “See you when time re-integrates.”

Moments later the Greenhorn Girls had departed their immediate portion of space / time. It was only when the red light transformed into a blue light, which informed those operating the device that the transfer through time had been successful…

…that the two yellow earplugs allowed doubt to register in their conscious thought processes.

“Oh flipping heck, Yabu,” Cushions spoke in a voice suddenly grown small and reedy, “I hope we’ve done the right thing.”

Yabu gulped audibly. “Hope?” He said. “That’s all we have. If we’ve chosen wrong, I doubt we’ll know anything about it: we, and everyone and everything we know, will just simply cease to exist.”

Cushions didn’t know how to react to such a fateful response. “And if we’re right?” She inquired.

Yabu’s smile was wry. “It means you’ll still have to worry about your credit card bill: all the time we’re in fiscal limbo, we can’t allow any new customers in through the door. We’d get sued for negligence.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

*Finally I get to use the very first earplug picture – taken on August 4th, 2014. Shit, was it really that long ago? Originally they had no faces – just a glans drawn on the top of one. It was supposed to be a tiny pink penis. How juvenile. Then the face was added. The Earplug Adventures had begun.

The Epoch of Dung (part 3) An Earplug Adventure

Cameo alert. Cameo Alert. Lots of famous earplug names not really contributing to the tale.*

The look of horror upon Yabu’s face intensified. “I can’t,” he cried out in mental agony, “they’re not on Earth. Magnuss and Hair-Trigger boarded the Tankerville Norris

…to visit the Ice World. Having arrived to great fanfare and hullabaloo, they set off on a sponsored circumnavigation of the planet’s equator…

…upon which they hoped to raise sufficient funds to begin a scientific exploration of the crust’s re-formed sub-strata, and discover why it’s gone all visually mono-tonal…

“Okay,” Cushions said with a sigh. “So the ‘A’ team are out of town: what about the remaining four Earplug Brothers? Don’t tell me they’re off-world too!”

“Sorry.” Yabu replied. “Actually they are. They’re on Mars – checking out the progress of planetary terraforming.”

Cushions was confused by this information. “I’m confused.” She said in a tone that could only be described as ‘confused’. “This information makes no sense. The last time I looked, Mars had been moved to an orbit directly opposite this world, but on the other side of the Sun: it has a climate much like Earth’s now.”

“True,” Yabu replied sagely, “but Mars’ deserts have been dead for thousands of millennia. Earth seeds don’t like them. So the boys have gone along to cheer up everyone on the project. And, whilst they’re there, they can get to fly around in the Punting-Modesty Facepuncher XL5 without worrying Air Traffic Control.”

Cushions mused upon this information for about three nanoseconds. “That’s why they’ve gone to Mars, isn’t it? To play silly-buggers on a planet with a thinner atmosphere, reduced gravity, and a tiny population, in a powerful attack craft. Really it’s all about having fun.”

To which Yabu answered in the affirmative. He then added, “It’s their way of reducing stress. You know – the stress of always having to be heroes and failing at nothing.”

To which a scornful Cushions replied, “Huh – I’m so stressed that sometimes I think my knicker elastic will snap with the strain: but I don’t go racing around alien worlds in rocket-powered aircraft. Call them back instantaneously!”

A sheepish look slid…er…sheepishly… across Yabu’s countenance. “That could be a problem, Cushions.” He said. “We received a very garbled message from Folie Krimp and Placebo Bison. They were on their way to Earth aboard the Gravity Whelk at the time. Would you like me to play it back to you on my cell phone?”

Yabu didn’t wait for a reply. A split second later, his phone’s tiny screen displayed this…

Whilst Placebo was yelling, “Aargh”, Folie managed to bellow a warning:

“Massive ion storm encountered in Solar System. All ships should attempt planet fall at the soonest opportunity – like now. Communications are failing. Act immediately. Our ship is loads better than yours; and look what the ion storm is doing to it.”   

The scene shifted to a remote external view…

Cushions had time for one decent nervous gulp before the screen blanked.

“Coms have been out ever since.” Yabu said miserably.

This was terrible news: it should have floored the curator. However, Cushions rallied quickly. “What about those three girls? You know – the heroes in training. They’ve got a great big robot freighter: surely they can do something to help. I mean – what’s the point of heroes in training, if they can’t do something heroic when the need arises!”

“You mean Bunty Bridgewater, Daisy Woodnut, and Ginger Slack.” Yabu  answered…

“Do I?” Cushions snapped. “Oh yes, I suppose I do. Those names do seem familiar. Well?

“Their ship was severely damaged on a training mission by an ethereal alien walking machine on a dark planetoid.” Yabu replied…

…”They’re still waiting for a tow-truck. But, I do have one trick left up my sleeve. Remember Margret Greenhorn and her dancing troupe, the Greenhorn Girls?”

Cushions screwed up her face – partially in doubt, and partially because she was trying to remember when she had last seen the Greenhorn Girls in action. Then it came to her: they’d danced at the wedding of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug…

“Flipping heck, Yabu,” she wailed, “is that the best you can do?”

Yabu shrugged in response. “I’ve sent out a page to Margret: they should be at the front door right about…now!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

* Also allows him to use some of those ‘arty’ earplugs shots that wouldn’t otherwise appear.