Tag Archives: photography

Cyber-Soylent Green

I’m sure, when the I.T staff member responsible for placing these obsolete monitors out for collection by a recycling company did so…

…he or she didn’t notice the scene’s similarity to the 1970’s film, Soylent Green. In an over-populated world, the elderly were required to willfully submit themselves to euthanasia, eventually to be repurposed as biscuits or varying hues for the hungry masses. It was called Soylent, and the remains of Edward G Robinson’s character was designated Soylent Green, which didn’t please Charlton Heston one little bit! If you have a silly imagination like me, this is a rather sad photo. Look at them: they’re not complaining or trying to escape. They just wait there to be collected before being torn asunder and reduced to their constituent parts. Or is just me?

P.S This was taken a few years ago. Since then the entire building has been repurposed. Nothing in the picture has survived. It is now part of a housing estate. And that really is sad because it never needed to happen. Just a very bad decision made at board level caused it. It still rankles with me: I loved the place.

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…

…are…

…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Nature Wallpaper: Weeks Into the Drought

The fields near where I live suffered during the Summer of 2022. They also made a pleasant, if slightly abnormal wallpaper…

Here’s how it might appear on your computer…

And just to show you the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to serve up these wonders of nature – regard what a loop of vicious bramble did to me as I went about my country business, snapping nice pictures to share with all…

My ankle was like that all the way around. I hate bastard brambles!

Climatic Calamity (part 13)

I’m not superstitious, but if a story isn’t working by episode thirteen,  I figure it never will. I leave you to judge whether this tale is the real deal or grot snot. Read on…

As though on cue, the Tong-Tong look-alike Catering Assistant stepped from the ship’s lower cupola…

“Good afternoon,” it said through its cheap and nasty forward speaker, “the Captain is wondering if we might be of assistance. Would you like to come aboard?”

“Oh please,” Erronious cried with relief, “Our gussets are still full of compacted snow!”

Chapter 5

Once aboard the Drunkard’s Vomit, both earplugs relaxed and began to luxuriate in the miserly nine degrees centigrade that the robots considered most efficient and comfortable for their complex artificial brains when going about their regular duties…

Whilst they travelled along a brightly lit gangway, Hellfire thought he should try to engage the Catering Assistant in conversation:

“Um…have you been a space farer for very long?” He inquired.

Although the robot replied, both Erronious and Hellfire thought they detected a hint of tetchiness in its demeanour:

“Straight out of the factory – into a bridge officer’s role – seventeen months past.”

“Oh, excellent.” Hellfire responded with false cheerfulness. “Well done. That’s really…um…swell. Is it nice? Do you like being a bridge officer?”

“I am a catering assistant!” The robot snapped.

Hellfire was confused. “I’m confused,” he said, “when you said you came straight from the factory as a bridge officer, I…”

“I am a catering assistant.” The robot interrupted rudely. “In the ship’s unused and totally superfluous Cafe Puke!”

Erronious felt instantaneous pity for the machine that had brought them in from the cold. “Café Puke, eh?” He said before Hellfire could put his foot in his mouth. “That’s quite an honour. Biggest chain of cafes in the Museum of Future Technology, they are. A lot of robots would give their third diode to work in ‘em. But they usually only allow silicon life forms to work in such important positions. It’s a bit…ah…racist, I know, but that’s the way it is. Say, after we’ve told the Captain about our plans, maybe you can serve us both a Café Disgusto!”

“Disgusto’s off.” The robot replied – too quickly for Erronious’ comfort.

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

“That’s off too.” The response came even quicker. “Now shut up: we’re nearly there!” 

And they were too!

“Sir,” the Catering Assistant introduced their guests, “From your right to left, this is Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams. They have important information for you. Now may I return to my duty station – I think I detected a small mould spore growing beneath the washing up sink.”

“You will remain.” The captain answered. To Erronious and Hellfire, it said: “This information: might it impact upon the current situation in which my vessel has been embargoed for having brought a dangerous infestation into the Museum of Future Technology?”

Both earplugs were amazed. “It certainly would.” Erronious replied with a small grin. “This is your lucky day: we’re gonna give you the chance to redeem yourself.”

Thereafter the two earplugs took turns to tell the tale of the ‘See-er’ – Celestino Candalabra – and what he had told them of the alien artefact that had let loose devastation upon the museum and its environs.

“Right.” The Captain said as they completed their tale. “I think I’ll call a couple of important earplugs: I need to run this past some real living beings.”

Fifteen minutes later, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were listening to the same tale…

“Sounds great.” Magnuss said enthusiastically. “I’d like to come along for the ride, but I don’t like to steal other people’s thunder. In any case I’ve developed  bit of Housemaid’s Knee: I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the mission by being a fraction slow off the mark. But, ultimately it’s not up to either Hair-Trigger or me: you need to convince the Curators.”

So, another fifteen minutes later…

…Cushions Smethwyke, along with Pretty-Boy Plankton, Auntie Doris, Montagu, and Bubbly Salterton had it all explained to them. Naturally they gave the go ahead for the ship to launch upon its mission to find the antidote to the storm in the far away sub-atomically unstable region of space. But when Erronious handed the sodden napkin upon which Celestino had written the co-ordinates, no one could decipher the inky smears upon it.

“Oh-no,” Erronious cried with horror, “the compacted snow in my gusset has thawed and soaked my pocket. It’s unreadable. What are we gonna do?”

It’s electronic brain racing, the Captain of the Drunkard’s Vomit reacted like stoat with a red hot poker up it’s bottom…

“Catering Assistant,” it snapped, “you are familiar with the situation: take another robot of your choice and retrace the tracks of Mister Bosche and Mister McWilliams. Find this Celestino Candalabra and bring him here.”

“What?” the Catering Assistant’s inexpensive speaker grill almost overloaded into incoherence, “Dressed like this?” 

The Captain cyber-sighed. “Oh, very well. I hereby re-designate you as Fifth Officer…”

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

“I won’t fail you, Sir.” The Fifth Officer replied to his Captain’s questioning body language. “I’ll take along Shortarse.” It added. “It is of a smaller, less advanced robot type: I might need it for getting into apertures too small for my larger, more advanced body.”

“Good choice.” The Captain responded. “I have full cyber-faith in you. Be upon your way now.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, another trek across a snowy landscape. I do like my snowy landscapes you know. Come back for episode 14 to find out just how snowy that landscape is. And a few other things too, of course.

Tooty’s Tapas Cakes

Tooty the Chef has endured the presence of a Spanish ‘Bizcocho’ cake mix in his cupboard for several years. His late wife bought it in a branch of Mercadona  yonks ago, but failed to use it because her propane oven was guaranteed to burn the bottom of the resulting cake. Although, by the time he decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a horrible burning smell permeating the structure of his modern cottage, buried deep within (or actually at the very edge of) the South Downs National Park,  the mix was two years out-of-date, he bravely ‘went for it’. As expected the base was burnt and the cake failed to rise. No result. The second attempt, though, was a work of genius – naturally. Tooty mixed up the goo, added eggs and all that other stuff, then (instead of pouring it into a baking tin) he pulled eight tapas bowls from the kitchen cupboard and baked it in them…

They even popped out of the tapas bowls in one piece – and not even slightly burnt!

“Not too bad,” I hear you gasp in wonderment. But he wasn’t finished there. He then proceeded to coat the bases of four cakes with Membrillo…

He quickly followed with a heavy smearing of caramel fondant…

Then it was a simple matter of slapping the naked four cakes on top to form a kind of sponge thing…

Okay, they were a bit chewy, but they tasted nice, despite the fact that he didn’t have any sugar in the house – except a half-tub of soft brown sugar that was (at the least) five years out-of-date. So, all in all, when all things are considered, another triumph for Tooty the Chef!

 

Gallic Style Wallpapers

Interior automotive design of the early 1960s…

Almost art deco, don’t you think?

But then look at the exterior design…

Could that be anything but French in origin? I don’t think so. Check out the wraparound windshield. It’s a Simca Aronde by the way. Would I like one? Silly question. Now which testicle am I willing to sacrifice?

Climatic Calamity (part 4)

You’ve waited patiently for long enough. Here it comes: the genesis of the climatic calamity in the title…

And it was too. In moments it had escaped the lab entirely, and had expanded into the corridor outside…

But even the futuristic walls of the corridor could not contain it. Seconds more and it had freed itself from the entire tower in which the lab was housed…

A ripple of fear ran through the populace of the museum. This, it appeared, seemed to feed the anomaly further. Its size grew at an incredible rate. Within a half-minute, this occurred…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” one visitor was heard to wail, “it’s engulfing the whole building. Quickly, someone tell me; where is the nearest toilet? One that has yet to become engulfed!”

Had anyone been able to answer his question, a further thirty seconds would have proven them to be liars: there were no toilets that were yet to be engulfed. The entire museum fell beneath its dazzling light. But that wasn’t all: soon the inhabitants and buildings of Ciudad de Droxford became illuminated by its alien glow…

And, as it fled across the plain that led towards the mountains, one of the regular Submarine Space Freighters almost fell victim to the expanding ball of light…

Moreover, across the mountains, in the pea-growing region, farmers became aware of a strange light in the sky. A light that appeared to be coming closer…

“Okay,” one disgruntled pea farmer complained, “what have those dozy sods at the Museum of Future Technology been up to now?”

To which his colleague responded:

“I don’t know, Fruity, darling, but I’m frightened: find me a hole and throw me down it.”

Chapter 2

During the few scant moments it took for Fruity to find a hole, the fleeing Submarine Space Freighter’s crew became aware of changing climatic conditions upon the mountain side above which their vessel flew…

They weren’t alone. Horst and Greta Stenchlinger had hired a rock face near Lemon Stone, and were busy teaching Advanced Precipitous Ledge Walking to a few wealthy and brave customers…

The sudden appearance of falling snow alarmed many of them.

“Honestly,” Candice Pustulina complained as she stood beside the helmeted Police Constable Salisbury Wilts and peered over the edge of their precipitous ledge, “as if regular ledges weren’t slippery enough, now the Stenchlingers include snow. I’ve a good mind to ask for my money back!” 

Because it was mid-summer in the mountains, the inhabitants of Lemon Stone were astonished to see freezing air billowing up the mountain side towards the village and citadel…

At the same time, the robot crew of the Submarine Space Freighter watched in cyber-horror as pea farmers fled their rapidly freezing farmland…

In their tiny mountain shack, married recluses, Steve and Dotty Chunder watched in dismay through their recently installed, double-glazed picture window as their rose garden succumbed to the weight of the sudden snowfall…

“Ooh, dear, Steve,” Dotty whimpered, “I so wish I’d listened to you, and, instead of this silly picture window, had an indoor lavatory installed.”

“You and me both.” Steve replied. “Now I’m glad I never threw out that old potty your mother gave us as a wedding present: we’re gonna need it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll probably have noticed my propensity for creating snowscapes and wintry scenes. I have this thing about winter. In my opinion The Bourne Identity would have only been half as good if they’d set it during Summer. It does cause me vast grief with the photo processing department though. As you can probably imagine, I don’t get out in the snow to do much shooting: I live in southern England after all. White bed sheets and polystyrene are absolute necessities.

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Self Destruct!

Submarine Space Freighters are usually very reliable vessels: but sometimes their crews must take desperate measures to win the day.

I’m not saying that this shot will appear in an Earplug Adventure: but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Q: Did this single picture take hours to produce?

A: Too bloody right it did. Thank goodness I’m retired, and have the time to waste. Or is it waste? Is art ever wasteful?

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

I’ve been rather busy of late – producing shots for yet another Earplug Adventure, this time called Climatic Calamity. Many of the pictures for the early part of the story have been challenging. When you see them you’ll probably understand why. It’s certainly not like the early stories. Flipping heck they were basic – and  are still available to read by clicking right HERE. But before you let your curiosity take control, please read this first instalment…er…first…

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were hardly the stuff that heroes are made of. Certainly, the day that the governor of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary awarded them early release from a long prison term for habitual burgling…

… no one imagined that they would ever find themselves regular work and a propensity for honesty. Indeed, following that release, several years previous, they had gone straight to the nearest town and fell in with the local crime organisation…

Actually they did more than simply join it: they took control of it – until the concerted efforts of the law system forced them to abandon the city and move to the Museum of Future Technology. It was whilst inside that vast and wondrous emporium of technological artefacts from the future that they encountered the famous Earplug Brothers, and assisted the return from dimensional limbo, of the museum’s greatest hero, Magnuss Earplug…

Flushed with the resulting endorphins of a good deed well done, they settled into a more honest way of life. Eventually they became winners of a lottery that awarded them a ride upon the star ship K T Woo. It was during a difficult period aboard ship, when a vastly superior alien craft threatened to destroy the vessel, that the former thieves discovered a penchant for entertaining others. In a desperate effort to persuade the aliens that earplugs were simply too good to destroy, a desperate show was staged. Amongst the many acts that hoped to save the ship and everyone aboard, Erronius and Hellfire delighted the audience by repeatedly picking Captain Sinclair Brooche’s pockets in a most humorous way…

Grateful to have survived, and upon their return to Earth, the ex-burglars moved away from the Museum of Future Technology, to buy a parcel of land in the shadow of the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone and become mountain pea farmers…

…where they enjoyed their own company, the fresh air, tilling the meagre soil, digging drainage trenches for the toilet, and frequenting the automated Café Puke outlet…

This is the story of how two recidivist burglars reacted to a terrible climatic disaster from outer space.

Chapter 1

For many years the Museum of Future Technology had managed perfectly well without the trade benefits of interstellar commerce, but since the discovery of the haulage (and cheap) capacity of Robotic Submarine Space Freighters, the cybernetic wonders had been plying the new trade routes to Earth on a regular basis…

…in their dozens. One ship, in particular, was well known by the inhabitants of the museum. It had been the vessel aboard which three teenaged girls – Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut…

…had been abducted (along with the entire crew of robots) by a bunch of conniving Incense Cones. Following their victory over the aforementioned bunch of conniving Incense Cones, the girls had returned the ship to its captain and crew. They had also named it…

The Drunkard’s Vomit had recently launched from a submarine ocean beneath the frozen surface of a gas giant’s moon in the Finklestein region of the Galaxy. It’s hold contained many differing items of all shapes and sizes, from multifarious worlds and strange civilisations: but only one of them was of any interest to anyone inside the Museum of Future Technology. It was a consignment of Gas Giant Moon Fish from the very moon from which the Drunkard’s Vomit had only recently lifted. Mister Pong was very keen to try them on the menu of the second branch of his Exotic Food Restaurant, located in the neighbouring city of Ciudad De Droxford, which had recently been rebuilt following the event best known as The Attack of the Crutons

Aboard the bulbous black vessel, a subordinate robot was reporting to its captain…

“Sir,” the huge green robot said in a boring monotone through a cheap plastic speaker grill, “Astrogation reports that if we wish to maintain our schedule, the Drunkard’s Vomit will need to enter a previously unexplored star system. Sensors report that the region appears sub-atomically unstable. We won’t know what to expect there. They say it might get very bumpy, or something entirely different. Something, so different, that it might be beyond our cybernetic powers of understanding. Thought you ought to know, Sir.”

After months and billions of kilometres of interstellar travel since the day that its ship was returned to it, the captain still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vessel’s nomenclature. “Can the…urr…Drunkard’s Vomit take a battering?” It inquired. “It has been due for a refit ever since that nasty incident with the Incense Cones.”

“Unknown, Sir.” The subordinate bridge officer replied. “You’ll have to suck it and see.”

Schedules were very important to logical mechanical life-forms. The Captain made a snap decision. “Keep to the schedule.” It said affirmatively. “Proceed through this…um…wonky space.”

Two minutes later, the boundaries of the uncharted region of space had been breached for the first time…

“Nice colourisation.” A member of Astrogation opined. “Not that I’m an expert or anything. Nevertheless I feel vulnerable: the sooner we traverse this region, the happier I will be.”

The unnamed member of Astrogation had good reason for concern. Approximately half way through the traverse, an undetected anomaly approached the ship. Unseen it closed upon an open wim-wom valve cover and secreted itself into the shadows there…

The robot that had been given the task of replacing the robot named Tong-Tong as catering assistant in the totally unused Café Puke canteen had been standing at a porthole when the anomaly approached and docked with the Drunkard’s Vomit. Unfortunately it had seen nothing. It was too busy regarding its appearance, reflected in the porthole glass…

“I look just like Tong-Tong.” It complained. “Why couldn’t I have kept my old green look? I was one of the guys like that. And this stupid hat: it hides my glowing brain. If I was an irrational creature of flesh and bone, I would throw the bloody thing out of the window. Or maybe shove it down the only lavatory!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Many years ago, my late wife badgered me to write a story with a title she had invented. It was Attack of the Crutons. Well, in Surprise Visit I finally got to write it – but I couldn’t use her title because it would have signposted where the story was going. There would be no mystery. But, if you look at the picture that features Mr Pong in his Ciudad de Droxford restaurant (in this extract) you’ll notice the title ‘The Attack of Crutons’ mentioned. Somewhat  belatedly I can finally say; mission accomplished.

Earplug Adventure Alternative Perspective Wallpaper: Mr Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant

When the Crutons attacked La Ciudad De Droxford in Surprise Visit, not everyone had evacuated the doomed city. Customers of the recently opened Exotic Food Restaurant were enjoying their duck a la orange too much. Mr Pong was forced to place his air raid warden’s helmet upon his head before barring exit from his restaurant…

“Should have gone sooner.” He added. “Too late now – you bunch’a greedy bastards.” He then issued some reassuring words:  “Anyway, you safer in Mister Pong’s,” he bellowed above the sound of disintegrating buildings all around, “Got defensive electromagnetic screen generator under stairs in foyer. And kitchen is atom bomb resistant.” 

Surprise Visit (part 20)

I’m surprised that the story has stretched this far. Twenty episodes and more to come – though not many, it must be said. It’s been fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it a bit too. But enough of that stuff: on with the show…

Meanwhile, and in blissful ignorance of what was happening behind his back, the blue cable end awaited the arrival of his captives…

As Nigel and Beatrix strode haughtily before him, he said:

“Nigel. Beatrix – formerly Gloria. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both – but I’d be lying. I’d rather hoped that by the time my infiltration into your planetary government was complete, you’d both be dead, and I’d never have to clap eyes on you. But no, you had to precipitate my actions. You had to launch a foolhardy solo attack upon the heart of my empire. And just when I’m on the brink of taking the Museum of Future Technology and all it contains. You’re a twit. A nuisance. A silly old sod who should be watching parades of Sea Cadets and Nurses and stuff.”

As the blue cable end drew breath to continue his tirade, Nigel interrupted…

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

The blue cable end scoffed. “Too right I have, pal: you’re my prisoner!”

“He doesn’t mean that, you silly oaf.” Beatrix snapped.

“That’s right.” Nigel agreed with a nod. “You know me – obviously because I’m the leader of Scroton; but I don’t have the faintest idea who you are.”

“Neither of us has ever met you before.” Beatrix added. “You look different; if we’d met you, we’d remember it. You’re an ugly bleeder; you’re kind of dark where you should be light and light where you should be dark. You don’t look like any Scrotonite I’ve ever heard of.”

If the blue cable end could have smiled, it would have been of the grim kind…

“There is a good reason for that, you silly old bag.” He ground out between gnashing teeth. “I am not a Scrotonite. I am The Cobalt One – though I prefer to be addressed as DeRorr Smionc – if you don’t mind. Now say it after me – together: DeRorr Smionc. DeRorr Smionc.”

Of course the leader of Scroton failed utterly to be baited. Instead he said:

“If you are not a Scrotonite, then what are you?”

Smionc threw back his head so that his plume waved gracefully in the thin air of the brown planet. “I am a Cruton!” He roared.

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

“You’re standing on it, dumbass.” The snarled reply came quickly.

“So why aren’t we aware of Cruton?” Beatrix demanded. “We’ve mapped every cubic centimetre of Weird Space – and there is definitely no planet called Cruton there!”

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

“What I want, Nige,” Smionc replied, “is to place Scroton where it belongs in the Galactic hierarchy: somewhere near the top. I don’t want Scroton to design and build wonderful tech for inferior species: I want them to run roughshod over them. I don’t want Scroton to sell stuff to anyone: I want them to take it – by force if necessary!”

For a moment Nigel was shocked into silence: but he recovered quickly:

“That is not the way of Scroton.” He said – almost by rote. “That is not the reason that we were gifted sentience and self-awareness. We are not warlike, ogres, or complete rotters. We like to do business instead.”

Smionc sighed at this. “Oh so high and noble.” He snarled. “Next you’ll be telling me that you’re not aware of the alien overseers that lurk beneath ground and watch your every move. Alien overseers who routinely report to the beings that gave you your precious sentience and self-awareness.”

Nigel looked to Beatrix. She looked back. Bafflement passed between them.

“Um,” he said to Smionc, his stentorian tone quenched to mere serf levels, “that would be a no.”

“Thought so.” Smionc said knowingly. “We caught ours years ago. Look, here’s a picture of some of them.”

He flicked a photograph across the brief divide. Nigel picked it up and looked at it…

“They were in the process of being rounded up within their subterranean lair.” DeRorr Smionc explained. “They didn’t put up any resistance – the spineless curs.”

“I recognise the majority of them as being a sub-species of polystyrene blob.” Nigel responded. “Very peaceful people. We do a lot of work for them. The other creature though…I’ve never seen the like.”

“Mushroom-Headed Earplug.” Smionc informed the leader of Scroton. “They didn’t take long to break. They spilled their guts quickly enough. Some of them were there, right at the beginning. They oversaw the selection of cable ends for enlightenment. The ones with the good DNA were left on Scroton to form the society you have today. The others were packed off to another planet and kept as a back-up team should the whole Scroton Experiment fail or your world become uninhabitable because of over- industrialisation. Guess who they were.”

“Oh, so it’s sour grapes, is it?” Beatrix snapped. “You’ve got lousy DNA, and hate us for having everything you haven’t. Well poo to you!”

“You’re right.” Smionc, his calm shattered by Beatrix’s insight, bellowed. “And there was sod-all we could do about it – what with Scroton being protected by the ancient aliens who vigilantly watch over the poxy place. But, when we get the futuristic stuff from the Museum of Future Technology, they won’t be able to wrap you up in cotton wool any more. Scroton will become an annex of Cruton. Together, whether you like it or not, we will rule the Galaxy!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now say after me…Derorr Smionc. Derorr Smionc, This is possibly the stupidest name I’ve ever invented. What better reason could there be for including it!

PS In one of the earlier tales, the Museum of Future Technology’s ill tempered gardener drowned in an outpouring of slurry, but was reanimated by intelligent bacteria that lived within the slurry. He became Mister Shit, but because I rewrote the early (rude) stories to be more family-friendly, his name was changed to Mister Plop. I’ve always liked that name. Still have the earplug. Must include him in another story.

PPS Some people prefer my ramblings to the actual story. Are you one of them?

A Top Tip From Tooty the Chef: Cooking When Drought Starts to Bite

It’s a furnace outside. The garden has withered. The lawn is brown – especially where the dogs piss. The ceiling fan is spinning like a demented loony. You’re hot and very bothered. Even the water from the cold tap feels warm. And you have to prepare THIS for dinner…

Desperate times demand drastic action. Cue the answer from Tooty the Chef. When heat and flies make your kitchen seem like an absolute hell-hole – stay cool and strike back by exposing your own!

 

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

Surprise Visit (part 18)

The element of surprise greatly assisted our intrepid heroes in Part 17. Now check out what happens when that element is lost. Oooh…

Success, however, was short-lived. Within moments of the enemy regaining their wits, a defensive screen encapsulated the domed conurbation…

The situation worsened further. As Magnuss and Hair-Trigger appeared on the main viewer of the Buggeram Bay

…they received the news that the Scrotonic ship was receiving return fire, and that their screens were depleting quickly.

“We’re hopelessly out-gunned,” Nigel shouted above the din of his bridge exploding. “We’ll go down fighting: you find yourselves somewhere to run and hide. Most importantly, get a message to Scroton. Tell them everything you know!”

The two heroic earplugs could only watch in horror as smoke obscured the view…

“Will do.” Magnuss said quietly. Then he had a thought: “Leave your personal communication devices on ‘send’: that way we’ll be able to hear what’s going on. We might even find a way of helping you.”

“Will do – too.” Nigel responded. “I’ll just leave mine on: you don’t want all of us chattering on and confusing the heck out of you. May the Saint of All Earplugs fly with you.”

“And may the Saint of All Earplugs protect you.” Hair-Trigger added.

A moment later communications failed utterly. Aboard the Tankerville Norris, it was all the crew could do to sit in stunned silence…

Fortunately for them both, the ship’s AI didn’t do ‘stunned’: instead it took off in a headlong flight from the battle; disappeared behind some nearby mountains; and made straight for a welcoming cave mouth…

…in which to hide the entire ship.

The Buggeram Bay, meanwhile, had gone into a terminal dive…

The fight, it seemed, was over. However, the Scrotonic flagship’s multi-redundancies allowed the flaming wreck to make some sort of landing upon a rock shelf a short distance from the habitat domes…

As it went into its fiery death throes, Nigel and his retinue staggered from the wreck and made their uncertain way down the slope towards the waiting cable ends…

A blue individual, sporting an orange plume, watched dispassionately from a safe distance.

“Have the Golden One brought to me,” he hissed to the grey cable end beside him, “Him and his dippy wife.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Not looking too good right now, huh? But, never fear, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger remain free and unsuspected. Tune in again to find out how they best utilize that advantage. It might even be what you expected!

The Set: The Scene 5

It has been a while since the last The Set: The Scene – mainly because I forgot all about the series in which I show you the set, then follow it with an Earplug Adventure scene that was shot there. Of course only long-term Earpluggers will have any chance of recalling the earlier tales (which, by today’s standards appear a tad primitive), but if I don’t use too many of them, I’m sure recent recruits will enjoy this too. So to the game…

We kick off with a pallet of double glazed units, which are separated by some natty cardboard…ah..separators

When I snapped this picture, it made a work colleague chuckle. He knew exactly why I’d taken it, but had no idea what I would make of it. I made the high-rise buildings of La Ciudad de Droxford (and others)…

…which appeared at the beginning of Triple Threat.

Before I had the technical ability to extract elements from my photos; then superimpose them on to existing backgrounds, I was forced to shoot my spaceships in front of a monitor screen…

It wasn’t ideal, and it was a bit hit and miss. But when it worked, it worked rather well, I think…

In this case the disabled Gravity Whelk explodes a proton torpedo in it’s main thruster to gain forward momentum, in Haunted Mars.

Ah, one of my better (and permanent) sets. An ancient portable DVD player in a plastic box. This enabled me to show scenes on the screen, without the need to superimpose, which meant faster shooting and multiple angle potential…

Of course the ‘deck’ of the set needed adding afterwards, which was a bit of an arse-wipe because the DVD remote wouldn’t operate the machine through the cardboard…

This meant that every time I took a shot, I needed to move the deck to press the play button – causing the ‘actors’ to often fall over. I only used this set in A Tale of Three Museums. Here’s how it turned out – as the bridge of three separate Scroton Five ships. Here’s the main character’s ship – the Zephyr…

I added another section for the reverse angle shots…

Here it appears as the mercenary’s ship…

…and finally as the Scrotonic interceptor ship that pursued the Zephyr throughout the tale…

Not exactly a much-loved set; but a very ubiquitous one. Right now it’s sitting in my attic ‘studio’, just waiting to be pulled out of mothballs and used again.

Photos and Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan.

 

Surprise Visit (part 17)

Here we go – headed towards the final showdown. Hold on to your buttocks!

Chapter Six

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the SRR conduit…

…the Tankerville Norris and Buggeram Bay had emerged into a dark brown atmosphere. Magnuss wanted nothing more than to call up Nigel and say, “Look familiar? It’s the brown world in Weird Space!” However he thought it best to maintain radio silence. Then, to his annoyance, interference rendered the main viewer useless…

“Oh, flipping heck, Hairy.” He growled, “Just when we really need to see where we’re going too!”

The ship’s computer couldn’t help either. Both earplugs received telepathic messages simultaneously: “Help, I’m blind. Someone tell me where to go!”

The situation wasn’t any better aboard the ship of Scroton…

“Can someone override that interference?” Nigel half inquired – half demanded.

“Working on it.” Faati – Queen of the Pygmies – replied.

“Further,” Nigel continued, “once having replaced all that ziggy-zaggy line stuff, might it be possible to use our AI’s telepathic talents to tell the Tankerville Norris’s AI how to fix the picture?”

“Hey,” Faati responded with a chuckle in her voice, “We’ve got two ships built on Scroton here: anything is possible!”

Satisfied with the response to his suggestions, Nigel thought of one more:

“Right – let’s get the right way up again. These magnetic boots are playing merry hell with my delicate ankles.”

Below, upon the surface, an Ethernet Cable End didn’t even look up as the Buggeram Bay passed above a series of habitat domes…

Whether it was the act of reverting to standard flight mode, or just chance timing, the screen reactivated – just as they passed the outer edge of the domed conurbation…

Seven mouths fell open. Only one worked sufficiently well to form coherent words. It belonged to Nigel:

“Ethernet cable ends? How the flip? What the heck? Duh? Someone pinch me, I’m having some sort of hallucinatory attack!”

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were almost as shocked, though on a far less visceral level…

“Oh,” Magnuss whimpered, “the guys over there aren’t going to like this. This must mean that there is a secret faction of Scroton that’s opposed to the current social and political situation – and possibly Nigel himself.”

Hair-Trigger however had made an observation that might have been missed by anyone else. “I’m not so sure about that, Mags.” She said as her eyes widened, then squinted intensely. “Look at those cable ends closely: there’s something odd about them.”

“Do they have their bums on back-to-front?” Magnuss asked as he peered semi-myopically.

“No-no,” Hair-Trigger replied, “Nothing so obvious. When we get the chance, I’d like to take a closer look.”

Magnuss might have suggested a different physical abnormality in the ground-based ethernet cable end; but his attention was snatched away by the sight of a dark saucer making a landing approach…

“Look, Hairy – it’s one of those ships that destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford!”

“Let’s enact some revenge, eh?” Hair-Trigger replied.

Magnuss was all for it. He would have called Nigel to suggest that very thing, but before he was able to depress the ‘send’ button, the Golden One’s voice boomed over the intercom:

“Attack! Attack! Blow the evil swine to kingdom come!”

The instruction was explicit: neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger wasted a second responding…

Blam – both ship’s primary weapons hit the alien vessel with all their might. Defensive shields collapsed like cling film in a pizza oven. The ship’s main core erupted in flame and released energy…

Before the occupants knew what had happened, they were hurtling through the air in their own personal escape bubbles…

…their ship reduced to a roiling maelstrom of flame and smoke. Moreover it was the exact duplicate of the window, through which Nigel had spotted Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez (when they had first touched down upon the soil of Earth) that the Tankerville Norris passed over in a victory roll…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so we have alien ass-kicking. But it couldn’t be that easy, surely? Tune in again next time to find out!

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!

Surprise Visit (part 15)

It’s hard to believe, I know, but we’re only three and a half chapters from the end of the tale. The good news is – the PDF version is complete and only awaits the completion of the on-line telling of this Earplug Adventure before becoming available for all to read or download, in its entirety, free of charge and utterly gratis. It will look exactly like this…

 

But enough of the future: on with the present…

Meanwhile, the proper leader of Scroton scurried along one of many thoroughfares that radiated, like a spider’s web, through the Museum of Future Technology. As he made good speed for a meeting with the chief curator, Cushions Smethwyke, his retinue followed in his wake…

“You need to be fit.” Walker observed as his eyes took in any number of side passageways and corridors. “It seems that to get anywhere, an inordinate amount of shoe leather must be worn down.”

“Walking is good for you.” Beatrix admonished the military leader of Scroton.

“One could get awfully lost.” The red-faced Julian Prim said between gasps.

“Not really.” Beatrix replied. “One need only ask the museum’s Artificial Intelligence for guidance. If it’s not too busy doing other stuff, it will tell you where you are; where you want to be; and how to get there. How else do you think Nigel knows where he’s going?”

Shortly, having rounded just a couple more junctions, Nigel presented himself and Beatrix to Cushions, who had Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks for company upon her ‘throne’…

“Oh, Golden One,” Cushions gushed obsequiously, “I’m so honoured that it takes every erg of my energy to maintain mental and physical equilibrium and not fall off this huge contraption!

“Hi,” Cheerful Charlie added with a wave over Cushions’ shoulder, “you’ve just missed jelly and cream, sorry. Would you like me to send out for you?”

The behaviour of the two trained, long-term professional curators nonplussed Nigel slightly. “Ah, not for the moment, thank you.” He replied to Cheerful Charlie. To Cushions he said: “Miss Smethwyke, we must discuss the most dreadful situation that currently threatens, not only the Museum of Future Technology and, by extension, my home world; but, ultimately many civilisations across the cosmos.”

It was Cushions’ turn to be taken aback. “Yeah?” She managed. “I thought it was just us who were up Kaka Creek without a paddle.”

“Then Magnuss hasn’t told you?” A mystified Beatrix interjected.

It was time for Cushions to come clean: “He might have.” She answered, “But after the first couple of sentences, I kinda went into panic-denial. What was it, specifically?”

“That the attacking ships are of Scrotonic design.” Nigel answered for his wife. “That they utilise the latest technology to which even I am not privy.”

Cushions’ mouth opened and shut several times before her brain caught up. “You mean,” she was finally able to annunciate, “that we’re being bullied by ethernet cable ends? I can’t believe it. It’s too much for my silicon mind to accept. Surely no cable end would destroy an entire city, just to prove how powerful they were – would they?” 

Nigel dismissed the notion with a careless gesture. “No.” He replied adamantly. “No cable end would ever do that. It runs contrary to all our beliefs. But we must consider the possibility that another race – as adept at manufacturing hi-tech equipment at speed and in volume as we of Scroton – has purloined our designs and now uses them for their own advantage.”

“Oh, good.” Cushions responded. “So what do you want us to do? All our ships are half-way across the Galaxy, doing all that exploration and diplomatic stuff. We can’t call upon them. In any case, if those ships are half as good as you say, our old bangers might get blown to pieces!”

“We ask only one thing of you.” Nigel replied. “By whatever means, you must not allow them to defeat you. You must not surrender. I have ordered a fleet of similar ships built. Ships that fly the right way up, I might add. The first elements will arrive here by the end of the week. The remainder are due at approximately the same time that the aliens return for your answer to their ultimatum.”

“Excellent.” Cheerful Charlie piped up. “We’ll make sure we have plenty of jelly and cream in.”

Nigel ignored the resident buffoon. To Cushions he said: “Is there anything you require in between times?”   

“Power.” Cushions replied. “Energy. Our batteries are depleting too quickly. We have a manually operated charger, but no one has sufficient leg strength or endurance to operate it.”

“Leave it to us.” Beatrix replied.

Five hours later…

“Can you see the power level read-out, Faati?” Fermin asked the Queen of the Pygmies.

“Yes.” Faati snapped back.

“How much longer do we have to keep doing this before the batteries are fully charged?” Fermin inquired.

“Long enough,” Faati answered, “to prove your boast to Walker that you can run and run and run without the need to sit down for an hour afterwards.”

Five hours later…

…the museum’s maintenance crew informed the exhausted cable ends that they could prise themselves off the charging machine and allow themselves to be carried to a hot soapy bath to recover.

However, a minute later, but half way across the Galaxy, Phruten Vedge was on the brink of entering a public lavatory, when Anders Dumbell unceremoniously accosted him…

“Phruten! Phruten!” He yelled and tugged at the biker gang leader’s shoulder epaulettes. “Something unthinkable has happened. Something that, under normal circumstances I would say was impossible on Scroton. But, look at the wall screen over there: the one showing the state-run rolling news channel.”

Phruten did as he was bid…

“Argh,” he yelled, “What am I looking at?”

“A fire-storm.” Anders wailed his reply. “It has destroyed the space ship factory. No one knows how it happened: but the Bingbonger, the Clutterbuck, the Plankton Regis, and another one that doesn’t have a name yet, have all been destroyed!”

“This is terrible.” Phruten yelled at a higher pitch than was normally acceptable for such a tough guy. “I’m so glad I’m standing directly outside a toilet right now!”

But just when both cable ends thought that the situation could not worsen farther, the screen switched to another view…

The voice of a reporter followed immediately. It said:

“Holy carp: did you see that? Two missiles have taken out the lemon curd factory! Oh-no, this is disastrous; they were using the surplus manufacturing capacity of the lemon curd factory to produce the extra vessels for The Golden One’s space fleet! Everything has gone up in smoke. This is the worst day in cable end history. Someone hand me a café Cortado – heavy on the brandy!”

However even this was not the final act of infamy. Another screen displayed the image of the space ship design studio in flames…

“Cripes, Anders,” Phruten spoke in a hushed tone, lest his voice break with sorrow and fear, “arson, obviously. Who is going to tell The Golden One?”

The answer flew daintily to Anders’ lips: “Ena.” He replied.

By the strangest of coincidences, Nigel received the news of his proto-fleet’s destruction at the same moment that he planned to enter the Buggeram Bay’s toilet…

“I’m not sure I can accept that.” He said quietly to Walker. “I don’t have an appropriate response.”

“Give it a few minutes to sink in, Sir.” Bertram Hisscod suggested. “Allow yourself the chance to absorb the information slowly.”

“Yes, thank you, Bertram.” Nigel said gratefully, as he turned to enter the toilet…

…”If I have a really long wee, it’ll give me time to compose myself. I just hope that in my moment of despair I don’t lose control and miss the urinal entirely.”

“Best make it a sit down job then, Sir.” Walker said as he made to follow his leader. “I’m sure Bertram will hustle you up a cup of tea.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

You have to feel sympathy for poor old Nigel: he has to contend with so much. Perhaps he should do as he suggested at the beginning of the adventure. That is quit and go live in a cave. 

Surprise Visit (part 14)

Response to Part 13 was a tad muted. Perhaps Part 14 will be more to your liking. Here goes…

It was bright outside – whereas the interior enjoyed a cloak of shade. They didn’t know it, of course, but their guests had made a decision, and were preparing to leave…

It was only when their eyes adjusted to the gloom that the Baristas realised that they had arrived too late…

“Oh, my apologies.” Nigel said when he spotted his ungracious hosts…

…but we won’t be requiring the sugar now. Um, perhaps you can sprinkle it on some doughnuts or something. We need to be moving on. By-ee.”

However, as they left, Magnuss – never one to waste anything, especially when people had gone to such lengths to accomplish something so trivial – took the sachets and (along with his Cossack hat) poked them inside his back pocket. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll be writing to your manager: you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

Moyst ran straight to the lavatory to wash the smell of plugmutt pee off her hands. But Jungle-Jake and Mary-Sue, both of whom were far less fastidious in their hygiene, merely watched their guests depart  –  to be replaced by alternative clientele – such as a vacationing Ice-Worlder, Uda Spritzer, and the morose Poncho Warmonger – eager to sample their vile wares…

“Huh,” Jungle-Jake grunted, “and they didn’t even leave a tip on the table. Cheapskates!”

Chapter Five

Far, far away, upon the planet Scroton, part-time government officials, Phruten Vedge, Ena Large, and Anders Dumbell were returning to the council chambers following a short break for mince pies and custard…

Phruten’s mind was on nothing in particular. His eyes wandered the anteroom without really seeing anything. Ena and Anders, conversely, had very important matters troubling them. Both had consumed far more mince pies than was recommended by the state-run organisation Be Kind to Your Guts, and were experiencing a sensation that suggested that their bowels would soon explode. Both tried crossing and uncrossing their eyes many times in an attempt to ward off the inevitable. They were still doing so, when a pair of Civil Service officers approached at speed…

Quickly regaining his awareness, Phruten turned to face them. Ena made a pretty good fist of looking interested too. But poor Anders spent the following moments trying to release the internal pressure by emitting copious amounts of gas and praying that it vented naturally through the open portal to his right. So he didn’t hear the Civil Service officers inform Phruten and Ena that a message had arrived from Earth.

“It’s The Golden One!” The grey cable end yelled. “He’s sent a message for you.”

“You have to act upon it.” The purple cable end yelled even louder – bordering on shrill. “This is not the time for conservatism. No more maintaining the status quo. You must act.”

“And act with alacrity, determination, and forthrightness.” The grey cable end continued. “Contrary to what Beatrix said in the council chambers before they went on vacation: make waves!”

“But what is it?” An increasingly nervous Phruten demanded. “What is it we must do?”

“Sign the authorisation.” The purple cable end half explained.

The grey cable end completed the explanation:

“To complete all of the new space ships by the end of the week, and begin constructing a further fifteen – to be completed in seven days. No expenses spared. Twenty-four hour operation. Overtime at double pay. These ships must be ready for battle within thirteen days, fully crewed, and on-site in Earth orbit with armament primed and ready for action.”

Anders heard this. For a moment it required all of his intellect to understand the significance of the instruction. Consequently, he had nothing in reserve, which meant that his iron control slipped and his bottom erupted so violently that everyone were sent scurrying from the anteroom by the subsequent gale of moist particles…

“Let’s go.” He shouted. “Let’s get this Executive Order signed!”

“Then,” he added in a mournful wail, “someone hand me the key to the Executive Toilet. Damn those mince pies!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, you see there – I’m on safer ground. Blowing off.

Spend Spend Spend – What Some More – Again?

It’s been a while since I lasted reported upon my Back Lane Behemoth…

Of late there seemed to be a indefinable ‘something’ wrong with it. It just didn’t feel quite so smooth and effortless as normal. Something mysterious amiss. Cue Andy – of Earle Brothers Motorcycles (of Warnford, Hampshire) to knock at my door and ask to see the bike. Well it didn’t take long for him to diagnose a knackered final transmission and book the Yamaha in for repairs. That, in itself, would be expensive enough, but sadly your favourite literary and gastronomic genius made the fiscal situation considerably worse when the time came to transfer funds from his account to that of Earle Brothers. My machine was waiting to be returned to me – looking all refreshed and wonderful…

…when suddenly, as I was in the middle of an on-line bank transfer, Windows decided to update. This meant that the system slowed to a crawl – eventually stopping all together mid-transfer. Now my Toshiba laptop – the one I create my Earplug Adventures on – has been known to drive me to distraction before: but this time it over-stepped the mark. It was late in the day: the bike was loaded in the van: the shop was on the phone- wanting to know where the payment was: and my poxy laptop had decided to go on vacation. I couldn’t even use another computer because I was already logged on. Something had to change. I saw only one recourse open to me. I needed to do to this computer what I’ve done to every other computer I’ve owned. It was time for the Toshiba to die! In a split second it was dashed to the floor. As you can probably imagine, laptops and concrete floors are not a match made in heaven….

But at least it logged me off the Internet banking site, and I was able to complete the transaction in the nick of time on another computer. As a result of my impetuosity, it became necessary for me to spend a further £450 (on top of the bike repair) on a new laptop…

But at least I managed to get a fifty pound discount on the new HP, so it wasn’t all bad. But that’s a total of three quarters of a grand up in smoke. It’s expensive – having a temper like mine. I wonder how long this laptop will last.

Surprise Visit (part 9): An Earplug Adventure

I think, for Part Nine, we’ll dispense with my usual rambling introduction, and get straight to the action. Actually, speaking of rambling: in this extract Magnuss and Hair-Trigger finally conclude their huge exposition. Now straight to the action-ish…

“Of course, we were trying to conceal ourselves, so we couldn’t tap into Nul-Space for energy. We needed to plug in the back-up battery packs…

…whilst our passive sensors tried to make sense of what was happening beyond the shield. Fortunately, Rupert Piles was able to film some stuff with his three-dee camera through a small window in the downstairs Gents toilet…

…so we had some inkling of what was going on outside.”

“Yes,” Hair-Trigger confirmed, “he was able to zoom-in on our neighbouring town – La Ciudad de Droxford. Their lights went out too!”

“Naturally visitors to the museum panicked.” Magnuss continued. “Several Baristas left their posts in the Café Puke outlets. The Zombie population all huddled together in the sub-strata upon which were built successive museums before the current one…

Of course, some fell to pieces and resorted to religion. Well the ones who believe in Ballington, the Cork God did…

“Meanwhile,” Hair-Trigger replaced her husband whilst he took a nip from his hip flask of ginger beer, “engineers in La Ciudad de Droxford couldn’t maintain control of their power generation plant. The colour just drained from their faces…

Something was affecting it from the outside. Some advanced technology with which none of us are familiar.”

“Yeah,” Magnuss retook the reins, “that’s when we found out who was causing all the grief. It was the alien ships that chased us through hyperspace. We hadn’t shaken them off at all: they were cloaked and hiding from our sensors!”

“But your vessel has sensors designed and built on Scroton!” Walker exclaimed in horror.

“I know, I know.” Magnuss wailed. “It’s impossible, but they had something that blinded the Scrotonic sensors completely. But enough of that for the moment. The aliens aboard then ordered everyone in the city to walk into the distant hills. It was a long and arduous task. Rupert Piles could see that some of them had really painful feet. Others – wonky knees and chilblains.”

“We would have given them some soothing cream.” Hair-Trigger piped up, “but we couldn’t give away our position.”

“So the alien sensors couldn’t detect you through your Chameleon Cannon Cloak?” Beatrix inquired.

“We’ll come to that.” Magnuss replied. “Anyway the earplugs took longer than the aliens liked for them to leave, so, when they reached the foothills, the stragglers were fired upon to speed them up…

When the last of them had finally clambered from the plain, the leading alien saucer fired the first shot at Ciudad de Droxford…

…which took all the tiles off the roof of a popular nunnery. It was the first of many. Shots, that is: not nunnery roofs. The aliens had a rare old time. You could tell they were having fun…

As morning arrived, so the saucers departed, leaving the city a flaming ruin…

“Oh, that’s so sad,” Beatrix commiserated. “But why did they destroy such a lovely city? And why so close to the Museum of Future Technology?”

“We’ll come to that too.” Magnuss replied. “Anyway, inside the Chameleon Cannon Cloak…

…all we could do was to wait until the fires had burned themselves out. Then we went to see the result of the attack…

It was pretty thorough.”

“I suppose you couldn’t help defend the city with your defence fighters?” Nigel said the words that could have sounded recriminating had anyone else spoken them. “But, then I imagine they only work using your broadcast power system, which, of course relies upon Nul-Space energy. Ah, I see…such a quandary.”

“There was something else too.” Magnuss explained. “Long ago the curator elite proposed that we build a duplicate museum. One that could be activated when the real museum came under threat, and draw any unwanted attention from would-be invaders and the like. Unfortunately, the museum’s coffers have always been paltry. Work has been slow and haphazard – relying on donations and volunteers…

But, we have been getting there, though it does mean a few corners had to be cut…

An awful lot of plaster and chicken wire was used. And, of course, we had to build it to scale – only one-third the real size.”

It was at that moment that the truth finally dawned upon the listening trio of Scrotonites. “This isn’t the Museum of Future Technology!” Nigel boomed joyously.

“It’s just a putrid facsimile!” Walker exclaimed with happiness.

“You’re not a bunch of scheming little gits after all!” Beatrix screamed, with relief evident in every decibel.

“When do we get to see the real museum?” Nigel inquired.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Tooty the Chef’s Quick Tip: Sell-By Date Due

You’ve noticed that a packet of sauce in your cupboard is in danger of becoming obsolete overnight: whatta ya do? If you’re anything like Tooty the Chef, you’ll smile with eagerness…

…coz that means you can use up that freezer-burnt fish in the bottom drawer, and those floppy veggies in the fridge…

In this case Il Maestro placed some equally ancient American long grain rice in the  rice cooker…

…and steamed the rest  on top.  Then, following the customary ‘ding’ from the rice cooker to indicate that it had done it’s thing, it was simply a case of mixing up the fish sauce with milk; boiling it stupid; then pouring it over the rice / veggies / fish combo. The result? Well the result was so good that it got eaten before the camera came out of the bag!

PS If you don’t have a rice cooker – get one!

Surprise Visit (part 3) An Earplug Adventure

Photo count for Surprise Visit has risen to 186. You would not believe the hours I put in to get up to that number. Stiff neck and aching mouse-hand, I can tell you! Moreover, those are the completed, processed, usable shots, which can include up to ten elements in each to complete. Just guessing, but I figure it probably took at least 300 to make those 186. But enough of my creative laptop heroism and aching body parts: on with the show. The prologue is finally over, by the way. If there is such thing as an average prologue, mine is longer. I have a long one, and I”m hanging it out here for everyone to see!

Chapter One

Several hours passed before Nigel showed sufficient confidence in his new government to depart with his retinue for the space ship landing zone…

Having passed through the Departure Lounge, Beatrix lay a restraining hand upon her husband’s arm…

“Are you sure this is wise, Nige baby?” She whispered, fully aware that their bodyguard wouldn’t hear a word she said. “It’s just that when I went for my last-minute, pre-flight wee-wee, I felt a nagging doubt in my waters. Something might go horribly wrong.”

Nigel had always listened to his wife’s well-considered council. “Here, on Scroton?” He asked in a slightly more resonant whisper. “Or the vacation?”

Beatrix sighed. “Not here.” She replied. “I’m absolutely certain that Ena, Anders, and that Phruten guy are perfect for the job – after all, it was your hat their names came out of. No: it’s something about your choice of destination. Of course, if its fate that we go there, who am I to argue? But I thought I should mention it.”

So, as the others made their way towards the boarding gate…

…Nigel made a decision and reanimated…

He said; “Fear not, beautiful wife of mine: we will be on our guard against anything and everything. And, most importantly, we have Fermin Gusset at our side: what could go wrong?”

With that, they strolled out into the strange early-early morning light…

…of Scroton, whereupon Beatrix began complaining about the lack of air-conditioned transfer conduit to the space ship’s airlock. Fortunately for some unnamed underling, once they had seated themselves in the super-comfy flight chairs beside Walker Crabtrouser…

…that omission was forgotten utterly.

“Nice,” she said. “My botty has never felt so cossetted.”

“This is a new class of ship, isn’t it Walker?” Nigel inquired.

“First in the line.” Walker informed his leader. “There are four others in various stages of construction. This is the Buggeram Bay. It was named after the company that sponsored the development of the design – the Buggeram Bay Oily Fish Company. Buggeram Bay is on the southern continent, quite close to the pole, I believe.”

“That’s a little worrying, Walker.” Nigel said without turning to face the military leader. “Surely all space craft development must go through government channels?”

“Ah,” Walker responded slowly, “yes, that would be the case, normally. But the designer’s blueprints were lost in the back of the office copy machine and got all chewed up. No one wanted to take responsibility, so they just conveniently forgot all about it. The designer took his design elsewhere. Who knows who else has seen the design: but we have control of the manufacturing now, so no harm done.”

“Did they get a new photocopier?” Beatrix inquired.

“Not sure, Ma’am.” Walker replied. “Didn’t bother asking.”

Nigel’s disquiet remained. “So this is the only ship that actually flies?” He asked in a slightly nervous tone.

“Oh, assuredly.” Walker responded effortlessly. “The Plankton Regis is weeks away from completion: the Bingbonger is little more than a metallic skeleton: and the Clutterbuck is barely off the drawing board. If you have any reservations about this ship, Sir, we can always dig out the old Goosewing Grey: It still goes like the clappers, and, when you get used to it, the grey décor really isn’t as dull and depressing as you remember it.”

“I think not.” Beatrix responded upon her husband’s behalf. “When Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were given the choice of the Goosewing Grey or the Tankerville Norris, they chose the latter unequivocally. We’ll stick with this ship: I like the seats.”

Beatrix was further impressed by the ultra-high definition main screen…

“Oh look, Nige,” she gushed, “it’s the lemon curd factory. I remember opening that. We hadn’t long been married: it was one of my first civic duties. Lovely toilets, I remember.”

Nigel didn’t much care for lemon curd. “Who’s flying this ship?” He enquired of the cable ends that appeared to be manning the controls beneath the main view screen.

“Ah, that would be no one, Sir.” Julian Prim replied. “The ship flies itself. We’re here to manually override the A I in the event that it goes bananas and tries to fly the ship into the Sun or something equally catastrophic.”

This news placated Nigel’s concerns slightly. “Oh, that’s alright then.” He said. “Okay, take us up. Let’s go.”

Moments later the Buggeram Bay lifted on invisible columns of energy…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Right then, that’s the slow bit out of the way. Now it’s time for action and mystery – on the vacation from Hell!

 

 

Surprise Visit (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

Despite the unfortunate fact that I have so far taken only one hundred and eleven photos for the next Earplug Adventure, I simply can’t hold back the flood gates of creavity any longer. My urge to entertain must be sated. It is imperative I share the opening of the latest tale with you. Ladies, Gentlemen, Things: lend me your eyes and intellect. Welcome to the first instalment of Surprise Visit…

Earplug Adventures: Surprise Visit

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Far from Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, lies a region of the Galaxy known as Weird Space…

It’s not that it possesses strange properties, malfunctioning laws of physics, or that the rules of cause and effect are skewed: it just looks weird, with both the stars and the ethereal bits and pieces between them, having unusual colouration. It’s a bit…you know…splodgy. Deep within this realm, the planet Scroton orbits its primary star…

As almost everyone is aware, the planet Scroton is ruled by a wise and trustworthy Ethernet Cable End by the name of The Golden One – or Nigel, as he prefers to be known…

Having held this position since his species was gifted intelligence and self-awareness by an ancient, beneficent alien race, Nigel was well on his way to becoming extraordinarily bored with the humdrum, day-to-day life in the prosaically named capital city of Scroton Prime…

In fact, he felt sure that should he be compelled to cross the Central Plaza to his office beside his blue assistant, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pygmies, one more time, he would scream. Worse still, if he had to endure the quasi-military early-morning parade ever again in what remained of his corporeal lifetime…

…he wouldn’t hesitate to hand in his resignation and go live in a cave. He said as much to his Security Minister, Bertram Hisscod.

“Perhaps The Golden One should take a break from state affairs.” The yellow cable end suggested. “A few days in the desert, perhaps. Get away from all the excitement and stuff.”

Nigel had no love for the desert. He preferred desserts. He liked moist environments that didn’t make the skin on his heels crack open. Sadly, his wife, Beatrix – formerly known as Gloria – held a deep-seated aversion to wet places because they reminded her of a birth defect that had required surgery. Even now, all these years later, she could still feel the non-existent webs between her toes.

“I know,” he bellowed above the Drill Sergeant, as he instructed a group of Sea Cadets, “I’ll make an unexpected call on my old earplug chum, Magnuss Earplug, and his adorable wife, Hair-Trigger.”

Naturally, Nigel couldn’t just call his private space yacht and bugger off into the void: leadership required temporary transference. As is the way of Scrotonic government, Beatrix summoned the leading counsellors of Scroton to the committee chamber…

“Hear this, hear this, hear this,” she announced. “The Golden One wishes to announce something of great import. Lend him your ears.”

At this point Nigel entered the room…

“Guys,” he said informally, “After careful consideration, it’s been decided that Beatrix and I need a break from overseeing this fabulous planet of ours. To this end I’ve elected to go visit my pal, Magnuss Earplug. It’s a long way away, and there’s bound to be some kind of shenanigans taking place when I get there, so I’m taking a retinue with me. Nothing ostentatious, you understand: just me, the wife, Military Leader – Walker Crabtrouser, my assistant – Faati Rueda, my political attaché – Julian Prim, Head of Security – Bertram Hisscod, and a random soldier whom will be selected at…er…random. Any questions?”

It would be considered rude to question the Golden One, so every cable end present remained mute, their expressions betraying nothing of the emotional turmoil that most of them must have been feeling at that moment. This silence prompted Beatrix to take centre stage once more…

“Right then,” she said loudly, as per the rules, “now to install an interim leadership. Obviously we can’t put any old Tom, Dick, or Harry in charge of a technologically advanced society such as ours; so we’ve placed some names in a hat, and picked three of them. I call upon Ena Large, Anders Dumbell, and Phruten Vedge to make themselves known and to present themselves here within the hour.”

To the three ‘lucky’ recipients of the honour of ruling Scroton in Nigel’s absence, Ena, Anders, and Phruten, the clarion call could not have been more unexpected. Ena, a slurry-stirrer by trade, led the way towards the council chambers. She had no idea what to expect when she got there. Just behind her, Anders felt exactly the same way. He wondered what a pedicurist knew of planetary leadership; but he knew better than to question the Golden One’s choices: he was yet to choose poorly. In their wake came Phruten Vedge. Phruten, as a biker gang leader, knew exactly why he had been chosen to act as a stand-in for Nigel: the Golden One had once seen him ‘pop a wheelie’ along the promenade at a popular beach resort, and was very impressed. Nigel had particularly liked Phruten’s loud, after-market exhaust pipe too. Moreover, if he hadn’t twisted his knee recently whilst riding motocross, he would be well ahead of Ena and Anders in the race to arrive at the council chambers first…

Shortly, after having arrived to negligible fanfare, all three newcomers accepted an invitation to mount the dais…

…where they were sworn in and told that if they screwed up and did anything that upset the status quo, they would all be taken out to the swamp, and summarily fed to the slimy things that lived therein.

“So no stupid ideas, savvy?” Beatrix concluded the affair with a growl. “Don’t make waves.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Please feel free to leave charming comments concerning my creative genius: you know you want to.

Flip Me Over and Transport Me to Spain!

Anyone who frequents the excellent road system of Spain will immediately recognise this as one of those light industrial / retail areas that are found on the outskirts of most medium-sized Spanish towns…

Only they’d be completely wrong. Having taken a wrong turning in the sweltering summer-sun-drenched English coastal city of Portsmouth, I thought I’d shifted into another reality in which I still lived in Spain. Only the fact that I was driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road brought me to my senses. This is how it actually looked…

Yes, I flipped the picture. Boo, I really love driving in Spain: I feel so relaxed there!