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Don’t Miss Out!

Just in case you didn’t know, but this fabulous e-book…

…is available in PDF form, absolutely free and gratis. Just click the image and the tale will present itself to you, to either read now, or download for when you’re in the mood for a gentle chuckle. You can even show it to your nearest and dearest! It’s quite short too – so you won’t get bored stupid.

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

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 13) An Earplug Adventure

Chapter 5

Cushions need not have worried that Margret would fail her. Already she had contacted the chief curator’s doppelganger in the ruined remains of the once-flooded, but now drained arboretum…

“Cushions,” she said, “you are not going to believe the idea I came up with. Several factors led me to it. To a degree, it was the Bozo Brothers burying of their sister and their belief in a higher power. It was also the non-corrupting cup of coffee beneath the spotlight. And, of course, Rupert Piles and his huge three-dee television camera. Combined, these seemingly disparate events and objects…ugh…combined…to inspire me, and draw a fabulous conclusion. In short, I have a plan. It may seem ridiculous, but I think it’s the only chance we have.”

“Ridiculous, you say?” Cushions responded guardedly. “Let me be the judge of that. What’s the plan?”

A half-hour later, the strange being, known as Gobby, was strolling through the mud village with some characters who one could be forgiven for considering odd companions to such a cerebral giant. They were the rough ‘n’ ready and almost monosyllabic Nature Beast: the former substrata-dwelling weirdo, Grey-Vee; and a junior officer with the United Stoats Seventh Cavalry, the name of whom no one could ever remember…

Like his companions, Gobby had been imbibing fermented fruit juice. Consequently, he had taken to singing very rude songs loudly in a pleasant, if slightly nasal falsetto. Nature Beast, Grey-Vee, and the unidentified junior officer were accompanying with harmonic doo-waps and shoobie-doobie-doos. However, all this ceased when Margret led most of her troupe out from a small store shed in which they had being walking through a few routines…

Immediately the unnamed officer’s regulation cavalry hat fell from his inebriated head. Grey-Vee’s Mohican stood on end; and Gobby thought he was seeing things.

“Ugh?” he grunted – the song dismissed and forgotten, “Astonishingly beautiful girls? Wha-wha-what’s happening, man?”

Ignoring the doo-wap trio, Margret addressed Gobby directly. “Gobby,” she said, “I need you desperately.”

This surprised Gobby, and he attempted to straighten a tie that he wasn’t wearing. “Oh, really…ah…jolly good and all that.”

Whilst Margret quickly reassessed her opening gambit; and Poki found herself finding the junior officer rather fetching – as he reattached his hat to the top of his head; and Delia discovered that Nature Beast made her wish she was somewhere else, Grey-Vee was already backing away in search of a boulder or something she could hide behind to have a wee.

“Let me start again.” Margret said. “I have a plan to save the Museum of Future Technology: everyone inside it: and everyone in this alternative time-line too. But I’m going to need your talent for manipulating time.”

Gobby’s inebriation evaporated instantly. “Sod off, you lot.” He said to his singing chums – who acquiesced to his instruction without argument…

He then turned his attention to the girls. “Shoot.” He said.

“We’re going to put on a show.” Margret explained. “A dancing show, with taped music. I’ve got a tape machine in my handbag, with the music from our last show still in it. All we need is some form of sound enhancement. Something to make it louder. But that’s not a problem right now: I’m sure we’ll find something amongst the detritus that can double up as a sound box.”

“A show?” Gobby replied doubtfully. “How very charming. Very entertaining too, I’m sure. But how is this going to help us and the Museum of Future Technology?”

“Yes.” Nokaks squealed with ill-disguised enthusiasm. “We’re going to get someone’s attention. Someone who will sit up and notice us.”

“That’s right,” Ragi joined in, “someone with clout.”

“Someone,” Poki added, “who likes earplugs – probably a lot.”

Gobby understood in an instant. “The Gods.” He yelled. “You are going to try and get the attention of the Gods. Oh, Ladies, that is inspired. What do you want me to do: repeat performances every fifteen minutes?”

“Exactly.” Margret smiled sweetly. “And Rupert Piles’ camera has a Nul-Space generator built-in; so he can transmit in real time to the entire listening universe.”

A short while later Margret found Cushions in the arboretum where someone had found a few slabs of concrete beneath the mud. She couldn’t help but notice that a couple of flowers had bloomed too. Cushions took this as an omen…

“It’s a go.” Margret said as they strolled across the sodden surface.

“Did you have anywhere in mind for the performance?” Cushions inquired.

“There’s a small plaza in the village centre.” Margret answered. “It’s reasonably flat, and the surrounding buildings will amplify my tape player wonderfully. I hope to have the girls ready for a matinee performance. We brought a limited number of costumes with us, but I don’t think people will notice: most of them aren’t looking at the costumes anyway.”

Cushions wasn’t one waste time or prevaricate: only ten minutes had passed before she, Yabu, Ninja, and the Greenhorn Girls entered the village centre plaza and began advertising the forthcoming event by word of mouth…

Ninja’s voice, in particular, was…ugh…particularly strident:

“Come on, you lot,” she bellowed like a Docker on steroids, which, of course her father was, and had trained his daughter well. “Put aside all those wobbly clay pots you’re trying to shape into wine goblets.” She continued. “Cast off the yokes upon your shoulders that support erns of recently squeezed plugmutt milk. And stop trying to stick pointy bits of flint on the ends of sticks – they’ll never make good arrows anyway. In any case, what are you going to shoot them at? Do yourself a favour: come out to see a show. See the beautiful dancing girls, with their powerful thighs and skimpy costumes.”

The others too called out, with voices that quickly grew hoarse. However, slowly faces began to appear outside their hovels…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What else did you expect a bunch of dancing girls to do? An earplug should always play to its strength.

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.

The Epoch of Dung (part 10) An Earplug Adventure

Chapter 4

As far away as it is possible to get in the space/time continuum, the ‘regular Museum of Future Technology was cloaked in the semi-darkness of approaching night…

Out on the Wide Blue Yonder, crowds massed for prayers to their particular, if ridiculous deities…

Much wailing and beating of chests occurred. However, inside the building proper, Rupert Piles – i.e. the ‘original’ Rupert Piles – was going about his regular duties: that is recording events for later transmission across all Earplugdom. His reporter’s ‘nose’ told him that the strange time-altering being, known as Gobby, would play an important role in coming events…

Gobby was aware of his presence and told him to go away.

“Freedom of the press, Gobby.” Rupert responded. “You can’t deny me my right to shoot motion pictures of anyone in the Museum of Future Technology. It’s in the constitution.”

“I could send you back in time by fifteen minutes.” Gobby threatened without actually turning around to face the source of his annoyance.

“Same rule applies.” Rupert replied. “In any case, I could always fall back on the Security Suite’s CCTV footage. It would just be a bit grainy – and not in three-dee.”

Whilst this exchange of words was taking place, Angel with a Huge Nose was walking into the Grand Hall beside the curator (and former gangster), Pretty Boy Plankton…

“Hey, Conk,” Pretty Boy said to the being who, long ago, had been mortally injured during an invasion of the museum, but had been resurrected as an angel by the museum’s Avatar, “I aint never learned to read real good: does that sign say ‘toilets’ or ‘tar pits’?”

Angel smiled, as she always did. She was well aware that Pretty Boy was telling a lie: she’d once caught him reading the vast volume War and Peat in the arboretum: he was just trying to make conversation. She was about to admonish him gently with a cuff around the jowls and a poke in the eye, when an apparition appeared before them both…

Pretty Boy’s eyes opened in wonderment, and Angel’s smile widened as the ethereal vision took on form.

“This is higher level stuff.” Pretty Boy said as he beat a quick retreat. “I’m outta here.”

Therefore, it was with Angel alone that the Avatar strolled along the adjacent corridor…

The Avatar was slow coming to the point of her appearance to Angel, but the former regular earplug didn’t mind: she loved being in the company of the higher order being. They chatted of this and that, and Angel fought valiantly to overcome her desire to gaze upon the beauteous face of Avatar.

“Yes,” she said, in a slightly whimsical manner, “cornflakes really are tasty, aren’t they.” 

But, then – her mind apparently made up – Avatar stopped walking. Naturally, Angel did likewise…

“What is it? What is it?” She said eagerly.

The perpetual smile upon Avatar’s face slipped ever so slightly. “I’ve become aware of a presence in the museum.” She told Angel. “Sensors cannot find anything that shouldn’t be here; but I ‘feel’ something. Angel, you must use your huge nose to seek out the interloper. This could be of the greatest import. Take care. Don’t fail me.”

With that, a blue glow suffused the immediate area…

…and the Avatar reintegrated with the museum’s structure.

Angel didn’t waste a second. She set her nasal sensors to ‘delicate’, and proceeded along the corridor at a considerable rate of knots…

“What’s wrong with the Angel with a Huge Nose?” people would ask each other as she raced towards and intersection that would take her to an area of the museum that had yet to be fully utilised…

…”did someone slip a tarantula into her underwear?”

Of course, Angel heard nothing of this, and even if she had, she wouldn’t have paused to refute their ideas. For her, time was of the essence. Soon she was barrelling along darkened and deserted back alleys that seldom heard footfalls…

Her nose had detected something. Something she could not recognise. Something that did not belong in the Museum of Future Technology. However, as she entered a region that enjoyed a pleasing deep suffuse blue she slowed…

Cocking an ear, she thought she could discern the indistinct sounds of voices. So, creeping forward quietly…

…she discovered an interior window that allowed a difficult view of an adjacent compartment. Moreover, when she managed to clamber into a position where she could see over the lip of the frame…

…she was astonished to discover several Incense Cones in conversation. Well, obviously she couldn’t believe her eyes. It was impossible that members of a species that had sworn to become the enemies of Earplugdom could have entered the facility by regular means. She surmised that they could only have arrived here by clandestine or nefarious means. Clearly, they were up to no good. So, for the first time since she had proven to her would-be beau – (the youthful) Magnuss Earplug – that she was no longer an earplug and could not love him, she unfurled her wings; rose from the floor in silent flight…

…watched intently and listened to their unintelligible words and unguarded thoughts…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

My Four-Fendered Friend

Okay, I took the title from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but that’s how I feel my ‘modern classic’ Toyota Corolla treats me. Yet again – for the  eighth time in a row – it has passed its annual safety and emissions test, known in Britain as the (dreaded) MOT. Guess it was a “thank you” for all the money I spent on it during the past year. Or maybe it enjoys sitting on the hardstanding beside it’s cousin – the Yamaha XJR1300 – another ‘modern classic’. Yamaha make many of Toyota’s engines you know: maybe their hearts came from the same factory.  Happy Nipponese buddies, watching the world go by through my car port opening…

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 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.

The Epoch of Dung (part 2) An Earplug Adventure

So, on to the second instalment. If it appears familar that is because (like part 1) this episode has also appeared before. But this time it’s good…

This wasn’t Glumb and Humbolt’s first encounter with the Museum of Future Technology’s curator- in- chief. They knew when it was best to stand up and ‘front’ her. They also knew when to cower a little and behave as obsequiously as they could, taking into consideration, of course, their sense of self-importance…

“Well, you see, your worship, it’s like this.” Glumb began.

“Like what?” Bubbly Salterton inquired of Winston Gloryhole sharply. “What’s it like?”

“Something very interesting has happened.” Humbolt replied as he attempted to view the read-out upon his hand-held Chrono-Shift meter at the same time that he spoke. “If these figures are correct…aah…something really significant – temporally that is – has occurred in this era.”

This was news to Glumb Kimball. “It has?” He inquired as his huge, bulbous eyes snapped sideways to regard his colleague.

Humbolt wasn’t sure whom he should address first. A look of thunder from Cushions made up his mind for him. “Yes,” he said, whilst looking straight at the curator, “and it absolves Glumb and me of responsibility – completely and utterly. This is your baby, so-to-speak, Ms Smethwyke; we can wash our hands of any repercussions. You want to step up to bat? Here’s your chance. Be my guest.”

Glumb appeared considerably relieved by this uncharacteristically verbal outpouring from his normally taciturn co-scientist. “Right then,” he said as the curators stood open mouthed, “we’re out of here. Bye-ee.”

Naturally, the Time Techs rushed to usher their superiors into the Tubo Di Tempo…

…but, as the time machine activated, Widderspoon Flange made to intercept them.

“But you haven’t told us what this significant event in our era is.” He cried, “What is going on?”

Humbolt passed his Chrono-Shift meter to Gregor Koch. “Ask Gregor,” he replied to Widderspoon’s question, “that’s assuming he can remember how to read the data correctly, of course: he’s probably a little rusty.”

Meanwhile, Auntie Doris, so recently promoted to the Curator Elite, smiled warmly at the worried Cushions, and said:

“Don’t worry yourself, Dear: Whatever it is, I’m sure the Earplug Brothers can sort it out for you.”

For a fleeting moment, these kind words gave Cushions a degree of confidence that she so badly needed. Then Widderspoon and the Time Techs returned with some news. News that would shake the very foundations of the museum’s existence.*

Chapter 1

A short while later, Cushions Smethwyke and the curators that had accompanied her to meet the recent arrivals from the future, stood resolutely together…

…and faced the camera of the museum’s TV reporter, Rupert Piles…

They wished to address the entire populace of the museum with the devastating news. Of course, Auntie Doris tried to soften the blow with a pleasant smile, but it did little to lift the spirits of those who watched and listened upon the TVs in the imagined sanctuary of their own homes…

…their workplaces…

In bars, restaurants, and walkways…

And upon the huge wall screens that hung in most thoroughfares and public meeting places, such as the Great Hall…

Even zombies, on their way to a hat-wearing competition, paused to listen and learn…

Wherever earplugs – and other silicon-based lifeforms within the Museum of Future Technology – heard Cushion’s resolute and unwavering voice as she elucidated in her most dispassionate manner, the result was always the same…

Shock, fear, and an intense desire to visit the lavatory. Some – those being first cousins of the Earplug Brothers, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross Earplug…

…fled to the lower levels and catacombs beneath the earlier museums that formed the Museum of Future Technology’s supportive strata. But seasoned – if terribly young – campaigners, such as Fulham Peach and Crudlove Twang…

…reacted in a more positive manner. They had recently joined The Yabu Youth – an organisation created by Magnuss Earplug’s protégé, Yabu Suchs, to discover brave young earplugs with the wherewithal to become future heroes. Whilst Fulham considered fortifying herself with the rapid consumption of a cup of Café Puke’s fabled Crappachino, Crudlove was receiving a page from their leader. Casting a quick glance over his shoulder at the sunset, he said:

“Fulham, sweetie: it’s time to act positively. Let’s go volunteer.”

In fact, the only people who failed to react with any observable…er…reaction were Baron Frankincense’s monsters…

…who had escaped his laboratory and were now on their way to the cinema to watch an avant-garde rom-com about high school girls experiencing abduction by a swarthy band of pirates and discovering the delights of tight pants and disco.

Whilst he awaited the arrival of Crudlove and Fulham, Yabu Suchs – of the Yabu Youth – spoke quietly with Cushions…

“So, Chief,” he said, “is that right that there has been a divergence of time-lines – right here and now, in our era?”

To which Cushions replied:

“You’re quick on the up-take. Of course it’s right, you vaguely off-yellow twerp. Something happened that caused the Tunnel Temporale to hiccup, so-to-speak, and create an alternate time-line. Starting, as of a couple of hours ago, there are now two potential histories. One is the correct time-line that will eventually reconnect with the river of time: the other will lose temporal momentum, and stagger to a halt – freezing whatever exists during those final moments before the end of time in a repetitive causality loop that can never be broken. Death will hold no dominion there; but everyone will go completely ga-ga with boredom and probably eat each other.”

A look of horror crossed Yabu’s face. “And in the morning they would find themselves whole again, and go just that little bit more insane. Oh such misery – and eternal too! ”

“Yeah, and it gets worse.” Cushions added mirthlessly, “There’s nothing to say that the ‘other’ timeline gets the bad news. It’s a fifty-fifty chance that it’ll be this time-line that enters the loop. That it’s we who go ga-ga and eat each other. We need the Earplug Brothers; and we need ‘em quick. But we can’t find them. They’re out of town. You’re Magnuss’ protégé; you must have their number; give ‘em a call!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

* Whatever that means.

The Epoch of Dung (part 1) An Earplug Adventure

Following the aborted first attempt to display this latest wondrous tale of silicon-based life, sufficient photos and enough script has finally been produced to allow it’s creator to release the opening salvo of this, the 44th edition of the Earplug Adventures. You won’t be disappointed Earpluggers. It may be shorter than average – but only by twenty-five percent or so. And you know what they: the best things come in small packages…

Earplug Adventures: The Epoch of Dung

Tooty Nolan

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Every day was an interesting day at the Museum of Future Technology – especially since a new spaceport had opened to the paying public…

 

Visitors would wait, often interminably, in the foyer for the next shuttle to arrive…

…to take them to the Departure Lounge – from whence they would board space ships to here, there, and everywhere. Therefore, it was into this seething cauldron of silicon life that the next potential disaster poked its unwelcome hooter. Biological android, and self-proclaimed princess, Princess Agatha, and her friend, Belinda Noseguard, had happened by the long-abandoned (and previously troublesome) Tunnel Temporale, when suddenly it erupted with crimson light. Although technical imbeciles, both long-term inhabitants of the museum quickly realised that any activity within the futuristic tube that possessed the ability to traverse the river of time, but which had caused unprecedented damage when it allowed time storms to rip through the structure of both the museum and space/time itself, was very bad indeed. Naturally, they scarpered as quickly as they could…

At more or less the same time, the three Time Techs, all of which had been marooned in their past by the resultant closure and long-term temporary decommissioning of the Tunnel Temporale, were strolling back to their work stations after a quick visit to the nearby Café Puke outlet to use their toilet…

The chief Time Tech, Gregor Koch, looked sideways at his subordinate, Twinkles Forget-me-not, and said:

“What lovely urinals they have at the Café Puke. So sweet smelling. And the soap dispenser is to die for.”

“Pity their coffee tastes like it came from the same dispenser.” Runt said from behind Gregor.

“Mine tasted like it came from the urinal.” Twinkles complained. He then added, “Why can’t we have our own toilet? Why do we have to borrow other people’s loos? It’s so demeaning.”

“Cushions Smethwyke still blames us for the time storms.” Gregor replied. “She still thinks that our attempt to return to our period in history, during the worst of it, was tantamount to desertion.”

“She has a point.” Runt spoke again. “We are Time Techs after all: running out on them during their greatest need of us was kind’a ploppy.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” Twinkles grumbled. “Of the three of us, you’re on the lowest pay level: you don’t have a fortune in back-pay accumulating in the future.”

Runt had to think for a second before responding. “Hmmm,” he replied, “and I’m not exactly loaded here either. I might consider applying for a position aboard the K T Woo, you know: they’re always looking for crewmembers. You get to meet aliens too. Sometimes they shoot at you with advanced directed energy weapons. But most of the time it’s great. And the pay is terrific.”

One of the older Time Techs might have responded with, “Yeah, go for it: you’re no sodding good to us.” but the sight of the startled-looking Princess Agatha interrupted any such thought process as she exited an elevator behind Belinda Noseguard…

It took both blue earplugs approximately a half nanosecond to cover the distance between themselves and the three semi-permanent visitors from the future…

…where they quickly transferred responsibility for whatever might happen next because of them having found the Tunnel Temporale in unexpectedly operative mode.

“Yeah,” Belinda blurted, “it was all glowing red and stuff.”

“We were so scared we had to stop off at a launderette on the way here!” Agatha added for good measure.

Gregor didn’t respond initially. Well actually he did. An almost inaudible squeak escaped his trousers. But, rallying with alacrity, he said, “Thank you, ladies; on your way; leave this to us.”

Thirty seconds later, any potential CCTV cameras would have found all three Time Techs making best speed for the Tunnel Temporale…

…which startled the crews of two armoured hover reconnaissance vehicles, who had stopped off for a wee behind one of the huge concrete support columns that held up the disused roller skate park roof.

However, nothing – not even the complaining members of the military – could be allowed to slow Gregor, Twinkles, and Runt, as they raced towards (what they feared was) their destiny. Moreover, to their horror, they soon discovered that neither Princess Agatha nor Belinda had been exaggerating…

“I can’t look!” Twinkles wailed as all three Time Techs turned their backs on the apparition.

“Quick”, Gregor yelled above the humming sound that emitted from the Tunnel, “let’s run away; kill the witnesses; and feign ignorance of the whole damned deal!”

“No,” the calmest earplug present snapped. “Pull yourselves together. We must inform our superiors. Quickly – to the smaller, but infinitely more reliable, Tubo Di Tempo!”

Of course, Runt was entirely correct. So, five minutes, and several high-speed elevators later…

…Gregor, Twinkles, and Runt arrived at the Tunnel Temporale’s replacement, just in time to see it activate remotely.

“Looks like someone in the future already knows about our little problem.” Twinkles observed.

He wasn’t wrong. A moment later, the colour of the Tubo Di Tempo shifted into the blue spectrum, and two figures emerged from it…

It was a slightly shaken Humbolt Whale who led his colleague, Glumb Kimball, from the machine.

“Ooh, that was a nasty ride.” Humbolt managed after a bout of retching. “I’ve never been travel sick in a time machine before.”

“It must have been temporal eddies caused by the temporally-adjacent Tunnel Temporale.” Glumb conjectured. He then explained to the waiting Time Techs that he and Humbolt had been conducting some preventative maintenance upon their future version of the Tunnel Temporale…

…when it activated spontaneously.

“Spontaneous, it was.” Humbolt said in support of his co-worker. “We didn’t touch a thing.”

This amused Runt because it displayed a level of insecurity that matched his immediate superior’s. He was almost tempted to say, “See, Gregor, even your boss feels the need to cover his arse.” but he didn’t get the opportunity because Glumb continued to relate their tale…

“So, after due consideration, we thought we ought to get ourselves here and see if there was someone else would could pin the blame on.”

It was very fortunate for Gregor that Cushions Smethwyke had been following the situation aboard the Omnipresent Scanner. Just as Glumb had spoken those words, she and several curators entered the room.

“Ah, she said, as the surprised Time Techs turned to meet the party…

…”you’re all as bad as each other in the future. It’s time someone stepped up to the plate and took some responsibility. Well I’m here to say to you, stand aside, you gutless wonders: Cushions Smethwyke has entered the building.”

She then demanded to know ‘what the heck’ was going on.

Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S If you ‘Liked’ this before, I’d be very pleased if you ‘Liked’ it again.

Pig Sick and Thinking of Spain

If you are a long-term reader of this illustrious blog, you’ll know that I have a long lasting affection for Spain. As I watched the three-day build up to the 2022 Spanish MotoGP – with the first mass crowd in evidence since the original Covid 19 lockdown in 2020 – I could almost feel the heat of the sun as it beat down upon the spectators from a perfect blue Spring sky above Jerez. I could smell the jasmine, scorched soil, drains, and petrol fumes. As the meeting progressed, more and more I wanted to be there. But I didn’t let it effect me: I was at home, with my family, and that was that. Then, as the meeting came to a close, a camera panned around to the motorcycle park – zooming in on a portion of it. The air sloughed from  my lungs and my shoulders slumped. But not before I’d freeze-framed the playback. This is what I’d seen…

I went to bed – totally pissed-off.

Tooty Gets His Nuts Out

There are two Robins that vie for supremacy in my garden. A rather neat and spic and span fellow (Loser) and a somewhat bedraggled example (Winner). Every morning, when I go out into the garden to refill the bird feeder (my late wife did it religiously, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint her), Winner arrives immediately; gets in my way; and generally demands breakfast, which I’m always glad to supply. But he does have to work for it. Here he is, waiting on the bird table…

Having set up the camera to capture the moment, today I went into the shed to fetch some nuts for him. Winner – the  undoubted ‘top dog’ Robin in the local area – became impatient, and immediately hopped aboard the handy perch…

…and proceeded to watch my every move. Flitting over to the fence…

…he awaited my outstretched hand, which he knew was full of nuts. And, as usual, he flitted back; checked me out…

…hovered for a moment; snatched a nut; then scooted for the sanctuary of the tree…

This is his modus operandi. He touches down for a nanosecond, then puts as much distance between himself and I as he can – usually disappearing into an adjoining garden to devour his catch. He’ll do it as many times as I’m prepared to stand there, like a lemon, with an aching arm stretched out in front of me…

But I know that when he’s off over the fence, Loser grabs his opportunity with both feet. There he is, look – watching over my shoulder…

This is when he slips in unnoticed. More often than not he may get chased off by Winner, but when I feel his little talons grip my fingernails…

…for me he’s the real winner. After all he gets the time to select the best nut in my hand. And if he’s feeling choosey, he might even take a meal worm. Yum!

Timeless Tooty

Some things never change. Human behaviour, for one. But we don’t want to go down that serious philosophical avenue right now: let’s stick to a far more cheerful subject. Please regard this hideously faded photo of Tooty (before he became Tooty) in 1976…

As you can probably see, he was a cheerful and lovable chap. Well his mum loved him, and, at that time, so did this delightful young woman…

Also as you can probably see, he was a motorcyclist. Protective equipment amounted  to motocross boots, a crash helmet, and gloves. Back then, when very few people considered health and safety, body protection was provided by a pair of flared cotton trousers and a small corduroy jacket.  Note the corduroy jacket appears festooned with sew-on patches. Here it is again, later in the year…

It has grown a few more. And again in 1977…

…where even more appear evident. Because of the extraordinarily piss-poor resolution of the ancient print, it is doubtful that you can  recognise any wording or logos that appears on the plethora of patches. Well let me tell you (if you haven’t guessed already) most of them read ‘Yamaha’.  He was, at that time, The Yamaha Kid. He doesn’t know when, or whence, that jacket disappeared, but he really misses it and has cursed his carelessness on a regular basis for the last few decades. When he returned to motorcycling in 2020, his son suggested that they find a modern equivalent jacket, then do likewise with the patches. Tooty decided against it on safety grounds. If he had ever crashed with that jacket on, it is pretty odds-on that he would have come away with somewhat less skin than if he’d remained perpendicular to the asphalt. So he decided against it. In any case, a sixty-three year old version of The Yamaha Kid would look a tad pathetic, wouldn’t he?  BUT he WAS able to find exact duplicates of many of those 1970’s patches on the Internet. In fact one of them was an original. Prices were too high for most of them, so he passed. What was the point of purchasing expensive patches for a jacket that he wasn’t going to buy or wear? But one was an affordable price, and the orignal patch was an absolute  giveaway. These he simply couldn’t resist. Then his son found an exact copy of the U.S AIRFORCE patch that he had worn above the left breast pocket – and duly bought it for him. Well, the other day, the temptation to sew them on to something overwhelmed him; so he took out his Spanish fisherman’s jacket (that he paid too much for in a Villa Joyosa market a few years ago) and set to it with the needle and thread. Ladies and Gentlemen: in a subdued manner that should not embarrass the old fool too much – The Yamaha Kid returns…

But he doesn’t ride his bike in that gear: he’s not a complete moron. Pity the camera strap had to hide the original 1970’s patch though. Stupid Tooty!

I Won’t Grow Old Gracefully! Do You Hear me? I Refuse!

In 1985 my wife and I needed a joint temporary passport. I don’t remember why, but we did. Now, generally speaking, passport photos make the passport holder look like either a startled hare; a somnolent zombie; or the ugliest bastard in town. Not so we two, I feel…

I think I might have passed for the drummer in a Californian soft rock band; and she would have been our lead singer, no question.  But the years that followed had the same entropic effect upon me as it did everyone else. Eventually it became so bad that I felt compelled to post my first Tooty’s Fashion For Fogeys on this very site. In that opening salvo I displayed an uncanny ability to wear beige without appearing a doddery old fool who watches re-runs of Judge Judy, but doesn’t realise they’re re-runs and has to get up and go to the toilet every commercial break…

…even if I really do. By and large, I think I almost pulled off a perfect deception. Particularly when I added this sort of thing…

…in later blogs.

But, just thirteen months after posting the original T F for F, my son noted the clothes I’d put on in order to walk the dogs. They included those self-same beige trousers; an olive green jacket; and a pair of brown walking shoes. He said:

“You’re looking very…beige…today. Are you on your way out to buy a grey flat cap so that you can complete the uniform and look like an old fogey?”

I checked the mirror. A look of horror stared back at me. Without hesitation I proceeded to a local haberdashery, where I purchased an over-priced tub of colour dye. It accompanied the trousers into the washing machine…

And, several hours later, I’d shed that look of antiquity entirely. Well not entirely, perhaps: but at least I didn’t look like I had a Hyundai i10 or a Kia Picanto in the car port…

And look, matching socks…

And now, judging from the undoubted inelegance I display in this photo, you can see why my wife was the international dancer; and I spent the 1970s pissing about and freezing my bollocks off on motorbikes…

Note the bike: a Yamaha – naturally. Ostend, Belgium, December 1978. So cold that the butane in the gas heater froze and the damned thing exploded. Now that’s something you wouldn’t catch me doing at my age! Talking of which: check out this hair and beard from 1988…

Oh God, I’m so depressed! Where’s that Californian soft rock band when you most need them?

Blast From the Past 2: The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Sifting through some more floppy discs that I found in my loft…

Tooty and his harvest of stuff

…I discovered three scripts that I had forgotten entirely. Blanked from my memory, no doubt. This is because (when I began reading the opening lines) it all came flooding back. It was this proposed children’s animation that was the final straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back. I now recall the boss of a leading children’s animation TV series provider liking it very much, but who couldn’t see how it would fit into a saturated market (at that time), what with Thomas the Tank Engine  and Bob the Builder etc already well-ensconced. He also doubted that I could create enough story-lines for an entire series. He might or might not have been correct about the former; but, as I was to prove very quickly, he was absolutely on-the-money  with the latter. I managed  three episodes…and dried up. I had nothing. This (rather than the failure to sell my adult stuff) is what prompted me to finally give up. But, looking back at it now, almost twenty years later, it wasn’t half-bad. Check out this portion. Skidlid is the driver of a Swedish-built truck named Woden. Scooter is a truck-mountable forklift truck that rides on the rear of Woden. Farquar is a regular electric counter-balanced forklift truck  at the factory for  which they deliver ‘widgets’. Danny drives Farquar; and Binky works in the office.

As previously encountered, the formatting from Windows 95 means that the copy is slightly all-over-the-place…

            SKIDLID & SCOOTER by Paul Nolan

                                    EPISODE 01: WEATHER FOR DUCKS

            1: EXT. DAY. LOGAN’S YARD.

WODEN is reversing across the yard into the loading bay of LOGANS PRESSED WIDGET COMPANY. 

Although his ‘bleeper’ is sounding loudly, SCOOTER, who is still mounted on Woden’s rear, calls out a warning…

                                                            SCOOTER:

Mind yourselves. Mind yourselves. Woden is coming in.

            WODEN: (Swedish accent)

Thankyou, Scooter, but everyone can hear my reversing beeper. You don’t need to worry.

           

            2: INT. DAY. LOADING BAY.

Woden halts. SKIDLID, drops from the cab, then reaches back inside to retrieve his safety helmet – placing it upon his head.

FARQUAR, driven by DANNY, enters from the warehouse, and approaches the lorry.

                                                                        SKIDLID: (calling to Danny)

                                                            Hey, hey!

            Skidlid indicates his own helmet.

                                                                        SKIDLID:

Come on Danny, you know the rules: You must wear a helmet when driving a forklift truck.

            DANNY:

Sorry, Skidlid. I forgot.

            Danny reaches back to fetch his helmet from the rear of Farquar.    

            SKIDLID:

You always forget. One of these day’s you’ll forget your head. Now what have you got for Woden to deliver today?    

              FARQUAR:

He doesn’t know. It’s too early; he hasn’t woken up yet.

                                                                      DANNY:

                                    That’s right. It’s too early; I haven’t woken up yet.

            Mister Logan hasn’t given me the delivery sheets yet, either…

                        SKIDLID:

Fair enough.

                        Skidlid and Danny make for the office

                        FARQUAR: (to Scooter)

Hello, Scooter.

                        SCOOTER: (defensively)

Hello, Farquar.

                        FARQUAR:

Aren’t you coming down off of there?

                        SCOOTER: (calling)

Skidlid?

                        SKIDLID:

Yes, Scooter?

                        SCOOTER:

Is it all right if I come down off of here?

                        SKIDLID:

No, it’s all right. You best stay there. We won’t be long.

                        Skidlid and Danny disappear inside the office.

                        FARQUAR:

Do you feel slightly superfluous – hanging around like that – like a metal monkey?

                        SCOOTER:

I don’t know. What does ‘superfluous’ mean?

                        FARQUAR:

It means something that isn’t really needed.  Something extra that we could all do without.

                                                                        SCOOTER:

That’s not a very nice thing to say. Of course I’m needed. Skidlid often uses me.

                        FARQUAR:

When?

                        SCOOTER:

Well, when we go places where there’s no forklift trucks around.

                        FARQUAR:

You mean forklift trucks – like me?

                        SCOOTER:

Of course.

                        FARQUAR:

But if there are forklift trucks like me around, he leaves you hanging onto the back of Woden – like a metal monkey?                      

                        SCOOTER:

Well…yes, I suppose so…

                        FARQUAR:

I thought so.

Skidlid and Danny return with BINKY – who carries a sheaf of paperwork.

She hands them to Skidlid one at a time.

                                                BINKY:

Your first call is at the new bridge. They need a widget cruncher. Their widget cruncher broke down.

                        SKIDLID:

Thanks, Binky: We’ll get straight over there. Come on Danny – load us up.           

 

3: EXT. DAY. LOGANS YARD.

Danny uses Farquar to place a huge, heavy box onto the rear of Woden – who sags under the weight.

                                                WODEN:

Are you trying to burst my tyres, Farquar? This is very heavy.

            FARQUAR:

Too heavy for Scooter, I think. Perhaps you should leave him behind. He will only slow you down.

            WODEN:

No, I do not think so. Where I go, Scooter goes.

He is a very useful forklift truck.

            DANNY: (calling)

O.K, Skidlid, all done: Off you go.

Woden pulls from the yard. Danny and Binky wave their farewell.

                                                                        DANNY:

                                                            Fancy a cup of tea, Binky?

                                                                        BINKY:

                                                            Good idea.

They depart. Farquar looks up at the darkening sky. The first raindrops to fall hit him.

                                                FARQUAR: (calling)

                                    I say, don’t forget me!

                        FADE OUT.

                        FADE IN.

 

                        4: EXT. DAY. WODEN.

Scooter is becoming drenched by rain as Woden drives through the countryside. He is not enjoying it.

They pass a holiday camp, full of caravans.

                                                            SCOOTER:

Oh, those poor people. What horrid weather for a holiday.

 

5: EXT. DAY. RIVERSIDE ROAD.

Woden drives along beside the river – which is rising in the pouring rain.

                                                            SCOOTER:

                                                That river looks awfully high.

                                                            WODEN:

It is all this rain. It is making the river rise so high I think it may flood.

            SCOOTER:

That sounds like fun.

            WODEN:

Not if you live near the river, and the river fills your home with water.

            SCOOTER:

Oh, no, I suppose not.

 

                        6: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

Several workmen and a large diesel forklift truck shelter from the rain beneath a canvas hut beside a partially built steel bridge.

                        Woden arrives. Skidlid drops from the cab.

                                                                               SKIDLID:

Hello, I’ve just brought your new widget cruncher.

            WORKMAN:

Lovely. Just drop it there, will you?

It’s weather for ducks out there, and we don’t want to get wet.

            SKIDLID:

Do I have to take it off myself?

            WORKMAN:

Very kind of you to offer. Just there will do.

            SKIDLID:

But the load is very heavy…

            SCOOTER: (interrupting)

I can do it, Skidlid. That’s why you brought me along.

            SKIDLID:

But they have a much larger forklift truck here already…

            SCOOTER:

Please, Skidlid; I don’t want to be superfluous…

            SKIDLID:

But it’s really heavy. I don’t think…

            SCOOTER: (interrupting)

Please…

            SKIDLID:

O.K, Scooter, you can give it a try.

                                   Woden begins lowering Scooter to the ground.

 

                                           7: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

With Skidlid driving, Scooter approaches the heavy load on the rear of Woden.

                                                                                    WODEN:

Are you sure you want to do this, Scooter?

            SCOOTER:

Yes. The load only looks heavy. I’m sure Farquar made it look much harder than it really is.

Scooter strains to lift the load. He huffs and puffs. The load begins to rise, but his rear wheel will not remain upon the ground. It begins to spin as he tries to reverse.

The workmen rush from shelter, clambering upon Scooter – bringing his wheel back down.

                                                SKIDLID:

No, no – it isn’t safe. Everyone off. This load is too heavy for this machine.

The workmen retreat to cover, and Skidlid lowers the load back onto Woden.

                                                WODEN:

                                    Well it was nice while it lasted.

                                                SCOOTER: (sadly)

Farquar was right: I am superfluous. No one has any need of me. You might as well throw me into the river.

            SKIDLID:

Oh, no, Scooter, you’re not superfluous: It’s just that truck-mounted forklift trucks aren’t made to lift huge widget crunchers. It needs big counter-balanced forklifts like…

            SCOOTER:

…Farquar?

                                                SKIDLID:

Well, yes – like Farquar. But Farquar would be no good on the back of Woden, would he? He would be too big. We’re all good at different things. There are times when you are very handy. Just not right now.

                        THE WORKMEN CRY OUT AN ALARM.

Skidlid notices that they are pointing to the river- upon which a caravan bobs in the current.         

A family can be seen waving for help from the roof.                       

                                                                                    SKIDLID:

Oh, cripes, that mobile home is being swept away!

            WORKMAN:

What are we going to do? If it hits the bridge, it’ll be torn apart!

            SKIDLID:

Your big fork-lift truck: Perhaps it could go down to the bank – reach across – and stop the mobile home before it hits the bridge.

            WORKMAN:

Good idea.

(Calling Diesel)

Diesel!

The diesel forklift truck roars into life – smoke billowing from its exhaust.

 

8: EXT. DAY. RIVERBANK.

The Workman eases the diesel forklift truck down the bank toward the fast-moving water.

Skidlid calls from the bridge…

                                                            SKIDLID:

Hurry – the mobile home is getting closer.

            WORKMAN:

I can’t; it’s the mud: It’s too soft. My wheels are sinking. I can’t go backwards or forwards.

 

                        9: EXT. DAY. UNFINISHED BRIDGE.

                        Woden and Scooter look-on…

                                                                                    WODEN:

Things do not seem to be going well, Scooter.

            SCOOTER:

That poor family; they’ll be here in just a few minutes. They’ll be dashed into the raging river.

            WODEN:

Perhaps they are Olympic swimmers, and can swim easily to the bank.

            SCOOTER:

What are the chances of that, Woden?

            WODEN:

About a million-to-one.

          SCOOTER:

That’s what I thought.

(Calling)

Skidlid – fetch out Woden’s towrope. Do it quickly!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2003

Hmmm, wonder if this could be persuaded to morph into a children’s book…? Whatta ya think?

 

 

There is Always an Arsehole

It doesn’t seem to matter where you live, there always seems to be at least one arsehole in the vicinity. During 2021 the village in which I live decided on a ‘Greening’ campaign. Wild flower seeds were distributed to every household, with the intention that it’s occupants would plant them, and the gardens,  streets, paths, and byways would blossom forth with native flora. It was a success, and everyone was very pleased about it. Fast forward to 2022…

…and some fucking dip-shit decides to poison the public footpaths that pass beside his rented field…

…killing off every one of the wild flowers that bloomed there.  That, in itself, would label him as shit-head of the month; but the over-spray has also poisoned the grazing grass on the other side of the fence. I find it less than coincidential that his sheep are notable by their absense. I just hope it’s costing shit-for-brains a fortune in vets bills!

Eight Years On

As I mentioned in my Tooty the Chef’s wheel restoration post, I bought my ‘modern classic’ 1998 Toyota Corolla, in immaculate condition in 2014. It was done on the spur of the moment, and I’ve never regretted the impetuous act. Here’s what the little beauty looked like back then…

Well, as I said earlier, the years have not been kind to my dinky 1.3 automatic. But recently a new air filter, an automatic gearbox oil change, and those dashing yellow wheels seem to have perked up the motor somewhat. So, to celebrate the fact that my favourite car is still up and running after twenty-four years, I stopped by the same locale and took it’s portrait again…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know: but I think it’s still a cracker. I think a lot of old Corolla owners feel the same way: there’s still loads of them on Britain’s roads, and every one of ’em I spot makes me smile. You’re bound to find at least one in Waitrose car park. Quality lasts, obviously. And if you’ve never driven one, give it a go: there’s something indefinable about them. If you haven’t guessed, I’m a big fan.

Forcing the Grey Matter to Activate

Sometimes, when I’m bereft of fresh ideas for an Earplug Adventure, I utilise a little-known technique for forcing the issue called writer’s block. I visualise a location or scene. Then, having done so, I take one aspect of that location or scene, and create a title for the story that is yet to exist. I did it with The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah, and I’m doing it again. It was this picture that delivered the impetus to create…

It’s the Ethernet Cable End’s mud village from Plunging into Peril. I  thought: “Hang on, I’ve got loads of those cardboard inserts in the ‘studio’: better check ’em out.” And I did too…

Having done so, the title came to me. The Epoch of Dung. Sounds great. It’ll look great on the cover too.

So there it is: the next Earplug Adventure. I wonder what it’ll be like. Time travel, I wouldn’t be surprised.

What is Getting My Earplugs So Excited?

With the Earplug Adventure: Triple Threat now just a distant memory, something is causing the silicon populace of my attic to become even more animated than normal…

The clue to it’s identity comes from those coloured objects that appear to have the nearest earplugs in their thrall. Yes, it’s time to prepare for another adventure…

…which means sprucing up the make-up, and smoothing out the age-lines. Golly, the Supreme Being has his work cut out for him…

…Some of these earplugs are eight years old! But, be assured, they’ll be fighting fit and looking their best when the camera next rolls. All that’s needed is a script. Thinking cap on. Getting those little grey cells agitated is the key. What could the scenario be for the next tale? Surely the possibilities are endless. Any suggestions?

Tooty the Chef Gets Auto-Restorational

Everyone knows Tooty the Chef…

…and his inspirational recipes for people who don’t really want to cook, but have to…

Well, back in 2014 he happened upon a low-milage Toyota Corolla for sale at the side of the road. His wife drove one, and he liked it so much that he didn’t hesitate to buy it…

But the passage of time was not kind to his pride and joy.  Five years of daily commuting and weekends away, plus three years of dissuse on the hard standing, took their toll upon the sadly fading and peeling paintwork. Deciding to give it a visual ‘once over’ Tooty tore off the wheel trims and was appalled by the condition of the rusting wheels…

Things weren’t much better in the wheel arches either…

And the sight of the crud-encrusted suspension and brake fittings really ‘shat him up’…

So a major clean-up was undertaken with alacrity…

Now all thoughts of the day’s food preparation had been dismissed as inconsequential. Tooty the Chef had become Tooty the Auto Restorer – despite the fact that he knows sod-all about mechanicking, and usually pays other people to get their mits dirty. But, coming over all ‘Wheeler Dealer’, he pulled off the wheels and began cleaning off the dirt and rust…

But he was quickly thwarted when water became trapped in the micron-thin gap between the surfaces of the rim and hub of his pressed steel wheels. Fortunately our favourite chopping board champ is also an improvising kinda guy, and before long he’d dug out a paint-stripping heat gun that hadn’t seen use since the mid-nineteen nineties…

Naturally it worked fabulously. How could it not? But after Tooty had applied a coat of rust conversion liquid…

…that same micron-thin gap came back to haunt him, and those improvisational skills were required again…

Yes, he set-to  with a propane blow torch. And it was so successful that Tooty simply had to make a celebratory corned beef and maasdam cheese toasted sandwich..

So, as the last day of March 2022 came to a close, all five wheels now bore a coat of red oxide primer…

And very nice they looked too. But as the first day of April dawned, Tooty knew that a plan that had been festering in his head for hours would require action. He decided to go with a Spanish theme for the wheel resto. So, as a cold north-easterly blasted through his workplace with the gusto of a ravaging  hoarde of Viking warriors, Tooty masked off the tyres  and pulled out his rattle-can of bright yellow paint…

Despite the icey blast playing havoc with his aging bladder, the wielder of the spatula soon had his tatty wheels all spruced up and looking dandy…

…even if he, himself was feeling far from dandy. Knackered would be more accurate. But, as he touched up a few areas that appeared slightly less than perfection itself…

…rain, sleet, and a flurry of snow intervened…

But, being a hardy sort, a quick cup of coffee was partaken, and he was soon back on the case. And, oh my,  what a result…

Fortunately a delivery van arrived, on cue,  with a set of wheel trims that Tooty had ordered on-line. A quick and timely service soon softened the garish wheels…

…leaving Tooty so pleased with himself that he made a delicious  chicken curry…

…that was really nice. Gosh, what a multi-talented individual he is. And such good automotive taste too!

Wattpad Ditched

After weeks of relentless uploading, and half-way through this fairly wondrous tale…

…I said, “Tooty, you only have one reader: why are you bothering?”

So I quit. That was a lot of effort for no gain – spiritual or otherwise. And some of the writing on Wattpad is utterly execrable. Makes the Earplug Adventures look like Shakespeare. Phew, glad to be free of that lot. Still, it was an experience to discover that all the awful things people say about Wattpad are true. Where next, I wonder? Any ideas, anyone?

A Strange Philosophical Juxtaposition

Whilst walking through a local churchyard recently, I chanced upon this scene…

How the dice got there, I have no idea. It has been pretty windy lately, so it might have blown in from an adjacent garden. But, whatever, the significance struck me immediately. Every day we roll the dice. Life, after all, is a gamble. Nothing is certain – except for one thing. Ultimately, in the end, when the big screen of existence reads ‘Game Over’, we’re all winners. For having lived at all; for having become the person we are; and for moving on to something better.

Revel in the Ribaldry 37

Time, methinks, for an extract from a Hamster-Sapiens book. If I had my way, I would have chosen to display the wonders that are The Psychic Historian; but that could possibly demean other fine works of hamster fiction, such as this one…

So, purely at the whim of randomness – or randominity, as I prefer to call it – appease your literary gut with this extract…

A waiter arrived moments later to inquire after Stubby’s requirements. Stubby recognised him as the former assassin – Malingerer Stench – and duly ordered a raspberry soufflé, which he was certain would anger the gerbil by reminding him of how he came to be living in Prannick, and in such a frightfully lowly social position too.

Felicity’s inquiring tilt of the head persuaded Stubby to explain that Malingerer Stench had once held the position of chief be-header in Sandy Desert Land, but had been lured to Prannick by the love of a travelling raspberry sales-girl, who subsequently left him, which forced the former death-merchant into a new vocation – that being bar-staff. Stubby hoped that by ordering a raspberry soufflé he was insulting the gerbil twice: Most obviously by the raspberry connection, but also by requesting a dessert – the spelling of which is almost exactly the same as desert.

“Oh, Primrose – you can be so cruel.” Felicity gently scolded the false harvest mouse.

“Stubby, please.” Stubby scolded in return. “You should only call me Primrose when my breasts make their presence felt. At all other times I should be referred to as Stubby.”

“Felt?” Brenda yelped and stood upright at the same moment, “You’s aint suggestin’ that my girl’s gotta squeeze your tits, is ya? Joan was thinkin’ you might be one of them lesbians: Girls don’t go squeezin’ tits ya know: That’s boy’s jobs.”

Brenda suddenly became aware that the bar had fallen silent and that everyone was looking at her. She gave a sickly smile, and then added, by way of explanation, “I’s from outta town. We talks a real whole load’a shit where I come from. You’s best be ignorin’ me. Now drink ya fluffin’ beer, ya nosey bastards.”

“Oh dear, Stubby,” Darkwood spoke above the startled exclamations of offended patrons, “I do believe that our proposed discussion of things most important will have to be put off for another time and another location.”

Indeed this was the case, and in three seconds flat the landlord had the six of them thrown out on their furry arses.

“An inauspicious beginning to our renewed endeavour together I fear.” Quentin opined whilst very obviously blaming Stubby entirely for their altered situation with looks that closely resembled daggers.

“You didn’t help either, mum – you big dopey twat!” Felicity sought to spread the blame.

“Never mind, never mind.” Stubby said in hushed tones as he quickly dusted everyone down. Then in a conspiratorial whisper he added, “I rather hoped that would happen actually. It was entirely deliberate, you know. I just wanted to make sure that none of you were being followed.”

Felicity responded with a whisper of her own. “Why would anyone be following us? Who knows that we’re here at all?”

“You’d be surprised.” Stubby replied, and then eased them all in the direction of a travelling fair as it clanked and clattered its way through the main street.

“I say, we’re all likely to be deafened by this frightful racket.” Darkwood complained as they walked beside an iron-wheeled wagon that was being drawn by a team of argumentative stag beetles.

“We may be deafened.” Stubby shouted above the din, “but so are those with inquiring ears.”

“Do you really think that we were being followed?” Felicity had to screech like a tortured lathe to make herself heard.

“The two miserable-looking curs in the corner by the window were giving you rapt attention.” Stubby bellowed like a loony, “And there was another standing beside the condom vendor’s sack taking notes.”

Darkwood was amazed. “But who might they be? Why would they expect us to be here? Might they be some kind of wizards? Oh my heart’s all of a flutter at the thought.”

“I don’t know.” Stubby roared, but already his voice was weakening, “Perhaps if you tell me all about your problem, and why you sent for me, then perhaps I can hazard a guess.”

So for the next five minutes they all took turns to shout informatively at Stubby as they strolled alongside the clanking wheels of the travelling fairground wagon – painfully apprising him of the situation.

When eventually the tale was told, Stubby guided them into a deserted laundry, where he was able to verbalise his opinion without the aid of a megaphone, and out of sight, just in case someone who might be following them could read lips.

“I’ve no doubt at all that Lucas Cleats fully intends to slay the inhabitants of the abbey. I don’t doubt his motivation or conviction either. What I do doubt is his free will. I remember Lucas when he was a cub. I watched him grow up. I think he has a great deal of latent psychic talent. The Lucas Cleats that I knew wanted to free Prannick of its pious overseers more than anything: But he would never stoop to murder.”

“You’s meaning some guy’s got control over this Cleats’ guy’s brain and stuff?” Brenda exclaimed in a brief moment of mental clarity.

Stubby wasn’t entirely familiar with Brenda’s speech patterns. “Ah, I think so.” He replied.

“And you believe that we are also pawns in some Machiavellian plot?” Quentin added.

Stubby was doubly impressed with Quentin Blackheart: Firstly for being able to say ‘Machiavellian’: Secondly for using a word that was utterly meaningless in both Hamster-Britain and Prannick.

“Indeed.” He replied, deciding that he would delay an investigation into the unexpected phenomenon until the current crisis was dealt with. “There are greater plans afoot than the mere extermination of a few monks. And it’s our task to identify and thwart it.”

“The best way that we can thwart such an affront to decency is by saving the monks.” Felicity snarled at some imagined monster.

So Stubby repeated his “Indeed”, and then led the way back into the street.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Wasn’t that lovely? You can buy the e-book (very cheaply) by visiting the Tooty’s E-Books Available to Buy Here page. It is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of literary fabulousness.

Pongs and Songs and a Virtual Time-Traveller

I recall the celebrant at my wife’s funeral asking me if there was a ‘special’ song that we had shared. I surprised her by saying no and adding that our musical tastes were quite dissimilar. I was glad of the situation because (thought I) it would mean that I could continue to listen to the music I liked without being forced to think of her, and (naturally) becoming upset. What I had failed to consider is the fact that human  memories are often triggered by sounds – particularly music. There have been many cases, since her passing, when I have needed to switch off a song, or take myself away somewhere to be alone until I can recover my emotional equilibrium. But yesterday (13.03.2022) I was caught unawares by my car radio. Flicking impatiently through a multitude of channels, I paused as the opening bars of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be‘ filled the passenger compartment. In an instant I’d travelled back to 2019; aboard an Easyjet Airbus to Spain; my MP3 player earphones buried in my ears – listening to the same song; my wife beside me as she played upon her beloved Apple iPad. It came like a bodyblow. I had to pull over in traffic – unbidden tears welling. In the space of a few seconds it seemed that all the effort I had put into trying to recover from my loss had been for nothing. But, of course, I got over it. I pulled myself together, and resumed my journey to collect our daughter from her day care centre. But I continued in silence. Music is a cruel time machine. It lays in ambush. Then today, some thirty hours later, I decided to ride my freshly-repaired motorcycle in the dark. Once I’d accustomed myself to the remarkable quality of the ride produced by new tyres and clutch, and travelling along an unlit and nondescript country road, the cold air made my nose run, and I sniffed involuntarily. As quickly as the music of the previous day had taken me back in time, so too did the aromas of the English countryside at night. I was momentarily confused. I didn’t know where I was. Then, for the briefest of moments, I thought I was a twenty-something version of myself, riding my bike to visit my new girlfriend’s house. Then, as I recognised the true situation – that I was sixty-five, and that it wasn’t March 1981 – far from being upset, I felt something akin to gratitude. Gratitude for the almost four decades that were to follow on from that year. For a life worth living. Sometimes  time travel can be a happy affair after all. Certainly, from my experience, pongs beat songs every time. 

Tooty the Chef: Remember Him?

Does this ugly mug look familiar?

The apron seems to have gone Absent With Out Leave, and the hat looks decidedly kitchen drawer-worn; but, yes, it’s Tooty the Chef. And look, he’s set the counter top with some ingredients…

Hmmm, let’s see what he’s prepared for his latest fabulous gastronomic concoction. Well inspiration came when his local Waitrose offered a pair of leeks at a reduced price – due to their age and less-than-pristine condition. Instantly his fertile mind slipped into high gear and he began to imagine what could be done with half a jar of macaroni; the dregs inside a bag of grated cheese; and some bacon medallions that had been sitting at the bottom of the fridge for three weeks. Well it was obvious really: macaroni/leek/bacon cheese! So whilst he boiled the macaroni and steamed the leeks…

…he lay the bacon (and some sliced peppers) on some olive oil in his famous Roasting Thing…

…and waited. When, eventually, the macaroni was sufficiently softened, and the leeks appeared most-way cooked, he stirred them together with some cheese sauce. Then it was simply a matter of pouring the goo on top of the bacon/peppers combo; then scattering the grated cheese on top of the lot…

…and shoving it in the maxxed-out oven (of course), This was followed by some sodding about for twenty-five minutes, until the meal was cooked good and proper…

Yep, despite all his frailties, the culinary cretin is back…

And this time he’s keeping his buttocks to himself!

Triple Threat – Now Available As a Free PDF E-Book!

Although I originally wanted to produce the complete version in EPUB form, WordPress’s inability (or unwillingness, I don’t know) to accept an upload in this format, means that I’ve been forced to back-track to the usual PDF version. It’s not terrific, but it’s not the end of the world either. Please click on the cover photo to access the file, which you can either read in situ, or download for later visual consumption. It will certainly save you lots of time rummaging through all my posts to find the complete story.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 41)

Epilogue

Robots being robots – that is enjoying a state that is beyond the weakness known as prevarication – the robotic freighters that had been despatched with all the captive robots aboard, received an immediate recall…

Once more aboard the Tankerville Norris, Magnuss, Hair-Trigger, Tong-Tong, and the girls prepared for the flight back to Earth…

“Well, did you enjoy yourselves?” Magnuss called over his shoulder.

The girls weren’t quite sure how they should respond to such a question.

“Sort of.” Daisy said. “It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting when Gregor Arsentickler invited us to the Wide Blue Yonder that night.”

If there had been a rear view mirror on Magnuss’ console, he would have peered into it. “Gregor Arsentickler?” He inquired.

“Oh, I find him so charming and irresistible.” Ginger confessed.

“Yes,” Magnuss said coolly, “he certainly didn’t set off any of my alarms either. Tell me about how you ended up in the repair hangar in the Red Tower and inside the Drunkard’s Vomit.”

Fifteen minutes later, and their tale complete, the girls looked at Magnuss expectantly. However, instead of making any reference to the golden-eyed earplug, Magnuss pointed to the main view screen.

“Look what I found drifting in space. A fully functional submarine space freighter…”

“Hmmm,” Hair-Trigger added. “With no Incense Cones aboard, it looks like it’s waiting for a crew to take it back to Earth.”

Well, neither Ginger, Bunty, or Daisy would ever lay claim to being geniuses – or even genii – but they recognised an ill-disguised offer when they heard one…

Rushing forward they all cried out, “We’ll take it!”

“As long as I come along for the ride too.” Tong-Tong added.

Magnuss needed to utter no command. Hair-Trigger’s index finger went nowhere near a control surface or button. The ship knew what they wanted… 

“Right,” Magnuss said, once the ‘new’ crew had rematerialized and gathered their wits. “We’ll be taking the short-cut home – and a certain Gregor Arsentickler: you’ll have to traverse hyperspace. But I’m confident you’ve got that angle covered.”

For a few moments, the Tankerville Norris took up station beside the freighter…

“What are you going to name this ship?” Magnuss joked. “The Boozer’s Chuck-up?”

“The Inebriated Puke?” Hair-Trigger suggested with a smirk.

By their facial expressions, it was clear to the daring duo that the girls were undecided…

“We’ll think about it – on the way home.” Ginger said.

“Good idea.” Magnuss replied. “It should take you a good day and half travel time. Plenty of time to come up with a fantastic name. Signing off.”

The image of the entire Tankerville Norris replaced the view of its bridge and crew.

“Yeah,” Ginger replied – uncertain if Magnuss and Hair-Trigger could still hear her. “See ya.” 

“How about we name this ship ‘Big Black Bulbous Thing’?” Tong-Tong suggested. “It is accurate and descriptive and has artistic – nay poetic – merit.” 

“No it doesn’t, Tong-Tong.” Daisy said as her eyes scanned the bridge – as though really seeing for the first time. “You leave that clever, creative stuff to young earplugs like us.”

Aboard the Tankerville Norris

…Hair-Trigger looked straight ahead; but her attention centred upon her husband.

“You don’t really think they’re going to take that ship straight to Earth, do you Mags?”

“I’d be somewhat disappointed if they did, Hairy.” Magnuss replied through a half smile. “The Museum of Future Technology needs a new generation of heroes to protect it. We…my brothers, and us…aren’t going to be able to keep this up forever. Heroes are hard to find. I think we should consider Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy as heroes-in-training, don’t you? They’re some kind of Triple Threat. Once towards the museum: now for the museum. Let ‘em have their fun. When they’re ready, they’ll come back. We shouldn’t have to wait long. Light it up, Ship.”

A split second later…

…a space rift began to form.

“Adios.” Magnuss said – and the ship was gone…

Ginger turned away from the view screen to face her friends. “Now I was thinking,” she said, a hint conspiratorially, “that the fastest way home isn’t always the best way home.”

“I was thinking exactly the same thing.” Bunty said in response.

Daisy’s gaze was upon a faraway place. “Hmmm,” she hummed. “What I really fancy is a sausage roll. I wonder if we can find some of those snowballs near Ice Station Nobby.”

Ginger felt her stomach grumble. When had they last eaten? “Excellent idea, Daisy.” She said with glee. “Set a course for the Ice World.”

Tong-Tong’s eyes looked toward the ceiling. “I will fetch you some blueberry muffins from the galley while you do it.” It said. “Coffee with that?”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022