Friday, 5 March 2010

The Basingstoke Project

"He's been droning on for hours," said the man I bumped into.

"Who?" asked I.

"Professor Fflaffington-Smyth."


"Press conference. Some new discovery or other. I'm not really sure anymore."


"High-Tedium Research Facility," he looked at his watch. Then at the sky, "what day is it?"


"It started Tuesday!" he became agitated, "I wrote down everything interesting he said in my notebook." He flipped it open at a page marked by the clip of his pen. There was one word. And then the signs of a mind becoming more and more distracted - little doodles, drawings, a carefully shaded picture, then a poem and finally what must have been the outline for a novel.

"I should introduce myself. I'm iDifficult," I said.

There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes, "I thought you'd be taller." he said at last. "Sorry, I'm Oliver Toenail. I'm a reporter with the local paper - The Slobbering Investigator." He produced a press-pass. It had science correspondent in small print under his name. "I have a big problem," he started once more, "I have a deadline tomorrow morning and I have only one word about the discovery. They're going to fire me. Again."

My politeness gland failed. "Oliver Toenail? Did your parents hate you?"

He seemed unfazed by my reaction. "Actually they named me Onychomycosis Toenail. They were both Chiropodists and mad keen on the profession. I adopted Oliver as it saves time and spelling."

Feeling a little shame, I took pity, "I'll help you out. Did some work with Neddy a few years back. We need to catch up. Besides, he owes me a fiver."


"Professor Fflaffington-Smyth. Of course, he liked to be known as Major Reverend Dr Fflafington-Smith then and had one less F but same chap."

We marched up to the doors of the High-Tedium Research Facility. I unscrewed the intercom panel as Mr Toenail watched.

"Aren't you going to ring the doorbell?"

"Where's the fun in that?" I picked out a few wires, scraped off the insulation and twisted them together. "Besides, if I tell them who I am, there's no way they'll let us in." I shoved the panel back. The door clicked open. The lifting barrier across the main entrance behind us started opening and closing rhythmically. We walked into the hallway. The lights were flickering.

I spotted my target, "Neddy!"

"iDifficult!", he exclaimed, "My old chap. I heard you were dead."

"I thought you were in the press conference?"

"Same difference. I was. Popped out briefly Wednesday, couldn't be arsed to go back. I didn't think I'd be missed."

Mr Toenail chipped in, "You called the press conference! You made the discovery!"

"Did anyone notice I'd gone? Anyway, who are you?"

"My fault, I'm afraid. I found him outside. He came to your press conference after a good story. I told him I knew you and would help him," I explained.

Neddy looked at me concerned, "He came here for a good story? We only do really boring research here."

"Then why did you call a press conference?" our science correspondent interjected.

"I'm a scientist, and scientists do that sort of thing. We're expected to. Read it in a book somewhere."

"So have you discovered anything?"

"Might have," he said enigmatically. "Have you heard of the Manhatten Project?"

Onychomycosis Toenail came alive in a way I can't imagine he had since his Christening, "Why yes, yes I have. My goodness this is awesome! And here in Slobbering too."

"Follow me. We call this the Basingstoke Project."

He lead us into a huge room. It was full of machinery. It was all painted battleship grey. There were some panels of flashing lights. Well they would have been flashing but most of the bulbs had long since blown. There were several scientists looking at screens full of numbers. Some were even awake.

"What is it?"

"It's a time machine, come over and have a look. We're about to do another test run." He held a finger up to his mouth, "Shhh! They're about to start."

A scientist leant over a panel and pushed a button. Nothing much happened, but the machine let forth a low and depressed sigh.

"Ohhhhhwwwwww," it went.

Some of the numbers on the screens changed. After a few minutes of examining the numbers the button pushing scientist spoke, "Professor, it's done it again."

"What are the results this time?" Professor Fflaffington-Smyth asked.

"7, 14, 17, 42, 44, 45 and 47."

Mr Toenail spoke, "What does that mean? It sounds like an order at the Euthanasia Curry House. Is it really a time machine?"

"Yes, it is indeed a time machine."

"Wow. I mean wow! This is soo big. I didn't think we'd be covering a story so large here." Then he paused, "Why aren't you overjoyed? This is world fame, Nobel prizes, chat shows for the rest of your life, maybe even a record deal from Simon Cowell."

"Because it will only, not matter which knobs we twiddle or untwiddle, or which buttons we press, go back in time to the previous Saturday and even then it only returns a few numbers. Just numbers. Just from last Saturday."

"What are the numbers?"

"Last Saturday's UK National Lottery winning ticket numbers."

"So all this machine does is get last Saturday's National Lottery ticket numbers?" He waved his arms around the room, gesturing at the machinery.

"Yes - the winning ones."

"Couldn't you just look them up on the internet?"


"I'm going to get fired aren't I?"

Neddy and I looked at him with sympathy. "Probably," we said in unison.


  1. Hey 'Difficult. The press has such a short attention span. Big picture thinking is required. Monday comes round once a week, and August once a year. These numbers will come round again. It just takes longer. Roth

  2. I will never, EVER get bored of your stories and your writing. Ever.

    Made me giggle all the way through! Poor Mr. Toenail!

  3. I always feel educated after reading one of your entries :)

  4. Can I use those lottery numbers again this week? I'll split the winnings with Mr. Toenail.

  5. surely any good press reporter would have found a huge story in this invention... last saturday even. ;)


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