few days later, Ergo and Dotty were having a gossip in the
kitchen. Ergo told Dotty a joke about two pigs and a gravy
“Don’t mention pigs to me”, groaned Dot,
-”my brother was killed by one of the evil pigfrog
warriors who live in Everywhere Else and come out every
December. They are so horrid, I can hardly speak.”
Ergo was shocked. The hairy bits under his slimy bits stood
“Sounds ghastly”, he sympathised. “What
exactly is a pigfrog, and why do they only come out in December?”
“They’re seasonal” replied Dotty, importantly,
as if that explained everything.
“Oh”, said Ergo. “So we’d better
not go to Everywhere Else in December, then.”
Which they didn’t.
they did (I was lying about that). Later in the story, when
we get to the bit about the Wars between the slugs and the
pigfrogs, you’ll see what I mean. Pigfrogs were nasty
pieces of work. The hills, before they ever became alive
with music, were infested with pigfrogs, back in caveman
days. They would creep up behind people and jump on them
from a great height, using their enormous pink hind legs
to launch the entire bulk of their sweaty, fleshy pink bodies’
skywards, and then plummeting down vertically, onto their
victims. To be landed on by a pigfrog was certain death,
and what is more, very irritating indeed. The pigfrog warriors
gave out a fierce scream as their battle cry. They dribbled
on people, too. Even the friendly ones were horrible (and
there weren’t any). Now, after the purge of Slunder
(a secret story only told to gold subscribers of the Don't
Be So Ridiculous Valley annual) they had retreated from
the borders of I Thought I Told You Not To Be So Ridiculous
Valley and That’s Better Valley and had hidden in
the caves of Everywhere Else, coming out every December,
mainly for the purpose of spoiling Christmas. Which they
didn’t. Well, Ok then, they did. Let’s be honest.
“Do you mean that you can quite literally be strolling
along on the 30th of November, in Everywhere Else, minding
your own business, and suddenly nothing happens; yet on
the first of December, you’ll be doing the same thing
and you suddenly cease to exist because some pigfrog you’ve
never even met has crept up behind you and changed your
shape from lumpy to flat?”
“Yes, that’s the sort of thing, Ergo”
“Flipping Heck!” exclaimed Ergo. “That’s
not very fair! I don’t think it should be allowed”.
“Life wasn’t meant to be fair”, said Mr
F. “Look at me; I have to play the harmonica while
Dotty only has to do the housework”.
“I’m going to do something about it!”
said Ergo, with new anger.
“No, really, it’s fine”, said Mr F, “I’m
quite happy playing the harmonica, and the housework does
“No, not that”, replied Ergo, frustrated. “I
mean the pigfrogs. I’ll recruit an army and we’ll
march on them and destroy them. We’ll rid this peaceful
land of the scourge of these evil monsters once and for
Mr F was, by now, playing a stirring, patriotic piece on
the harmonica, and Dotty was wiping a little tear from his
cheek. Mr F had a highly developed sense of occasion and
was prone to these involuntary displays of raw emotion.
“.. So that little children will sleep easily in their
cots and old people can live in peace and die at their leisure,
or preferably even later” continued Ergo.
By now, he was red in the face, and looking up into the
sky (through the kitchen window) with fierce eyes and a
The next morning, the soft
smell of breakfast wood smoke hung in the air.
Ergo galvanised himself into action. In the Farnsbarneses’
household, Euphoria had broken out.
“Catch Euphoria and chain her to the sink again, will
you, Mr F” shouted Dotty, from upstairs where she
was doing her make-up. “Yes, Dear” said her
husband, shooing the cat back to its basket with one of
Dotty’s copper-bottomed frying pans.
“There’s a wonderful smell hanging in the air”
said Ergo. “What exactly is it?”
Mr F reached for the spray and looked at the label.
“Let me see now... BREAKFAST WOODSMOKE.. It’s
a new one. We’d been getting a little tired of Cheese
and Onion, - it gets in your clothes and hair and you just
can’t get rid of it.”
for Dotty’s pretty little Woodlands Telephone Service
handset, Ergo punched in four digits and waited, listening
to the soft burr of the ringing tone at the other end.
“Hello” said Ergo’s mother.
“Mum!” shouted Ergo. “It’s me!”
“Well, blow me down - if I wasn’t already down
- what with being a slug and all!” exclaimed his mother,
“No time for jokes, Mum, this is important”
interrupted Ergo. “Look, I’m sorry I disappeared,
and I’ll explain later. Right now I’m urgently
trying to recruit a mighty army, so I won’t pass the
time of day, if you don’t mind. Can you run down the
road (in a manner of speaking) and get Sodge to come to
the phone. It’s really, really important, Mum”.
mother left the phone dangling as she raced down to Sodge’s
house. Sodge was Ergo’s best mate. They had been in
some real scrapes together or at least pretended they had,
for not much actually happened in Don't Be So Ridiculous
“Sodge, Sodge, come quickly, it’s Ergo on the
blower!” shouted Ergo’s mum, as she bashed on
the little wooden door.
“OK Mrs E!” answered Sodge. (Parents were always
addressed by the initial letter of their first-born child).
Sodge was soon at the telephone, greeting his old pal.
“Look, Sodge, get your sweet little slimy bits down
here as fast as you can” urged Ergo, not saying where
he was, “I’ll explain later”.
“Or maybe I ought to explain now. It’s just
that there are these horrible things called pigfrogs and
they creep up behind you and jump on you in December, and
you die. And they dribble a lot, and Dotty’s told
me all about them, and it’s got to stop, if you see
what I mean”.
“I know exactly what you mean!” said Sodge.
“I’m your slug! You can count on me. Shall I
get the others?”
“Yes, please, Sodge. I’ll get Dotty and Mr F
to come over in the helicopters. Can you find any nasty,
vicious weapons to bring? You know the sort of thing”.
“Trouble is, we won’t be much use against these
pigfrog efforts, what with not being able to walk for a
start” offered Sodge.
“Good point, Sodge. I’ll have to think about
that one”. Ergo wasn’t unduly worried. This
was an adventure, and he was sure it would have a happy
“One thing, Sodge. Could you please bring my gramophone
and my George Formby records?”
Farnsbarnes emerged from his workshop with a bewildered look
on his face. He was an excellent inventor and was always tinkering
with little gadgets like delay mechanisms for Helicopter Colour
Drift Syndrome, underwater onion peelers and cat detectors.
The cat detectors never caught on because most people can
detect cats anyway.
The reason for the look of bewilderment was that he had been
designing a prototype set of Slug Wheels for Ergo. They would
be like a cross between an invalid carriage and a skateboard,
but he was stuck on the power source. He had decided that
Lemonade power would be too expensive, - and petrol was too
boring. Electricity was too obvious, and gas was, well, too
gassy. Suddenly, he had a great idea.
“I’ve got a great idea!” he said.
Onion Power was his idea. Why hadn’t he thought of it
before? Here’s how it worked! A small person or woodland
animal would sit at the back of the little tray upon which
the occupant slug would lie. The person or woodland animal
would eat onions, taken from a trolley attached to the back
of the slug tray, and would breathe into a sensitised wind-sock
linked to a power transformer which would burn the onion gas,
and a gear system which would then drive the vehicle along.
The slug could steer and control the power. It was quite brilliant.
Nothing could go wrong! He began building the new system immediately,
and about two pages later was ready to demonstrate the technology
to Ergo and the bizarre crew of slug comrades who by now were
disporting themselves around the tree in which the Farnsbarneses
Nige was pleased with himself.
“Ergo! Listen, Mate,” he began, “I’m
so flipping enormously pleased with myself I can’t begin
to tell you!”
He stood the slugs (in a manner of speaking) in a horseshoe
shape, and pulled The Wheels out into the centre of the group.
They were as I described before, - a skateboard, at the back
of which sat a small, bored-looking woodland creature called
Kevin. It perched on a sort of tennis umpire’s stool.
A trolley of onions was attached at the rear.
he explained, “is the historic moment when I reveal
to you the means by which you will transcend an entire evolutionary
stage! I present to you the invention by which I hope I shall
be remembered when I’m dead, or hopefully even earlier:
Nige’s Wheels!” he announced.
“Hop in, Ergo!”
Ergo mounted (in a manner of speaking) the slug tray part
of the apparatus.
“Press the green button, to start the power!”
Ergo did, using a slimy bit. A small green light shone up
into the woodland creature’s eyes.
The woodland creature, on cue, took a healthy bite from one
of the onions and breathed out demonstratively into the windsock.
Loud orchestral music began, and the engines kicked into action.
“Ooh” said the slugs on the left.
“Aah” said the slugs on the right.
next days were spent recruiting and equipping the slug force.
Ergo’s Army was now several hundred strong, and growing.
He had almost run out of slugs to recruit, and was trying
to decide how many extra fighting bodies he would need when
Dotty came rushing into the room waving a telegram from
her little sister, Elsie, or Else, as she was called. Little
Else was coming to stay. Hip, Hip, Hooray.
“Ergo, would you be a dear and go with Nige to pick
up Little Else from the station?” said Dot.
“Well I suppose I can continue my plan to rid the
world of evil pigfrogs when I get back”, said Ergo,
sarcastically. “Put the kettle on, Dotty.”
and Nigel got into the correct helicopter, which was now
pink (for it was after lunch on a Wednesday), and took off,
arriving at the station just in time to see the little train
pulling into the station.
“Little Else!” shouted Nige, as a small, rather
attractive fairy in a tweed suit got out of the train.
“I’m Ergo” said Ergo, accurately.
“You’re probably right”, said Elsie. She
smiled. “Sounds like Latin”, she added.
“I can’t carry your bags because I’m only
a slug” apologised Ergo.
walked back to the helicopter. On the way home, Little Else
explained that she had come so that she could look after
Chez Farnsbarnes while everybody was out conquering the
pigfrogs, or whatever. Ergo was delighted.
“That means Dotty and Nige are coming with us!”
evening, they held a council of war. After some discussion,
it was decided that more intelligence was needed. Not enough
was known about the enemy. Dotty had explained that the
pigfrogs were able to creep up on people very quietly before
letting out that horrible scream - “a scream that
the victim would only hear the first half of” as Dot
“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition”
said Nigel, tetchily.
“A pigfrog is about twice the size of a slug, and
twenty times meaner” said Dotty.
“Slugs aren’t mean at all” said Sodge.
“What is all this leading to?” said Dotty.
don’t end sentences with prepositions!” said
Nigel, in an unusual show of anger. He burst into tears.
“The nasty thing about pigfrogs is that they don’t
really need to jump on people at all”, Dotty continued.
“They don’t eat you or anything. It’s
not as if they needed the meat. They only do it for fun.”
“Fun?” bellowed Ergo. “For flipping fun!
Ooh, I can’t tell you how cross I’m getting.”
was decided that an advance party would make a trip out
to Everywhere Else, crossing the Mauve and Avocado Mountains
at the most cold and difficult point, the Avocado Basin.
This would be far more fun than going by Woodland Railway,
which was free, and only took forty-five minutes. If you
went the easy way, there wasn’t such a sense of achievement
at the end, and you didn’t get to cook your food on
a little fire and sing rude songs, Ergo had said.
looked across the room. Something about the way Little Else
was smiling, - something in her manner, had caused him to
stop for a minute. Could it be that he was falling in love?
Oh, no! But, yes, he did seem to be unusually excited by
the soft, undulating tone of her voice and the way she stood
with her hands on her cute little hips.
Oh, No! Thought Ergo. Not a good thing! What with her being
a real live girl-type fairy person, and him only being a
slug. Fat chance of her feeling the same! And even then,
what an annoying and distracting thing to happen on the
eve of the wars between the slugs and the pigfrogs! There
they’d all be, off up the mountains with war in their
souls, and what would Ergo be doing? Thinking of Little
Else. Not good. He would try to put it out of his mind.
Ignore it. Forget about it.
Forget about what? he thought. Good, it had worked.
surveyed the motley array of recruits which were spread
out before him. They were good types, all of them. By now,
his slug Elite Corps had been augmented by a good few humanoid-types,
- either fairies or gnomes. And there were one or two travelling
accountants, bored with their usual profession and seeking
a little excitement. These were gnome-folk who wandered
around, making their homes among whoever it was who would
hire them to count their money. They were called gnome-adds.
for the slugs themselves, there was old Erk, the brave campaigner
who had beaten off eleven enemy single handed, in the Greenfly
Wars. “It was nothing” he would say. Nobody
disagreed. Then there was Fudgebrother The Younger, - an
artist by profession, who had been one of the earliest to
respond to the call. Then came Froon, the library monitor;
Slarjk, the flower-cutter; Spittoon, the schoolmaster, and
Sir John Marvellousbloke, the name-giver. It was he who
thought up everyone’s name. Not always a popular slug.
A little selfish. But brave. Ergo had to admit, they were
all brave and true.