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Eh By Gum!

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The relief on Gromit’s face when Wallace decided to give up the bakery business could have been seen all the way from Pluto (the de-planeterised status of which was much contested in the circles Gromit sniffed in.) 

The early mornings hadn’t bothered Gromit so much; he was, after all, a dog, and could take a nap when he felt like it (as long as the machinery was running properly and Wallace had all his clothes on the right way round).  It was the ingredients that had really annoyed him; they got everywhere, bedding down into the carpets, carpeting the skirting boards in avalanches of dusty flour and even wafting from the store cupboards into the fridge of all places.  There was only so much you could get rid of with a Dyson and plenty of elbow grease.  The last straw had been when some yeast spores had taken root in a particularly pungent Pont-l'Évêque that Wallace had been saving for a rainy day; Gromit wasn’t sure whether it was sadness or the stench that had made his master cry.

There was a reason, Gromit believed, that the term was cottage industry, not slightly cramped terraced property industry, but Wallace was not one for convention.

Wallace had managed to sell much of the bread-making equipment off to a firm in Manchester, and was using the proceeds to take some down time at the moment.  Wallace didn't really get depressed, but it was clear the business with Piella was preying on his mind a little.

Gromit could sympathise; things had turned sour with Fluffles and it was back to the bachelor life once again.  Poodles, in his experience, always turned out to be rather high maintenance.

So it was that the two gentlemen of 62 West Wallaby Street were partaking of their afternoon tea.  A hefty slab of Wensleydale upon the cheese platter, a few crackers, a pot of old Rosie and a bit of Mutt Monro on the Victrola; all was calm and still.  Wallace merely sat back in his chair contently chewing while Gromit read the papers (headline - “LOST THE PLOTTINGTON!” - clearly no-one was immune from a downturn in fortune.)

“You know, Gromit,” said Wallace through a mouthful of cheese, “I don't understand why everything has to be so complicated these days. You might have noticed I'm getting a bit middle-aged, old chum,” (Gromit knew exactly how old Wallace was, even if Wallace himself had forgotten), “ and we've got all these stresses and strains of modern living to try and cope with, like income tax this and patent that. Sometimes I wish that I could go back to the way things were when I was just a lad.”

Gromit looked up from the crossword sympathetically and refilled Wallace's tea cup.  Although his days at Dogwarts were far behind him, he still allowed himself the occasional trip down memory lane, and his eyes grew misty with nostalgia for a brief moment.

“Nothing's like it used to be, old boy.  I remember what it was like to be young, without a care in the world, when you didn't have to think about the intemallectual whatsits on your machinery or and your heart wasn't being crushed like old compost.”  Wallace smiled as he reminisced.  “I don't know if I've told you this before-” - he had - “- but I can still remember one of my first inventions...” Wallace trailed off for a moment as he reminisced; Gromit used the moment to quietly swipe a large chunk of Wensleydale.

I used to be a real hair-raiser, Gromit, back when I had a barnet to call my own.”  Wallace smoothed back his non-existent locks and chuckled.  “Used to get into all sorts of scrapes I did.    Course, then I hit me teens and I really thought about nothing but tinkering with things -” Gromit slowly raised and lowered an eyebrow, ostensibly intent upon the crossword - “but what really ignited me passion was Mr Clitheroe's corner shop down t'way.  'course he's long gone now, but back in the day it was like a little slice of sugary wonder.  All those glistening jars of boiled sweets and caramels and fudge that stuck to your teeth...”  Gromit had heard this story a fair few times before, but he never got tired of the way Wallace told it; his master was still like a child in a sweet shop most of the time anyway, always so enthusiastic and excited about everything, and his whole face shone with youth as he spoke.

“Mr Clitheroe was what you'd call partially sighted and all, so he didn't always see what us younguns were up to, but he knew what we were always after – the Dairy Milks, the Crunchies, all the new stuff that you can get anywhere nowadays but was really new and exciting back then.  So he always used to put right up on the top shelf where we couldn't steal it when he wasn't looking.”  Wallace waved his hands right up to the ceiling as he spoke.  Gromit put the paper down and rested his face on his paws to watch, a content look upon his face.

“Now we couldn't sneak round the back of the counter because there was no room, see, and the shelf was too high up.  So I made a claw out of Meccano that I could operate by string, right, and jerry-rigged it together with some wooden spoons from the kitchen so I could grab the sweets and chocolate from a distance.  It was grand, it really was...”

Wallace sighed over dramatically.  “Of course I forgot that everyone else in the shop could see me with this giant claw sticking out of me back pocket, even if Mr Clitheroe couldn't, but it was fun while it lasted.  I'd have done anything to get one of those sweets, though.  Oh, just thinking about them reminds me of the taste... I know I shouldn't eat them now – got to watch the waist line and all, Gromit, don't want to get stuck in the ceiling again! - but the thought just takes me back to the good old days...”

Wallace drifted off into a reverie for a moment.  The clock ticked back and forth in great clunks on the wall.  The moment had passed; Gromit eased back into his chair and considered the crossword once more.

Suddenly Wallace leapt out of his chair with a great shout.  Gromit flew back from the table in shock, his ears going stratospheric as he scrambled to pick up the flying pieces of newspaper he had catapulted into the air. 

“That's it!  What a cracking idea!  A confectionery business, right here at home, with that old fashioned taste of yesteryear that you can't get in the shops now!  Oh, I can see it now, lad, we'll have sherbets by the fountain!  Lines and lines of licorice! They'll be chewing on the nostalgia for days!  It’s perfect, Gromit, perfect!  Eh By Gum, we'll call it!”

Although Wallace's enthusiasm was infectious, Gromit couldn't help but roll his eyes slightly as his master leapt out of the room in search of a piece of paper to start sketching blueprints. 

Here we go again, Gromit thought, as he followed his master down to the cellar.

~

Some months later Gromit sat by the toaster, having just finished that morning's Sudogu in the paper.  The kettle was about to boil; there was no time for a full tea pot today, just a couple of mugs at the side primed and ready with milk and tea bags already placed,  They certainly had a lot of milk these days.

They'd upgraded the alarm system specially the previous evening because Wallace was so excited.  Sure enough, bang on seven o'clock, Gromit heard the tell-tale beep of the alarm.  Assuming all was going to plan, the “Important Business Meeting” light that they'd installed would now be flashing.

The new wake-up system Wallace had devised was supposed to give him a kinder way to start the day than being unceremoniously dumped through the ceiling into a pair of trousers.  The order of proceedings was supposed to be as follows:-

Step 1 – once triggered, the alarm system would start pumping air into a flat balloon beneath Wallace's pillows.  This would inflate gently, pushing Wallace's head into an upright position and hopefully rousing him from his cheese-induced slumbers.

Step 2 – a mechanical hand would dip itself in a small basin of water, before flicking small droplets at Wallace's face – a minor irritation in the grand scheme of things that would hopefully make him more alert for the following step, which was:

Step 3 – the bed would crank forward as with many of their other designs, but rather than falling straight through the floor a padded mechanical lift had been placed over the hole in the ceiling.  Once the pressure-sensitive plate beneath the padding was activated, a series of gears would crank up and gently lower Wallace down towards the aforementioned trouser-ware; the lift bottom would then swing open, thereby still enabling Wallace to slide into his trousers fully compos mentis and without similar likelihood of a bruised derriere.

Unfortunately, what actually ended up happening that morning was as follows:

Step 1 – once triggered, the alarm system started pumping air into the balloon – and didn't stop.  Still asleep, Wallace ended up nearly doubled over from the over-inflation until the balloon popped with a loud bang, shocking him into being awake.

Step 2 – Gromit had forgotten to shield all the wiring for the mechanical arm.  Upon dipping into the water the arm short-circuited, causing it to go haywire and slapping Wallace in the face repeatedly.  It had much of the desired effect, they would later agree, but with a little more stinging than hoped for.

Step 3 – the pressure-sensitive plate failed to activate, leaving Wallace stranded, ducking to avoid a mechanical arm thwacking him around the head (or electrocuting him), in the middle of his bedroom.  With no trousers on.

Wallace was too excited, however, to be particularly chagrined at this unfortunate turn of events, a cause of some relief to Gromit.  Wallace even took the time to shave and dress himself in the bathroom rather than at breakfast, although the ironing had once again been left to Gromit to do the night before.

Wallace ended up coming down for breakfast in a whirl of activity, clinking and clanking his way into the kitchen to grab some toast and down his tea before heading out the door.  He was laden down with spreadsheets and graphs spilling out of various bags that swung like gorillas from around his neck.  Gromit had carefully explained (with a  lot of pointing) exactly which bits to highlight in the presentation; he only hoped it would be enough to get Wallace through unscathed.  It was apparently not the done thing for a dog to pitch a business venture.

“I'll be back soon, Gromit!  With this distribution deal in place we could get stuff on sale in Manchester; no, maybe even as far out as Yorkshire! There's no limit to the possibilities!”  A quick check of the bow tie, a salute, and a “Ta for now, old chum!” later, Wallace headed out to the parked van outside.

Eh By Gum had started to take flight in record time.  Wallace and Gromit had worked tirelessly to create a vast contraption, known as the Choc-o-tron (or Chock for short), inside the confines of the house.  Within the seemingly placid walls of 62 West Wallaby Street ran a vast, intricate system of pipes pumping various ingredients as quietly as possible into two main areas; the basement was used for cooling, setting and storage, while the garage housed all sorts of equipment for melting, mixing and concocting.  Wallace's porridge gun had been remodelled with a series of nozzle attachments to create anything from the thinnest vermicelli to the thickest fudge block, shooting concoctions of all different tastes and sizes into moulds and onto tables ready to be chilled or packaged up to go out to customers.

The loft, meanwhile,  had been converted into a brainstorming area for the two budding confectioners to brainstorm new ideas based on the nostalgic memories of their neighbours; popular favourites included Worra Lorra Lollies (suggested by a Liverpudlian acquaintance of Wallace's), bars of Fruit & Nowt chocolate, and the crown jewel of them all – the mysterious Wigan Delights. 

Gromit had discovered the recipe for Wigan Delights on the back of a knitting pattern for a scarf.  He had no idea who had written it or how it had come to be there, but Wallace saw no harm in trying it.  The soft, squidgy confection became an immediate hit, and soon became their biggest seller.  Neither man nor dog had managed to fathom where the recipe had come from, though.

The whole shebang had been running for only a month or so before it caught the eye of a German entrepreneur of some substantial funds, a Ms. Eva Laschtink-Goschtopa.  She had turned up at West Wallaby Street, clad in a black dress that clung to every curve of her svelte body, and brandished a document marked “DAS KONTRAKT”.  Her request had been simple – she wished to take Eh By Gum further, mass-producing the confection on a far greater scale than West Wallaby Street could support, in exchange for what she called “various reqvests und rights.”

Naturally Wallace was smitten on the spot – she was stylish, classy, and had venture capital.  Gromit only just managed to stop him from signing DAS KONTRAKT on the spot.  Faced with a rather indignant canine in her face, Eva agreed to schedule a business meeting at her factory on the outskirts of town, which was where Wallace was heading off to today.

As Wallace puttered off down the road, he called out from the back of the van - “Don't forget to make today's deliveries, chum.  Remember, Eh By Gum dispels the glum!” Gromit stood and waved nervously until the van was a blot on the horizon.  He was embarrassed to admit he rather liked the catchphrase.  It was more fun than just cleaning windows, anyway.

Gromit had packaged up the orders earlier (Wallace for some reason insisted on manning the phone line) and stacked them in a careful pile in the hallway before tying them up with string.  Wallace had put a little note with the names and addresses of the recipients; Gromit picked it up and scanned it quickly.  Mostly names he didn't know, but an enjoyable enough route to follow – Gromit had bought a bike for those rare occasions when Wallace would take the van without him, and since the sun was shining it seemed like a nice thing to do.

Besides, there was a small errand he could run along the way.

~

Gromit propped his bike on its kickstand and fumbled with the lock and chain for a few seconds before tying it to a lamp post. He hadn't managed to get mud all over himself and his fur wasn't too windswept; he hadn't bothered with a tie, this wasn't supposed to be a particularly formal encounter.

He picked up the package of chocolates and his satchel and padded over to the door, pushing it open gently.  The bells jangled slightly as he entered.  Soft footsteps padded into the shop from somewhere in the back room.

“Oh, I'm sorry, I'll just be a minute, just stitching some...oh, Gromit!  It's you!” 

Wendolene Ramsbottom, formerly of Wendolene's Wools, now of Wendolene's Woollen Wear and Wares, broke into a smile. 

“Oh, you did give me a start, I'm all discombobulated.  Finished that pattern already, chuck?  Oh, come on in, pull up a pew and show me.  I was just knitting a jumper for Preston, when he gets cold he gets a bit... well, nippy.  I'll get the kettle on.”  The metallic yips of the new and “improved” robot sounded from somewhere behind Wendolene as she disappeared into the back once more.

After the...events... that had caused Preston's re-invention, Gromit had begun visiting Wendolene's shop on a regular basis.  At last he'd found a kindred spirit when it came to knitting, and Wendolene was always happy to see him (as long as he hadn't eaten any cheese that day; even the slightest crumb could give her hives.)  She kept him supplied with new patterns to try, and he'd help out with random bits and bobs of DIY.  Once Wendolene decided to launch her own line of woollen wear, Gromit helped out with a fresh lick of paint and fixing the cash register, and the business kept going from strength to strength.

Gromit followed Wendolene through the stock room and into a small kitchenette.  Preston had plugged himself in to recharge in the corner, and the kettle was already whistling away on the hob.  Gromit put down the delivery he had to make on the sideboard and extracted a receipt from his bag, ready for Wendolene to sign.

“Don't mind the mess, Gromit love, I'll have it tidied up in a jiffy.”  The shopkeeper swept various strands of wool off the table and quickly gathered up what was becoming a woolly jumper with a picture of a frisbee on it and bunged it in a drawer.  “Tea's done, haven't had a chance to pop to the Co-Op today so I haven't got any biscuits or anything I'm afraid.”

Gromit waved his hands in a conciliatory gesture as he sat down.

“Didn't think you'd mind too much, you must be seeing snacks in your sleep!  We can get back to that later, though – there you go, love – show me how you've got on then.”  Wendolene had finished brewing the tea and gently placed mugs down on the table for herself and Gromit; he inclined his head slightly to say thank you as he dug back into his satchel.

After a few seconds of digging around he rather bashfully brought out a bundle of material.  Stretching his arms out wide revealed the full extent of the project; a scarf knitted in binary code, with long strings of green 0s and 1s on a black backdrop.

Wendolene clasped her hands together, a smile shining on her face.  “Oh, that's beautiful, Gromit.  Does that mean anything?  I got the numbers out of one of Daddy's old notepads.”  Gromit shrugged, his cheeks colouring slightly and his ears drooping with embarrassment.  “I just like to stick to the old classics but you're always wanting to do something more up-to-date.  Haven't got this months' Simply Knitting yet but I'll let you know if there's anything particularly grand in there for you.”  Gromit nodded his thanks and drank his tea.

“So, things going well for you?”  Gromit bobbed his head from side to side; things were pretty much okay, he reasoned.  “I hear that you've got international aspirations now.  Well I never, you two are so upwardly mobile I shouldn't be surprised if you're up and gone quite soon!”  Gromit didn't like that idea much; he'd lived on West Wallaby Street since he was a pup, and Wallace didn't seem like someone willing to give up his creature comforts that easily.  Nonetheless he gave a non-committal shrug.

Wendolene fell silent.  Normally small talk came quite easily to her, but today she seemed quieter than usual.  She began to speak again quite hesitantly; Gromit sipped gently at his tea, his eyebrows slightly furrowed.

“You know... well, maybe you don't, but anyway... you see... I sometimes wonder if it couldn't have worked out at all.  Me and... us, you know.  I mean, he's so good at inventing things and all, maybe we could have... but no, I don't think it would have worked, really.  I couldn't make him give up one love for... for another, now could I?”

Gromit's eyes were wide with sympathy.  Wendolene sighed and then brightened up again.

“Oh, you don't want to listen to me prattling on about all this, you've got deliveries to make, chuck!  Just leave that on the table and I'll tidy up.  Go on, now!  What's past is past, let bygones be bygones is what I say!  Oh, and don't forget the wool you ordered, it's on the side there by the spice rack.  I'll have some lovely blue chenille coming in next week, you can pick some up then for a nice sweater.”

Gromit got up quite slowly, still looking concerned, until Wendolene shooed him away with a smile.  Gathering up his satchel and the balls of wool, he gave her a quick wave before disappearing round the corner and back into the main shop.

Wendolene waited until she heard the doorbell jangle and the distant squeak of a bicycle wheel before she opened her order, carefully taking the string and brown paper wrapping from around the box.

The box was made of cardboard that had been embossed with a picture of Wallace and Gromit smiling and waving.  Upon opening the box up, it was filled entirely with one kind of sweet, just as she had ordered – a box of Wigan Delight, each piece lovingly squashed inside a black doily, almost oozing with memories.

Wendolene took a piece and delicately put it into her mouth, savouring the taste as it almost melted on her tongue.

Preston recharged at Wendolene's feet, unaware of the tears that started coursing down his mistress's face.  For Wigan Delight had always been Wendolene's father's favourite recipe...

~

It had been a long time since Gromit had been to the zoo.  However, as Wendolene had said - “what's past is past, let bygones be bygones”.

He left his bike outside; as a dog he didn't need to pay to get in, although he could have claimed admission as an expense purpose.  After making a quick delivery to the monkey enclosure for their keeper, Anne St Lythams, he deliberately headed to the place he dreaded – the penguin pen.

It had been all over the news.  “PENGUIN PENG-ED UP NO MORE!” was the Afternoon Post headline.  For the Prison Board had re-classified Feathers McGraw, nefarious thieving mastermind, as a “low risk” offender, a “gentleman”, even (according to leaked reports in the tabloid press, which Gromit would never normally have read), and had decided to let him out into the main penguin enclosure with others of his kind.  At first he had difficulty readjusting to normal life – learning not to be up at dawn, remembering to swim, all the things he'd lost in his life of crime.

Now, apparently, he was a consummate show man, always entertaining the crowds at feeding time, turning underwater acrobatics to rival the best of them.  There were rumours of him getting released early, “fully rehabilitated”, or so they said ; despite an unfortunate incident with a cleaner's glove a few months ago, he seemed normal and unlikely to re-offend.

Not to Gromit, though.  He knew true evil the first time he looked into those deep, dark, beady eyes and saw that glistening red glove beckoning disaster like a squeaky plastic rag to a bull.  Wendolene's words had stuck with him, however, and with nothing ventured was nothing gained.  He had a test in store.

The penguin enclosure was large compared to those of many of the land-dwelling animals in the zoo.  Sloping plastic banks of ice took up much of the sides of the pen, with a pool of water that ran underground in the centre and some rather sad looking foliage growing through the cracks in the plastic.  Gromit surveyed the penguins with a hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun – they were mostly just lolling around doing nothing in particular, waddling amongst themselves.  One or two stood with their children, while others occasionally dived in and out of the water.

Then Gromit did a double-take.  One of the penguins had stopped moving completely and was looking straight at him.

Feathers McGraw.

Gromit's eyes narrowed at his arch-nemesis.  Feathers gave the impression of looking right through him, but Gromit knew.  Soon, the penguin disengaged from his death stare and toddled off towards his brethren, but Gromit was certain of the malice that lurked within that surprisingly cute walk.

Gromit reached into his satchel and drew out a piece of paper.  Artfully fashioning it into a remarkably aerodynamic aircraft, he wound back his arm and threw it towards the enclosure.  Sailing gracefully on the whirls and eddies of the light breeze, it landed on a particularly large bank of fake ice next to a sign featuring a jolly penguin spouting facts for small children to read.

At first none of the penguins appeared to pay any attention.  However, as a small crowd waddled towards the bank, Gromit watched Feathers join them and surreptitiously pick up the paper aeroplane.  Stealing a furtive glance from side to side, the convict unfolded the paper and looked at it for a brief moment.

Feathers turned in Gromit's direction.  He raised one flipper and began to shake it furiously in the dog's direction.

Gromit, ever mature, blew a raspberry at the penguin, turned tail and headed homewards.

He had photocopied the Killer Sudogu from that morning's paper, and on it written three numbers and a punctuation mark:

3:12

There was no way Feathers could resist trying to beat Gromit's time in solving the Sudogu, even when pretending to be fully reintegrated into normal penguin-kind.

True evil, as Gromit knew, can never be destroyed.

~

Gromit arrived home from his rounds a little earlier than he'd thought he might; he'd pedalled a bit harder to make sure he was home in time for Wallace's (hopefully) triumphant return.  He was disappointed to see the van parked out front and the gate left open; obviously Wallace was back already.

Gromit was alarmed to discover, however, that the front door had been left slightly ajar.  He knew he'd locked it before he left, and Wallace was at least conscious of security concerns (all the gnomes in the front garden had been fitted with CCTV cameras, for instance).  There was clearly Something Amiss.

Gromit edged through the door into the hallway.  The familiar low hum of the Choc-o-matic pipes churned in the walls, but otherwise there was no immediate sign of life in the house.  Gromit deftly reached into his bag and armed himself with the knitting needles he kept in there at all times in case of emergency before heading further in.

There were muffled sounds of heated conversation coming from the garage; Gromit didn't know why he hadn't been able to hear them from outside.  He crept closer to the inside door, ears a-quiver, and listened more closely to hear his master's voice – and a distinctly glamorous German one, too.

“...wasn't what we agreed, madame, not in the slightest!  I think this is all going a bit too far, now, the Chock is cheaper than the machines at your factory and I just thought it would make sense for me to license you the schematic-”

“Ve do not vant the Choc-o-matic, Mr Vallace!  Ve want the RECIPE!  The Vigan Delights!”

“Now, Eva, I told you already, I can't give you a recipe that's not mine to give!  I've been doing a lot of swotting up on intellectual property rights, mind, and-”

“Vunce ve haff the Vigan Delights ve vill have ze minds und hearts of everyvun who buys my confections.  Venn I have those, zey vill instinctively buy all my products, und my competitors vill be kaput!”

“Oh, I don't think that's very sporting of you, Eva.  I've half a mind to report you to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission now!”

“Giff me sa zecret to ze Vigan Delights, or you vill delight no-one any more!”

Gromit decided the time for action was now, and burst through the door into the garage, his needles ready in a ninja-like pose.

There'd obviously been some kind of altercation between Wallace and Ms. Laschtink-Goschtopa, and the whole room lay in chaos, with equipment trashed and lying everywhere.  Wallace had been tied to an upended table with some strawberry bootlaces, and Eva had somehow gotten hold of the remote control for the porridge gun.  Through its thinnest nozzle she was blasting a highly concentrated stream of boiling dark chocolate that was slowly making crawling its way up the table towards Wallace's middle.  It hissed and steamed as it went, leaving an ugly scorched trail on the garage floor as it went.

 “Gromit!”  Wallace shouted in panic.  “Get out of here, lad, she's gone loco for cocoa!”

“You!  Vell, vat am I to do mit you?”  Eva cranked up the speed of the porridge gun, and the chocolate edged ever further up the table.

“He'll never tell you the secret, Eva, Gromit would never betray me!”

“Oh, I do not expect him to talk.”  Eva turned her maddened gaze onto the dog.  Gromit, needles at the ready, raised his eyebrows somewhat condescendingly.  “I expect him to die!”

Wallace looked around desperately as Eva sashayed her way towards the door with murderous intent, her stiletto heels clicking along the stone floor.  He seized upon an idea as he saw something poking out of Gromit's satchel.

“The wool, lad, the wool!  Go on, chuck, chuck it at the Chock and block the chocolate!”

Gromit glanced at his bag.  Time seemed to slow down around him as he weighed up his options.  On the one hand, a murderous German woman was coming towards him and his master looked like a goner.  On the other, that wool was brand new.

There was no contest.  As time sped back up, Gromit threw his knitting needles like shurikens.  As Eva dodged them, this gave Gromit the opportunity to dash round her.  Reaching quickly into his bag, Gromit flung one of the balls of wool straight up towards the nozzle of the porridge gun – where it stuck, blocking the hot chocolate.

“Attaboy, Gromit!” Wallace shouted out joyously.  “That was a close one!”

Eva growled, whipping round to face both intrepid inventors.  “I vant ze Vigan Delights if it KILLS me!”  Gromit backed over to where Wallace was bound, eyes wild, not noticing that the Choc-o-matic was still attempting (and failing) to pump chocolate through the ball of wool, backing up down pipes that strained and buckled and ran into the walls.

Eva leapt forward, ready to attack.

The house exploded in a mushroom cloud of confectionary ingredients.

~

Wallace and Gromit sat in the street, sipping at plastic cups of tea and covered in sweet goo.  Eva had been escorted to the local constabulary, but otherwise the emergency services had been at something of a loss as to how to deal with an exploding sweet factory in West Wallaby Street, and had gone away to think about, leaving the two homeless engineers alone.

“It was a good thing she used dark chocolate, pal.”  said Wallace thoughtfully.  “The milk was still in the cooling pipes so we didn't get burnt in the explosion.  Let's hope we can salvage some photos from the rubble, eh, lad?”

Gromit nodded, and hoped Wallace's house insurance would cover an Act of Dog, however defined.

“I think we might have to close the door on the confectionary business, Gromit.  Short but sweet, shall we say?” Wallace chuckled into his tea and ruffled Gromit's ears.  “Shame, though.  Never did work out where that Wigan Delight came from.  Wouldn't have given it to her anyway.  What's past is past, right, chum?”

Gromit's eyes widened slightly as he knitted two and two together in his head before patting Wallace supportively on the shoulder.

“Fancy the pub for tea, Gromit lad?  I'm right peckish for a Ploughmans.  Off we go!”  Wallace hoisted himself to his feet, squelching slightly as he did so, before setting off quite deliberately down the road.

Gromit followed behind.  That did sound pretty grand.