Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hodmandod night

It is the season for snails. I found these in our back garden the other night. I like the way they stare indignantly, their eyes out on stalks. Sometimes I come across their nests - a clump of tiny soft white shells in a ball of sticky mucous - quietly gestating, making ready to erupt together on THE DAY OF THE SNAILS.

I like snails but I don’t like their cousins the slugs. I read once that slugs can reproduce sexually or asexually, depending on latitude and that in Chester we are near the borderline for sexual reproduction.

Now when we first moved into our house nothing worked: there were holes in the walls, the roof tiles were rotten, there was damp slowly seeping up the entire structure but worst of all none of the lights worked. It was a residence 'with character', as the estate agents say, and sometimes it seemed that it had rather too much character...

...because through the holes in the walls came the slugs. We would find their silver tracks in the morning betraying their nocturnal oozing up walls and cupboards and down again and out through the walls. Then a few weeks later I couldn’t sleep and came downstairs to find a pair of these slugs demonstrating the southerly sexual mating variation quite blatantly in the middle of our kitchen floor. It was mesmerising: small protrusions and holes appeared as one became temporarily male and one female, and as they gracefully and leisurely interlocked I noticed that there were other smaller organisms, things like mites, leaping around in the mucous, a stream of them going from one slug to the other, the only hint of of a frenzy in the whole sordid business.

Soon after that we closed the holes, replaced the rotten wooden doors and found an electrician to bring us back into the twentieth century but I shall never forget those two brown slugs and hope they had a very happy life together.


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