I’ve been in the garden scooping slugs and snails out of the sandpit. The slugs have been an on-going problem for a while now. Last summer I must have found hundreds of them. I am not a very keen gardener, or more to the point I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, but we have inherited an oasis of green and even an overzealous grapevine that seems to sprout new shoots on a daily basis. The branches creep down trying to invade the house through the back door.
I remember a time last year that the garden in all its blooming glory almost gave me a heart attack. I was sitting watching a film on the sofa and I kept hearing a scary tapping noise at the window. Luckily it wasn’t a horror film, but we have all seen enough of those film scenes to imagine a light tapping at the window to be the scrape of a scythe or a meat-cleaver. I bravely drew back the curtain to discover that the wind was repeatedly knocking a particularly gnarly shoot of grapevine against the window pane. It just goes to show that I have the mind of a city dweller. I have never really had a proper garden before and I wasn’t aware of the noises they are capable of making.
I am equally naïve when it comes to slugs. Last summer all my pot plants were eaten, and that felt hugely unjust since it took me an enormous effort to even have any pot plants. I had a tiny baby. I didn’t have time for gardening! I just shoved any pretty looking flowers I found into random jars and containers. They were only annuals (my new word) but all the same it is a shame to have your fledgling efforts spoiled by a plague of gluttonous molluscs.
They even started trespassing through our kitchen. I don’t know where they got in but the evidence of their silver trails was there in the early mornings and I wouldn’t risk walking in bare feet. When my sister came to stay, P had warned her about them,
“Don’t be alarmed if you see any naked snails in the kitchen”
“Ok I won’t” she said
In dutch they have one word ‘slak’ . This can mean a snail or a slug, but to clarify when referring to a slug they say that it is naked.
Today I am outside with my daughter and her friend. It is a surprisingly warm day and they want me to open the sandpit. It has been decked in black bin-liners for weeks to guard against the summer rain (?) but now I am peeling it back. There are scores of slugs all over the plastic, both the naked and the clothed variety, and then I discover yet more wiggling through the sand itself. I find a bowl and a spade and I start picking them off. A and her friend stand at a safe distance watching me recoil in disgust.
I also have to spoon up trails of black poo all over the sand toys. I never realised that slugs poo so much. The bowl is starting to get very full. They’re writhing over each other, like one wet mucousy mass of black slime. Their tentacles are wiggling trying to escape. I have to work fast, as with each new slug I scoop up into the bowl I discover several more that have squirmed their way to the rim and I have to push them back down with the back of the spade. Why did I use this shallow bowl? It’s too late now. I have to keep going.
They’re repulsive creatures, but I’m not exactly trying to harm them. When I was about 6 I kept a family of snails in a tupperware box in the kitchen as pets and I fed them on lettuce.
“ooooghhh” I shout when my hand squelches against a runaway on the underside of the bowl.
P is inside with his back to me, head burried in the computer. He’s sniggering.
“What’s the big deal, it’s only a few slugs”
“I know but you’re not the one dealing with them!”
I run in and shove the convulsing bowl under his nose. I go out front and open the green bin. Is it ok to put them in here I wonder? It is supposed to be for all green waste – this counts as garden rubbish doesn’t it? I start throwing the slugs in, but seeing their tentacles reaching out towards me at eye-level is too much so I just throw the whole bowl in. It’s made out of wood anyway. That’s green.
I can see the neighbour looking over. She says she heard me in the garden. Apparently I was using the word ‘slimy’ a lot.
“Don’t worry I throw slugs in the green bin too.”
Well at least she’s admitted to the militant slug abuse act, so we’re in it together. They’ll be fine. They probably love it in there anyway. All dark and moist.
I go back into the garden to find A and her friend picking the leaves off my pot plants to mix up into a soup. They have lost interest in the sandpit.
It starts to get chilly so I poke and prod at the wayward vine to struggle to close the back doors. There’s a blackbird out there on the path nibbling at a slug, probably one that I dropped.
“Go bird! Kill!”