Column September 22, 2010: The snail who came out of his shell

ZOOLOGY was never my strong suit. Actually, I don’t even have a strong suit, nor do I have any idea what one is. All I know is that I know little about animals and their ways.

Either way, I don’t believe I actually saw a snail until I was in my twenties. I was aware of what they looked like, of course. I’d seen pictures. But I could say that about a hippopotamus or a unicorn or a Conservative voter. I was a city boy, with a yard, not a garden.

My life these days is very different with regard to snail exposure. Only the other night, I was dragging out the wheelie bin ready for the morning’s collection, when I found one of the little fellows sitting upon the lid.

Many of his comrades- in-shells have met a premature end at my hands, or, to be strictly accurate, feet. There’s little more unexpectedly unpleasant then hearing a crunch under foot as one dashes out late at night to take out the rubbish. Especially if one is wearing slippers.

It was clear, then, that Bin-lid Snail was one of the lucky ones. I looked him in the eye, regarded the twitch of his horns, the patina of his shell, and I told him: “Get your skates on, pal. The binmen are coming in eight hours.”

Perhaps it’s the cuteness of the snail’s shell, but I would never have extended the same courtesy to a slug. This is odd. Were I to meet identical twins, one of whom had erected a tent on his back, he would be the one I would shun.

However, of course, there were slugs around when I was a boy, so I look upon them with the contempt of familiarity. Also, they are abominable. I don’t want to say what they look like, but you know what they look like and that’s what they look like.

Only the slugs of today are different to the ones of my youth, at least as far as I can remember. For a start there are more of them. And the slugs themselves seem roughly twice the size.

But the biggest innovation I have noticed is the luminous orange slug. I’m sure they are new, though I am willing to accept this is a misconception.

I wonder how the rest of the slug community responded to this development.

And here I am, wondering . . . 


BROWN SLUG: Now, Torquil, your mother and I have had a long discussion about this, but the fact is you can’t go around like, y’know, that.

ORANGE SLUG: Like what? You are repressing my inner nature. I must be free to express myself.

BROWN SLUG: Codswallop. All right, what about a nice dark brown?

ORANGE SLUG: ”Skunkweed” was right. Typical bourgeois slug parents.

BROWN SLUG: That’s not what slugs are. We’re brown, slimy, very slow, sluggish, even. We don’t like to be seen. Leave the glamour to the snails.

ORANGE SLUG: Why must we apologise for who we are? Just because we do not carry our homes upon our backs, can we not be beautiful? I must be bright, shining, flamboyant.

BROWN SLUG: You’ve given me food for thought. Come on, let’s go down for tea, Torquil. Your mother’s got . . . 

ORANGE SLUG: Let me guess . . . lettuce?


BROWN SLUG: What about black? Your cousin Terry’s black.

ORANGE SLUG: He’s a Goth!

I bet that’s exactly what happened. Although, as I said, zoology is not my strong suit.

PS: I was challenged to get the word “dodecahedrons” into this week’s column. I have clearly failed. Actually, wait a minute. Surely that counts.

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