Friday, 21 July 2006

Life in Slow Motion

The snails live on the walls of my garden, hiding under the shrubs, or clustered together in the evenings on the living room window, where they gather under the edge of the sash frame. Are they watching the TV? On wet nights they can be found idly perambulating across the path, and in the morning as I go to work I see their silvery trails across the doormat, or on a plant pot or two. I don’t begrudge them the small amount of damage they do; for some reason I find snails quite appealing. Slugs, on the other hand, have little to recommend them; they lurk under the rims of the plant pots, lumps of slime and gristle that surprise your fingers when you go to move the pot. I find it odd that I regard them so differently. What difference does a shell make? The snails, I will admit, are great performers when, on occasion, I take them to schools. Set on the back of my hand, they soon come out of their shells and extend their long eyestalks, peering myopically at the children as if to say ‘What’s this? Who are you?’ The children, for their part, seem equally fascinated by their small alien visitors, and talk back to them.

Snails in this part of the world are usually found at the seaside. Most of the underlying native rock is granite, which doesn’t provide sufficient calcium for them to grow their shells; by the sea, they take advantage of the crushed shell in the sandy soil, taken up by the plants that they eat, and they grow to the size of golf balls. It must be a precarious existence in some ways, being close to the sea. After all, how many of us have gone out with the salt pot at night to put an end to crawling lettuce lovers?

The warm, damp weather has spiced up the lives of the snails on the walls. Yesterday Mum caught several of them flagrantly mating, moistly entwined amid the foliage. Snails love-lives are complex; they are hermaphrodite, so each fertilises the other. In courtship - for snails do choose their partners - they fire small ‘arrows’ at each other, reeling each other in on thin white thread until their bodies are pressed together. D-I-Y Cupid? Or have they been watching old westerns on the TV, in the evenings? Whichever, I wait for the eggs to appear, and a new generation of snails to make their slow way to the window pane.


Sue said...

Certainly I prefer snails to slugs, but I am non too keen either. With such a small walled garden, they decimate my plants - beautiful lilies left as leafless wilting sticks. I bear a grudge and when Brian's furry tormenter, Steve,comes into the garden I use the snails as projectiles...getting rid of two pests in one go.

mad said...

:lol: flying snails!!!!

odd, mine don't even go for the hostas.... maybe I just have so much stuff crammed into the garden they gorge themselves on the other bits before they get to the sensitive stuff.

mackie said...

"What difference does a shell make?"


ALL the difference! slugs are immensely yucky. i have no problem at all with snails, though.

mad said...

But if you put a shell on a slug and then stood back and looked at it, it would still be a slug... it's weird how it works.

Mum is the same with butterflies and moths - hates moths, loves butterflies. She found a flutterything in the hall one night and went all 'augh! get rid of it!' then when we found it was a small tortoiseshell butterfly, she was all 'oh the poor thing, rescue it!'

Weird I tell you, weird.

Tats said...

That's an interesting prejudice that your Mum has 'cos some moths are every bit as pretty as butterflies. I mean, what about the silver y's, burnets, tigermoths, and hawk-moths? Have you taken her on one too many bat and moth nights maybe?!

Now I like slugs. I particularly like the big black ones and the big leopard slugs that live around our back stairs. If you pick one up (a great way to gross out mouthy teenage lads, by the way), you can watch it open and shut its breathing hole, and the weird gyration it does in between sucking itself into a blob and relaxing back into long and skinny mode. I don't find them any more gooey than snails - though obviously they don't have the attractive handle. I do also think snails "antlers", as the kids call them, look more innocent and wide-eyed somehow.

I also go for the stuffed to the gunnels garden, and seem to get away with most things, apart from delphiniums. I also make the beasties work for their keep. Any that I find get put in the compost heap and then I weigh the lid down - much easier to run than a wormery.

mad said...

Try to get Mum out on a moth night??? Managed it ONCE! Just can't get her past the chunkiness of moths (I call it prejudice - and after all, she gave birth to me, so...!!)

Nice tip about the teenagers by the way - shall remember that. Just need to steel myself to the subsequent slime removal...still, I can be nice to earwigs now so it shouldn't be that hard.

Anonymous said...

I find snails "Gary" on SpongeBob. ( just don't ask me to eat one)
Slugs, not so much, although they are the Oregon State animal or something. I sent someone a postcard with that on, was it one of you?

Sue, why do I think Brian is a lovely and normal name for a cat, but find "Steve" hilarious?!

We have a beautiful moth here I bet your Mom would like, Mad. It's a Tansy Moth and it is a gorgeous orangy red & black.
There are also so almost luminous pale green ones I don't know the name of. Both very delicate and not mothy.

mackie said...

i guess the thing with moths contrary to butterflies, is that butterflies rarely get into the habit of bumping against your face when wheeling around. i have no real problem with that, but it seems to freak people out.

Jude, if you ever send me a postcard with a slug on it, i will have to take measures. :db: