After the Edinburgh Fringe finished, I drove back to London from Edinburgh on Monday night – Well, actually the early hours of Tuesday morning. My eternally-un-named friend was looking after my house while I was away.
When I phoned her at 2.00am on Tuesday morning, there was initially no reply. This was because she was out in my back garden with a torch and a two twigs. She had looked out into the garden from my back bedroom and there, illuminated in the light from my kitchen below was what she described as a scene of horror.
“When I went down, it was about six inches long!” she said, still horrified by the memory.
She told me the full details yesterday.
“Hold on, hold on,” I said, scrabbling to turn on my iPhone’s audio recorder, “The slugs are getting bigger and now they’ve developed an ability to re-grow their heads?”
“They always had this ability,” she replied. “I just read about it on Google.”
“And they’re getting bigger?” I said. “Why are they getting bigger?”
“Because they’re eating a lot,” she said “and it’s been raining a lot.”
“They’re drinking a lot of water and they’re bloated with rain?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “they’re eating all the little plants.”
“And you said something about squidginess,” I prompted.
“No, no,” she said. “No more! Another subject. Let’s find something jollier.”
“You could be part of my increasingly prestigious blog,” I said. “Just the sqidgy reference. Give me the squidgy.”
“Well,” she relented, “I was a bit tired with putting boiling water on them, you know, to kill them. And then you have to drain off the boiled water and then I was adding salt and washing powder, because they seem to be able to come alive again even after all these terrible things. You find one that’s crawled out of the pan before dying.”
“Crawled out of the pan?” I said, surprised. “The pan?”
“Or a bird’s come along,” she continued, ignoring me, “and tried to lift it out and decided they didn’t like the flavour of washing up liquid or salt.”
“Pan?” I repeated.
“It turns out that copper,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “is really good for killing black mould. So we’ve now got to look for a lot of copper things on eBay.”
“Is black mould relevant to the slugs?” I asked.
“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Well, it is slightly. There was a point where the grossness of everything and the looking round… I did try to spread coffee over one area at one point, because they don’t like coffee.”
“Slugs don’t?” I asked.
“The egg shells have worked a treat,” she continued, cheering up. “They can’t climb over egg shells. It’s too jagged. Egg shells are very sharp. You can cut things with egg shells.”
“I’m surprised chickens can get out of them,” I said.
“Anyway…” my eternally-un-named friend said, “there came a point where I couldn’t be bothered putting them in the water. I thought I’ll just squidge them to death… because I’m not actually touching them… So the end of a plank or something… bashing them and trying to rub them… And they ended up in little pieces, which I left there… Only to return a day or so later and it was like seeing half a thumb lying there, which had suddenly grown a head.”
“It was gross!” she said, and started laughing uncontrollably.
“The pan,” I eventually interrupted. “There was a reference to a pan.”
“Well,” she said, “the pan is what I’ve been putting them in, with the boiling water.”
“Out the back door?” I asked, with visions of slugs being cooked in the frying pan on my cooker.
“Well,” she explained, “I gave up with the salt and washing up liquid. It was costing a fortune.”
“Do you pick them up with tweezers?” I asked.
“Sometimes I pick them up with sticks,” she explained. “You know how I’ve been eating with chopsticks a lot? I’ve been getting a bit more dextrous.”
“You’ve been using my chopsticks from Beijing?” I asked, slightly worried.
“No,” she reassured me, “I’ve been using twigs like chopsticks, only it’s a bit tricky.”
“Surely slugs are slimy and slide off?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “you pincer them between the two sticks and lift them up. Do you remember nothing of chopstick technique?”
“And you have a pan of boiling hot water out the back door?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “I stick them in an empty, dry, copper pan and then I just pour the… I’m usually making myself a cup of tea, wander out into the back garden… See one… Oh blimey! There’s a slug!… Next thing you know, I’m having to go into full operational mode and pour my boiled water which was going to make my cup of tea over a slug instead. By the time I’ve finished the whole awful procedure, I have had no tea and wander round the garden to see if there’s any other things out there. The biggest drag of it all is when you have to pour off the boiled water so you can tip the little bodies into the green bin. It’s all geechy and slimy and they all look quite gross.”
“How many have you killed in the four weeks I’ve been away?” I asked.
“Maybe thirty,” she told me.
“That’s around one a day,” I said. “Can’t we eat them?”
“You eat them,” she replied. “in a frying pan of your choice. I’m not going to have anything to do with them.”
“You can probably make a fortune selling them to some foreign restaurant,” I suggested. “They’re probably a delicacy in Norway or Burundi or Sarawak or somewhere.”
“I’m sure you’ll love them,” my eternally-un-named friend said.
“I’m still not clear about the washing powder,” I prompted.
But then she changed the subject. Intentionally. Successfully.