Thursday, 31 May 2012

Serge Danot lied to me

I was an innocent child. There I was in my formative years – open to the power of suggestion.

And as I sat in front of the television, transfixed by the jolliness of The Magic Roundabout, I was being fed a whopping big lie.

Dogs might be daft and fun; children might be nice; rabbits might be a bit dopey but are generally fluffy and cute, and cows might be gentle.

But snails are NOT sweet and lovable. No matter how Danot – and later Eric Thompson – pretended otherwise.

They are good for only two things: as bird food, and being skewered out of their shells once cooked, and eaten, drenched in melted butter, garlic and parsley.

Okay, three things: take the shells of dead ones and crush them into soil to add calcium.

Last weekend, I replaced four pots of flowers that had been wrecked by an unholy alliance of apocalyptic weather and snails.

The British are perversely squeamish about the idea of eating snails. It is plain daft, given the traditional British predilection for whelks and winkles and cockles, but we baulk at the idea of eating Brian Snail.

That’s something the French do – along with frogs’ legs and horse. And that’s what makes us different from ‘them’.

Perhaps that was the point of the lie that Danot foisted on us?

Personally, I don’t mind eating them occasionally – and oh, I long for the chance to one day try that Catalan speciality, a cargolade: a vast banquet of barbequed snails, eaten communally at Easter and Pentecost.

But in any other sense, snails are now my sworn enemy. Indeed, that's another of Danot's deceits: how could gardener Mr McHenry have done anything but chase Brian the Snail until he'd got rid of him?

Never mind the flowers: this morning, I popped out into the garden to give a little extra water to my thirstiest plants – and found that my entire (small) crop of baby salad leaves had disappeared overnight.

Gone. The lot. As if they have never been there.

Closer inspection revealed a snail, attached to the inside of the planter, looking fat and content.

It went over the garden fence in an elegant arc, landing on the concrete of the carpark with a pleasing crack, where it will serve as a tasty snack for one of the local birds.

Seeking a quick resolution to this particular aspect of the urban garden warfare I have now become embroiled in, I asked for advice in a couple of the gardening shops on Columbia Road last week.

Given the combination of the cats and growing things for my own consumption, I don’t want to be looking at solutions that could make any possible negative impact on either of these.

The suggested answer was death by drowning in beer.

Take a pot; fill with beer (or full-fat cola); pop it near your plants and wait.

None of my local shops had the relevant pots – proper ones have lids on – so I ordered online. They have just arrived and are sitting on my desk, ready for action later.

The snails will slime their way up the side of the little pots and, in their greed, squeeze under the lids and then plop into sweet, sticky, yeasty cheap beer to die.

While waiting for the order, I improvised with a couple of shallow bowls I had. I found no drowned gastropods, but until this morning at least, I had found no more damaged plants or snails themselves either.

We shall soon find out what these little ‘snail inns’ achieve.

And in the meantime – ‘Boing’, said Zebedee.

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