Monday, September 10, 2007

Achatina Fulica

I got back from town on Saturday morning to a parcel, shoved by a helpful postie through the dog-flap, it being too large to fit through the letterbox. I was surprised and pleased - normally if they can't deliver something, the postmen round here take it back to Aberystwyth and demand that you come and get it in person. Since this is a minimum of an hour's round trip, it's a bit of a pain, especially if you've just been in town anyway.

But this time the parcel was delivered, and not eaten by the dogs. The return address identified it as coming from my little brother, and inside was a birthday card and a wrapped present.

Now I was a little surprised to be receiving a birthday present from my little brother, since my birthday was almost two months ago and he had presented me with a very nice bottle of whisky (and a slightly less nice, pink fur-edged birthday card) at the time. OK, so between the two of us and my other siblings we managed to drink the bottle of whisky in a couple of evenings up in the far north of Sutherland, but as far as I was concerned Birthday requirements had been fulfilled.

Duncan, however, had other ideas. Hence the parcel, which on further investigation turned out to contain these:

spot the shy one hiding under the lettuce on the left

Apparently these are Giant African Land Snails, although at the moment they're only giant if you yourself are very, very small. About an inch long, there are a pair of them, though the first thing one did on being released from its transport margarine tub was to bury itself in the compost, and it hasn't moved since. The other one had a bit of an explore, obviously decided there wasn't much to see, and also started to bury itself. So far, so fascinating.

There is a history to this kind strange generosity. Many, many years ago, my little brother gave me a pair of gerbils for Christmas. I'm not really much of a small animal person, but I'd been charged with the care of these creatures, so I did my best. They were excellent for getting rid of unwanted junk mail and bills - they could shred a telephone directory in a week - but they also had an awkward habit of reproducing. I tried separating the girls and boys, but sexing hamsters is not a precise science, so pregnancies inevitably ensued. For a while I made enough money to pay for food for them by selling the babies (something you get into trouble for with human children, more's the pity), but gradually attrition whittled away their numbers.

Then we looked after a friend's pet rat for a week. Mr Rat, for that was his name, was justifiably fascinated by the gerbils, and spent most of his week's stay trying to get into their cage. Finally, on the eve of his leaving, he succeeded - no mean feat since the cage was designed to prevent gerbils from escaping and he only had an hour or so each day in which to roam about the room.

Only one gerbil survived the slaughter, and it escaped some weeks later having gnawed a small hole through the bottom of its cage. I like to think that it's still alive to this day, King Gerbil of the underfloor country, but since it's twelve years since I moved out of Aberdeen, chances are it's little more than gerbil dust now.

So now, all these years later, I have snails. I thought I'd call the one that buried itself 'Stotious', but I have no idea what to call the other one.

Any ideas?

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Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

How about 'Wardrobe'?

What? It's a good name for a snail.

September 10, 2007 4:32 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Wardrobe works for me. So there we have it, Wardrobe and Stotious.

Stotious still hasn't moved, btw.

September 11, 2007 11:14 am  
Anonymous Thingy said...

It wasn't Mr. Rat, it was Mrs. Nins (she had nins up to her chins).

September 12, 2007 9:19 am  
Blogger JamesO said...

You're right, you know. It was Mrs Nins. How could I forget?

Damn, those years of booze have played havoc with my memory.

September 12, 2007 9:35 am  
Anonymous Mrs. Bob said...

I reckon it's "Stocious".

September 12, 2007 6:42 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Unless you're pronouncing it stoat-ee-us, of course.

September 12, 2007 6:55 pm  

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