Tag Archives: History

The Ducks And The Slabs

Recently, gaming blog Kotaku had an interesting set of instructions to allow you to adapt videogame classics to be played in the playground. It reminded me of a game we used to play in the playground at my primary, Scott Lower School.

In the playground there were these three large concrete slabs stuck in the playground. They were flat on one side, probably with painted circles and targets for throwing balls at. The other side had a sloped section at 45 degrees, which stuck out about two feet from the bottom. They were known as “The Slabs”, and from what I can see, they’re not there any more.

In the gender-polarized world of the 5-year-old, girls would play on one side of the slabs, and boys on the other, although there may have been some crossover. I doubt it involved me if there was. The girls used to do handstands against the side with the sloped part, and the boys would play something altogether more … sinister.

To the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In they would sing “When the Ducks Go Marching In”, and walk past the slab in a row. A lone kid with a tennis ball or a small toy ball would would throw the ball at the row of kids. If a kid was hit, they would be out, and they would stand with the thrower. If they weren’t hit, they would run around the slab and back for another pass.

Eventually, one person was running past the slab, as a group of children cheered them on and sang, while the thrower desperately tried to hit them with the tennis ball.

I think the ducks thing was referring to those old carnival games where you fired pellets to knock metal ducks over, as simulated in the video arcade classic, Carnival. Hence the Kotaku link.

OK, not so sinister. Anyway, it was either that or Kiss Chase (yuck!) or worse, Knicker Chase! Double yuck! (At least until eight or nine years later…)

It Is Time For The Slug Anecdote

Back in the days of Intel 80486’s and Compact Disc Players, when I was at college in High Wycombe (pron. ‘Hig-gy Wik-KOM-by’) in the second, slightly more successful act of the farce that was my Higher Education, I shared a house in Upper Green Street with a couple of fellow students. This house was of the classic unhappy student type, that is, cold, damp, spartan, unfriendly, and the front door opened directly into the downstairs bedroom (hence it was always locked and bolted).

Now, High Wycombe is quite low, or at least, it’s a valley, and Upper Green Street is in the lowest bit. So all the water would come rushing down the hillside, and gather there. Specifically, it would gather in the mouldy mattress that (literally) lived in the shed.

These damp conditions gave rise to what can only be described as swarms of slugs. This is the story of my battle with the invertebrate invaders.

They were everywhere. A flimsy ill-fitting back door allowed them to swan in whenever they liked, and crawl all over the kitchen and lounge. I found trails around the skirting boards in the kitchen and lounge. I found trails inside the kitchen cupboards. After some dishes were left to drain overnight in the draining rack, I found a trail over them in the morning. On one memorable occasion I was making a cup of tea in the morning when I moved the tin opener, left out on the counter, to reveal a monstrous glistening 4-inch slug overlord, hiding from the feeble watery sunlight.

It became a bit of a half-funny joke in the house. Where would they be next? We played half-funny practical jokes on each other, by planting a blu-tack slug around the house, where you wouldn’t expect it: under door handles, on light switches, in the cutlery drawer and so on.

But after a bit I had to get rid of them. So I tried a few Options.

Option 1. Beer in Saucer

Drown ’em! I bought 4 cans of beer, placed a couple of saucers in strategic places, and filled them with beer. I then drank the remaining 3 3/4 cans of beer, and waited. A couple of days passed, and no slugs came forward to sacrifice themselves to Dionysian abandon. I began to think that Tesco Strong Lager was the wrong choice of beer.

Option 2. Salt on the Floor

“Put some salt on the floor, it’ll kill the slugs!”

No it won’t. The slugs will crawl around the salt, and the salt will draw all the moisture out of the air, leading to a thin layer of damp salt everywhere. Next!

Option 3. Salt on the Slugs

Pretty obvious, really. Killing the shiny fucks was clearly going to be the only way. So, I cornered a slug (careful, they leap) and administered the salt. Gloating, I watched the slug twist and turn, spewing slime and juice in an attempt to defend itself. To no avail. When the smoke cleared, and the screams died away, all that was left was a pool of slime with a shriveled invertebrate corpse in the middle. And therein lay a problem. Clearing up the mess was more revolting than the slug itself. So that led me to option 4.

Option 4. The Chamber of Salting

I would creep downstairs late at night, put on rubber gloves, quietly take an old food tin or similar container from the bin, and then switch on the light.The sudden glare would reveal the kitchen heaving with slugs, all suddenly making a break for safety. But I was quicker! I gathered as many slugs as I could, and put them in the tin. After a quick lecture on what was about to happen to them and why, I poured on the salt.

I had to stir them. The top ones were bearing the brunt, but the ones underneath were surviving. Not for long. Huh. Huh.

After the slimy slaughter, the tin was easily dropped back in the bin, with its grisly contents. I thought, “That should stop them. That should prevent them coming back, if there are any to come back.” Days passed.

They came back.

I guess something inside me snapped. This was the slug that broke the Matthews back.

Option 5. The Final (dis)Solution

This was basically a rerun of Option 4, except that instead of a old tin, I used a glass jar. I wanted the Chamber of Salting to be transparent to me, and to others, human or otherwise.

2am. Gloves. Jar. Light. Grab. Put in jar. Pour on salt. Stir. Screw on lid. And leave. On the floor.

As a warning.


I must have told people this tale, because for Christmas 1994 I received a pet slug, carved from wood, with magnet for attaching to fridge. Its box turned into a little cage, or hutch. Also a slug apron, which I still have. The thing is, even Option 5 didn’t work. They were back within the week. I only escaped when I left the house to move to Gordon Road, because the old landlord was a criminal.

But that’s another story…