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…