Archives for the month of: August, 2012

People say it’s a bad year for slugs. Even here in the cloud forest where it’s always bad, Chloe had to dig up all her new rhubarb to take them out of the roots.

I picked a hundred the other night, walking back from the toilet with a torch. I was hurling them across the stream but after a dozen or so there was so much slime they stuck to my fingers and got caught in the trees. A wad of tissue and two jugs of soapy scrubbing wasn’t enough, and Rob had to boil up more water to free me from ectoplasm.

Yoyo, Ruis and Mo were round one morning, building cork boats on the veranda. Hearing a kerfuffle, we found them transfixed by a ghastly display. An extreme sport slug was hanging from the roof on a four foot bungee of slime, twirl cavorting an extraordinary eye level dance. In the end it was me that got to snip the slime (he was hanging right in front of the door) and Ruis who caught the dancer on a stone and took him to safety up the field. The bungee snapped straight back, and is still coiled like a worm cast on the roof.

Joe and Hazel had to call out the dishwasher maintenance man. He was baffled by a bit of menchanism that normally never failed, and had to disassemble the machine. The culprit was a dessicated slug, slither jammed into the works.


My bike was squeaking but it was only the wheel – the wood mouse in the panniers was sitting quiet among the washing. He got his freedom on the brackeny hill behind the laundrette – you have to take them at least two miles -and shot out the trap like pachinko.

The first mouse I didn’t find till noon on a day so hot the cheese had melted, so I just walked him across the stream for some coolth. Two hours later while hoeing the leeks I saw him racing back crazy through the raspberries – I knew it was him from his russety stripes – I guess he found the bridge.

Two nights later we got woken again by a gnawing in the cupboard. This one I took fifteen miles by bus to be a university campus mouse.

His friends are sill having a grand old time without him in the cupboard. I wouldn’t mind but they’ve eaten all the sponge scourers.

I never thought about the words ‘big smoke’ till I read about George Orwell’s London. I go there sometimes, and get black snot sneezes on the underground.

I was there on Saturday for Peter Carty’s travel writing workshop. Every minute was carefully planned to propel us into the craft. Our lunch time challenge was to write about Fitzrovia, so croissant in hand, I tackled telecom tower.

The big man at reception burst into a belly laugh when I asked him what happened inside. “Well I think, you know, they probably just do BT things!” I wondered if I could go up, but he said it was just for staff.

It was built in the ’60’s from glass like old pebbles and I couldn’t look at it without imagining a Russian spy scaling the walls – there’s something communist about the aerials.

No-one much else seemed to know about it either. The man in Halifax wasn’t sure what it was for but helpfully pointed it out from the pavement. The students didn’t know and hadn’t wondered.

But two BT staff were having a smoke on the corner. They’d been up so often setting up conferences they’d forgotten they used to be impressed by it too. “The best thing about it” says the younger one “is that it’s not like the other ones, the shard ‘n that, it’s the only big one round here. On a really clear day you can see the Dartmouth crossing from up there.” I like to think about that.

It was just starting to dusken at the end of a damply green day. We were lying in the bath, lazily watching the woodsmoke and thrips swirling round the apple tree, occasionally reaching out for a jug of cold water from the bucket.

Other than our slooshings, the stream was all we could hear. I wondered how to describe it’s noise which was neither tinkle nor tumble, but something more hurried and brown.

With his head between the taps and his eyes closed, Rob thought it might be a battallion of millipedes marching in stillettoes, or the needle of an old record player limping round the disc in the dust. Or perhaps, a thousand girls going by in foil skirts.

When the heat got too much for our bones we walked woozy to the caravan across the garden, with unlaced boots and steaming skin. We poured drinks and wound up the radio to tune into the hundred metre final – we can only get Radio 5 from the spice jar shelf.

There was excitement in the stadium and Usain Bolt whizz-crackled in and out of reception, a rhythmic beat in the night.

‘If you look very carefully you can see my curly poo’ says Freya on a sleepover, peering into the toilet. Of all my nieces and nephews, she is the most interested in the toilet and needs a wee several times an hour. She particularly likes to sprinkle in the sawdust with the care of an artisan baker.

I rarely peer into the toilet but when I do I can’t see much. It’s been two years and there’s still no sign it will need emptying any time soon. It was built by Tom, who dug mighty depths in the rain.

Half of one wall is a window looking out at the trees across the stream. Mark took a photo of the view and Timmy has a copy in his bathroom, presumably because I sent him a Christmas card of my toilet in the snow. There are flowers and bracken on the roof and jasmine growing up the walls. 

Inside is a shelf for my tent, and hooks for string and secateurs. Under the scythe is a framed print of the Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury, a gift which was too big for my caravan. So now when I’m having a wee, I feel like the Nag’s Head is just down the hill.