My flat resembles one of those crazy bric-a-brac shops you occasionally drive past and think to yourself “I’ll stop and look in that place next time I’m going this way.” Books and icons my dad bought next to huge great still lifes and weird cabinets and card tables. Smoke damaged busts and my mother’s collection of blue and whites and horrible figurines and Dolls and naval bits and bobs.

A lot of it is going to get slung into the boot and driven to the auctioneers on Monday. Not the truly personal things, but a lot of it. I’ll have a little Yorkshire adventure with Lou into the bargain. “Why are you going all the way to Yorkshire for the auctioneer?” asks my agent. Two reasons. 1: Tennant’s is bloody marvelous – a family business, flying at the top of their game right now, smart and friendly and grounded. 2: I love Yorkshire. Bloody love it. Since Sprite wound up I haven’t had the excuse to connect with God’s Own Country so much. And I want to. So I will. And I get to share it with Lou and hopefully see some friends into the bargain.

Meanwhile today instead of loading the car with boxes and trying to clean soot from things of beauty like I should have been, I went visiting.

I had a Friday evening with an old dear friend. She showed me her snails.

During The Tempest in lockdown I asked the audience to show me their pets. I was shown lots of cats and dogs, a hamster, some fluffy toy animals and one bald man. Nobody showed me snails and now I’m disappointed.

Achatina Fulica – The Giant African Land Snail.

They sit on damp peat. There are two of them. The big one is a bully. The small one is oppressed but horny. We’ve all seen that dynamic in our friendship groups. It seems toxic relationships carry through to gastropods, despite them being pretty simple in design. “Stomach-foots” They eat. They move. They poo. And they bang. Like so many of us during lockdown.

While I watch, the big one tries to steal the small ones lettuce and the small one reacts by hopefully obtruding some kind of bizarre proboscis and waving it around. “I think they might be about to have snail sex. It’s disgusting,” is my friend’s assessment of the situation. She puts the lid on and consigns them to the dark from whence they came. But not before googling replacement peat. It’s a bit too damp in there.

They aren’t actually her snails, so she has to look after them extra specially. I promise her a cuttlefish as I grabbed a bunch off the beach last time I was in Jersey. Great for calcium, apparently.

It’s a school thing. She’s got a kid who likes to attack me with Lego, although he’s not home.

The snails are about keeping things alive. Teaching kids to be responsible, on paper. The kid takes the snails home for a week or so, the parents plus kid stop the things from dying, the things are pretty robust, live a good five or six years, and make matters easier by being adept at stopping themselves from dying. They only need to last a week or two before the kid comes proudly back with two living beings and everybody tells them how well they did and their name goes up on the list on the wall with dates and a gold star or whatever. It’s all very American.

They live too long, in my opinion. Give kids a hamster or a goldfish or something else with a short lifespan. The most helpful lesson is the inevitability of death.

This is why I’m not a teacher.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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