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Surfing for Snails

Surfing for Snails

Sydney is wet and cold, and consequently, I am feeling aggrieved. Had I wanted to spend my days dressed in wellies and a raincoat, I would have stayed put in the U.K. However, I should count my blessings as we have just got back from a week’s holiday in a beach house that we rented with friends from the U.K. In my experience, joint family beach holidays work wonderfully well when you get the weather; on the flip side, the thought of a week trapped in a strange house in the pouring rain with a group of teenagers makes me feel physically weak—there after all being a finite number of times you can play Sardines or Murder in the Dark before the murdering starts to happen for real. The Gods were smiling on this particular occasion and we had a fabulous time, with the highlight of the week being surfing lessons for everyone. I would love to say that I stood up on the board, but in the interests of truth I would have to say the most I achieved was a crouch, unlike the Drama Queens who sickeningly took to the whole thing in minutes and were cruising into the beach in true beach-babe style. But maybe there’s an opening for a “Crouching Tiger Mother” stance in the litanies of surfing style, vanity ensures no photos are going to be published of this one however.

I have just had one of those profoundly unsatisfactory showers where if you live in a house like ours with what could be kindly called eccentric plumbing, the parental shower is the last place hot water gets to, once it has meandered its way past the Drama Queens’ bathroom where, naturally, most of it is siphoned off, the laundry, and the kitchen tap. Should anyone use the hot water tap in any of those places my shower immediately goes stone cold and not being a manly type who revels in bracing showers, I go ballistic. Conversations with plumbers on the topic have involved lots of teeth sucking on their part and blanching on mine when they name their solution and a figure to go with it and I revert back to the shout method of restarting the water. To add insult to injury on the shower front as I hopped around under the icy blast I managed to drop a full bottle of shampoo on my big toe—thus ensuring I will almost certainly develop yet another old lady ailment and be condemned to carpet slippers for the rest of the week.

Cold showers aside my latest passion is snails. I have just read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, which is a gem of a book. The author, who was bed bound, was given a plot plant plus accompanying snail by one of her visitors, which I suppose beats the conventional grapes and chocolates on the hospital present giving front. Increasingly fascinated by the snail that was sharing her hospital space, Bailey began researching the species and details her observations and findings through the book. I like to think I have fairly eclectic tastes in reading material but nonfiction snail observations wouldn’t have been top of my list that just goes to show that boundaries are there to be pushed. I read the book as part of the book group that our fabulous local bookshop Pages & Pages runs. In a stroke of genius they had imported a snail expert from Queensland to talk to the group and he managed to have his predominantly female audience completely spellbound for a good half hour, particularly when he got to the mating habits of snails, which predictably involve lashings of slime or as it is more correctly known amongst us snail experts, mucus. As a result of all this snail exposure I am on the brink of becoming a snail bore—did you know there are over 2,000 varieties of Australian land-based snails? Or that there is a snail variant called a semi-slug that resembles a snail that has run out of money on a home renovation project and has had to settle for a home that is blatantly inadequate for the task.  

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