Idle Eye 124 : The Slug in History

Q:   What did the slug say to the snail?
A:    Big Issue, sir?

I like slugs, me. Really. They don’t do themselves any favours, mind, but that’s probably the reason we have cemented a conspiratorial bond of sorts over the years. They are the turds of the undergrowth, loathed by pretty much everyone for being brown and in the way. Even your most bog-standard single-celled organism kicks off when they meet on a glistening pavement, and would probably win if they got into fisticuffs. I know, I know, it’s a tall order this one, but historically the slug has earned its spurs:

1911. The Pageant of London, in conjunction with the Festival of Empire, celebrated everything and anything that promoted the extraordinary advancement of the land. Highlight of which was the all-singing, all-dancing Tower of Slug, anchored in the Crystal Palace Gardens and seen by over 15,000,000 people over its lifetime. This magnificent structure was brown & got in the way for decades until it was destroyed in 1936. Because it was in the way.

In 1917, when resources were scarce & the Hun were menacingly close to Blighty, the good folk of Folkestone erected a massive seafront barricade constructed entirely of foraged molluscs, impenetrable by sea nor air. Believing this blubbery mountain to be a cunning decoy, the Germans shifted their assault to the piers of Brighton, where they were annihilated conclusively at the slot machines.

It was considered ‘good luck’ for top racing drivers to keep a brace of slugs in their top pockets throughout the course of the Circuit de Monaco from 1909 until the controversy of 1966, when the first four finishers were disqualified for substitution with heavy slices of pork luncheon meat, illegal at the time.

Muhammad Ali (or Cassius Clay) enjoyed a bathtub filled to the brim with slugs local to the East Grinstead area throughout his most potent years. It is notable that, just before his classic bout with Joe Frazier in Manila 1975, he chose to replace British slugs with those hand-picked from his home town of Louisville, Kentucky USA.

In July 2007, when smoking was tentatively banned throughout the UK in all enclosed work spaces and a couple of years before the cynical advent of vaping, the fashionable young people of Hoxton, London tried their hands at ‘sliming’. Popular at illegal raves and office parties, this required the slimer to balance the faux-fag at the fulcrum of two fingers whilst talking utter shite to anyone in the vicinity. Preferably with a beard.

And that’s just scratching the surface. If you want the real dirt, go online: There’s acres of info on the slug in history should you care to seek it out. I am merely the catalyst, the weaver if you will, my sole purpose being to prevent the denigration of our upstanding slimy pals. Until they get in the way.

Idle Eye 95 : The Belly of the Ancients

In my limited experience, there is nothing more irritating than reading about someone having a better time than you in a hot country. Every cocktail captured on a smartphone through which the raking light of sunset passes is enough to have you strapping on a kalashnikov, running amok through the streets of your town and spewing bullets about until no man is left standing. Of course it is. And the pay-off should legitimately come from the flipside, when errant travellers cheques, unbuilt hotels and appalling Germans beating everyone to the towels enable the reader to bask in the warm glow of Schadenfreude. Sadly, in these unapologetically self-aggrandising times, this rarely happens and so in the interests of international relations, responsible journalism and the underdog, I must do my bit. Yesterday, I got the squits.

At first, a distant rumble. The anaemic beating of gastric drums and of no great consequence. Livingstone and Carter surely suffered so, and without the luxury of efficient modern plumbing. I shall ride this one out and emerge triumphant in my stoicism, I smugly noted to self. But then the stomach cramps, violently pneumatic and ever-increasing, hinted urgently at a broad spectrum cure which I resisted with every fibre of my Britishness, only to be vanquished on the sands of need as the brevity of my stay demanded something suitably robust.

Enter Antinal. This Egyptian überpill has been doing the rounds since the time of the ancients, nuking European intestinal complaints into oblivion from the stronghold of his little yellow box. He is the Winston Wolfe of antibiotics: When the contract is made, you just take a back seat and let him get on with it. No introductions, no idle chit-chat, no nonsense. And you certainly do not question his methodology, not that you can as it’s all in Arabic. Endearingly, when he’s done (approx 48 hours later), he tidies up after himself and leaves without a trace. My superhero.

Marvel Comics, you are so missing a trick here. Now that you’ve used up pretty much every insect, heavy metal and superlative on your stable of lifesavers, why not think outside the box a little? Imagine the illicit thrill following a timely rescue from a half Anubis, half suppository-esque creature, whisking you away from untold embarrassment to the sublime comfort of the en-suite in less time than it takes to apologise for the grumbling. You can have that one…

Anyway, I’m through it now and back on terra firma. Thanks for asking. And yes, I know I’ve spent more than enough time on terra lavitoria but you have my word – Enough is enough. I was briefly considering a post about the birds of the Nile Valley, which would have been informative, illuminating and, no doubt, slightly amusing. But it went the way of all things that dare to challenge the might of the small room and the general tone of this blog: Down the pan.