Rabbits beware – this could be the first Juan

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, October 12, 2012 - 11:15


Rabbits beware – this could be the first Juan

The monster slug Keith saw on his walk.

THIS ISLAND LIFE I DON'T know what we’ve done to upset the foreigners but every now and then they have an annoying tendency to send us their pestilence and plagues.

Spain, Asia and Hong Kong have successfully exported their flu viruses to these shores over the years, the Dutch single-handedly destroyed the British elm tree and, only this week, the Portuguese attempted yet another invasion with their men o’ war.

Then there are those other equally unwelcome imports, such as Swiss cheese, Moroccan beer, American chocolate and Polish vodka, which have all managed to breach our coastal defences.

But we are warned the worst is yet to come — so brace yourselves for the arrival of the Spanish slug.

According to press reports, this creature can reach up to 15cms in length (that’s about six inches in old money) and likes to dine out on dead rabbits and dogs’ mess.

It’s when they start eating live rabbits we really have to worry but, in the meantime, these monsters are threatening to wipe out our little local gastropods.

The Spanish slugs are believed to be virtually indestructible. Indeed, they’re so tough they probably don’t have to be immunised against their own flu.

Readers reluctant to learn more about the sex lives of slugs, and risk acquiring a mental image which will remain with them for days, are advised to avoid the next few paragraphs.

Spanish slugs are thought to have arrived here in packs of imported salad products and not only do they have their wicked way with the locals, they also breed among themselves and (being hermaphrodites) with themselves.

It’s a positive slug orgy and I think I may have already encountered some of their progeny during my daily walk with the dogs.

One particular downs’ path has turned into a bit of a steeplechase, with slugs so fat lolling across the grass you have to jump over them to avoid being tripped up.

I took this photograph of one but because these creatures have a sixth sluggish sense and constrict immediately they sense danger, it doesn’t do justice to its actual dimensions.

Even the dogs give them a wide berth — and I’m beginning to fear for the welfare of the diminishing numbers of thrushes, hedgehogs and toads, for which slugs have traditionally provided a feast of Jamie Oliverian proportions.

Has nature turned on itself? Have the mutants begun eating their predators? Are we on the verge of a gastropod apocalypse?

Where’s Dr Colin Pope when you need him, the Island’s resident authority on all matters botanical and biological?

He’s a good mate of Jimmy Winter’s and every year the two of them traipse across the Scottish highlands studying the local flora and fauna.

"It’s like a personal lecture tour," Jimmy told me, "because there’s nothing Colin doesn’t know about plants.

"I remember spotting a particularly attractive specimen and he offered me the opportunity to look at it through his magnifying glass.

"I did so but it didn’t seem to become any clearer. Then I realised there was no glass in the thing.

"Colin said he had been using it for months and just thought it was not a particularly good one."

Boffins, eh?

Come on Colin, get yourself up to Arreton Down and let me know if the Spanish super-slugs have already established a beach-head.

God’s Own Acre – via the world

A COUPLE of months ago, when the silly season for newspapers was at its height, people were having a discussion in the letters’ column of this newspaper about whether the proper abbreviation for the Isle of Wight was IoW, IOW or IW.

I didn’t involve myself in the wrangling because it struck me as one of those subjects which made you want to visit those concerned and inquire whether they had the means (or inclination) to get out more.

The only variation on the theme not given serious consideration was the best one of all — iOw.

It’s a perfect onomableva — a glorious O standing proud in a sea of insignificant letters.

You may, by now, be getting the impression I did not take the discussion very seriously and it reminded me of a fate which befell one of my friends from the mainland some years ago.

He thought he would be tremendously clever and, instead of a postal code, he ended the address on an envelope he sent me by writing the words 'God’s Own Acre’ — a description of the Island I always used when working over there.

He had made the initial letter of all three words much bigger than the others, coloured them red and underlined them heavily.

A few weeks later he was a little embarrassed to have it returned to him by a helpful postal clerk in Goa.

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