It is time to put the garden to bed. The tomatoes are in. The kitchen drawers are full of them, glistening green with a banana sat on top, to ripen in the darkness. I’ll make more tomato sauce for the freezer, as soon as they are done. I used to make green tomato chutney, the smell of boiling vinegar driving the kids away screaming, but this year I can’t be arsed.
With the leaving home of kids, the baking, the jam making, the chutney – not that they ate that anyway – but these things seem to fall away. I no longer make bread every few days. I no longer bake for afternoon tea once a week. I feel free of the burden of it- especially the boiling vinegar, though sometimes miss the cake.
This year, with covid still lurking long into summer, I have not planted winter crops. No leeks or purple sprouting, no kale. The Veg beds are littered with dying down tomato plants. The slugs finish off what is left.
Normally I’m still out there, with a torch, wearing my worn-out Crocs, scooping up slugs and snails into an empty flower pot and tipping them in the field out the back.
Some nights, tempted by the last of the warmth I have dared out barefooted, squealing in the darkness when I feel the squish of slug in between my toes. I don’t want to kill them. That’s why I collect them up, muttering curses and swears as I struggle to manoeuvre the trowel and the pot and my torch.
One year I collected up all the little beasts, the plant pot brimming with slugs and snails. Something distracted me, some child probably. Some row or incident, no doubt involving glue or glitter or a possible war crime. Whatever, I left the pot of slugs and snails on the kitchen table, shouting my husband to take them out down the field.
I forgot about them – the slugs and snails – got on with my life until I came downstairs at 3 am, disturbed no doubt by snoring. My kitchen looked like a horror movie. The slug collecting pot was still there, sat on the kitchen table. It was, however, empty. The 50odd molluscs had escaped. They were everywhere. On the tiles, on the sides, gliding up the fridge, sliding down into the sink. The pans, hanging above the cooker contained at least three snails. I’ve no idea how they got there. They must have climbed up to the ceiling and lowered themselves down, dare-devil snails, just showing off. I only wanted a chamomile tea. Two slugs sat there on the kettle, having a laugh.
Furious I collected up the abandoned beasts, muttering about what I would say, chuntering about what I would do. I want to say I put them in my husband’s bed or tipped them into his shoes. Maybe I could have put them on his sleeping head, or in his snoring mouth.
I think I just chucked them in the front garden, in the end. Free to munch away. It was the middle of the night anyway, too late for dark deeds, and I wanted back to my bed.
We had snail trails all over the house for months. You could hear them munching in the dead of night.
There are no slugs in the drawers with my tomatoes. I checked all the houseplants for invaders, bringing them back in after their summer in the sun. We are free of pests.
Except for the husband. He’s still here, ignoring my suggestions to go off for a walk down the fields at the back, while I think about baking a cake.