School holidays are upon us, which means it’s time for things like board games, and looking after other people’s pets.
This week our house guests are two African snails – each the size of your average steam iron – and our anxiety has been over keeping them warm enough. They like to be kept between 20 and 22˚C, and in our Victorian terrace that’s a tall order, even with the heating on. The Victorians seem to have had an aversion to letting light into the house, and also a passion for sash windows that give each and every room a distinctly al fresco feel.
Our home is great – temperature-wise – on those rare days when it heats up to 30˚C or higher outside, whereupon its cave-like qualities become a real bonus. But for an African snail enjoying a sojourn in April, I imagine it’s the pits.
The snails took up residence in a tank in my elder daughter’s bedroom, but when the temperature in there sank to 15˚C (with the central heating firing away) we realised something would have to be done. One of the snails, Sally, had buried herself in the soil and I wasn’t at all sure she was going to survive the experience.
We banked the tank with hot water bottles and waited anxiously to see what would happen. The other snail, Libya, was still moving, and applied herself to the wall of the tank next to one of the bottles with great enthusiasm, but Sally remained worryingly dormant.
I got to wondering whether we might need to text the mother of the snail-owning friend.
Then at last the breakthrough moment came. The loo was the place to put them. It is, after all, the smallest room in the house, and therefore easier to keep warm, and it’s one of the few places where the window isn’t a sash.
Huge relief. The result is two happy snails – Sally is still alive after all and is now touring the tank again. And, when one’s in there with them, there’s something quite companionable about hearing them munching away on their cuttlefish bones…