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  • Writer's pictureSerge Cantsper


Updated: 5 days ago

Magic Graffi helping Jeep the Tortoise

Hello and welcome to my post-Easter holidays blog.


I don’t know what the weather’s been like with you over the past several weeks, but here it's rained off and on for days and days . . . and days. So much so that I've got really fed-up with not seeing the sun and so have been sleeping-in rather later than usual in the mornings.


Anyway, yesterday morning, when I opened my eyes, all of a sudden there was good news. The sun had poked its nose out, probably thinking about getting ready for the forthcoming eclipse. And, in support, this morning started out with more good news. Not only was the sun shining brightly, but also, when I went downstairs for my brekky, I found myself face to face with a fun surprise . . . Two of my best mates – Samson and Jeep – were sitting together on the lawn just outside our glass kitchen door.


However, after Florence opened the door a few moments later, the joy of seeing them faded a bit. Why? Because I noticed that Jeep, who, as you will see from the illustration, is a three-legged tortoise with wheels, was looking decidedly uncomfortable. And Samson – who’s a really large, urban cat – was licking his lips as if he’d got a seriously nasty taste in his mouth.


Studying them carefully, I had the feeling that there was bad news around the corner. But, as it turned out, I’d got this wrong, because the bad news wasn’t around the corner at all. In fact, it was only when I ask the two of them what the problem was that I discovered that the bad news was to be found just behind them. Right there in the garden, which was absolutely stuffed with pesky snails. A rout of them in fact! (In case, like me, you didn't already know the word ‘rout’, in this context it means a mass of snails. And what was particularly puzzling to me was, how was it possible for so many snails to have invaded our garden in such a short space of time, meaning just overnight?

They were, everywhere: hidden away in the grass, creeping around in the flower beds and hedges, and even climbing way up to the tops of our fruit trees to eat their flowers; not to mention, clinging precariously between sharp thorns on many of the rose bushes. As soon as I started talking to Jeep, I learnt that during the night, while he was fast asleep, a number of the snails had crept up into his shell to join him. This was something he'd never experienced before, and it was their rough-shelled presence, rubbing on his skin, that was the reason for the decidedly uncomfortable look on his face.


As for Samson, I learnt from him that as he was crossing our lawn a short while ago, he ended up getting several snails caught up in his thick, furry trousers. And, as soon as he realised this, he sat down so as to use his paws and claws, to remove the clinging pests as quickly as he could. However, once he’d done this, he did what is completely instinctive to us cats, which was, slowly and systematically, to lick his fur back into place. Well, in doing so, poor Samson got loads of what we call, snail-trail gunk, stuck in his mouth. This is really thick, slimy stuff which tastes simply disgusting. Think of revolting, gunky gum!


Seeing my two friends suffering made my brain move into ‘solutions’ mode: this ranging from simple solutions, to serious solutions. The simple one was to help sort out their immediate problems; while the serious one was working out how to get rid of the snails as soon as possible. With all of this in mind, immediately I invited Samson into our house and offered him my bowl of yummy milk. The idea here being to enable him get rid of the terrible taste in his mouth. Then, so as to help Jeep, I asked him to walk out onto the lawn, saying that I'd follow him. (By doing this, I hoped to avoid any problems with the snails, myself, which I'm happy to tell you was the case.)


Once Jeep and I were on the grass together, he asked me to use my paws to reach inside his shell and remove the gastropods. (In passing, perhaps you don't know that the word gastropod is a technical term for a snail? It sounds like a nasty tummy bug, or something, doesn't it?) Anyway, the problem was that, because Jeep’s shell was so close to the ground, the angle was all wrong for me to be able to put my paws inside it. So, solving this problem forced me to rummage around in the magic side of imagination, to find a really special solution. (I think you humans call this thinking out of the box, whatever that means, because I don’t often see you rummaging around in boxes.)


Then, out of the blue - this being the colour that signals the activation of my magic, you'll remember - I had a really cool idea . . . To turn Jeep over onto his back, so that I could then reach inside him easily and remove the snails. (Sounds good, doesn’t it, but, to be honest, the reality was quite something else. For a start, how many upside-down tortoises have you ever seen in your life?)


After considerable reflection, I realised that the only way I could achieve this objective was by using a clever but complicated, two-stage solution. First of all, I'd have to raise Jeep up off the ground, using levitation. Then I'd follow this up with an ingenious, inversion manoeuvre. (It sounds complicated, doesn't it, and as you can imagine, this required some truly EPIC magic. Remember? EPIC stands for Energy Powered Intense Concentration.)

In preparation, I explained to Jeep that I had a solution for removing the snails, telling him that, in order to succeed, I needed him to stay perfectly still and meditate for a while, imagining that he was floating in the air. This he did, and soon he was snoring peacefully as if floating happily on a cloud. After centring my own energies at the same time, I spent a few minutes in a state of deep concentration. As a result, my tail kinked, which instantly activated my magic. This resulted in my whiskers tingling, as well as my tail twitching, which turned a sort of lightening blue, while emitting starry flashes.

Fully energized, I then waved my tail several times backwards and forwards over the top of Jeep’s shell and, as the energy built up between us, gradually he started to rise up off the lawn. (Think of him being lifted by a drone.) Once he was properly airborne, I positioned my tail underneath him, moving it along the lefthand side of his shell. The magic from this movement made him roll over in the air slowly, until he was fully on his back. Once done, I moved my tail away from his side and waved it above him again, and, supported by this special, magnetic-type energy, Jeep began to descend slowly, until he had a soft but slightly wobbly landing, ending fully upside down on the grass. (Can you imagine how intense my concentration had to be to keep a large tortoise safely inverted in the air for quite a few minutes?)


‘Are you alright, Jeep?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he replied with a smile on his face. 'And ‘I've had a good kip too. But I have to admit that it feels really rather odd lying on my back and wiggling my head, legs and tail around freely.’ Even my wheels are now wondering what to do!

‘Yes, I’m sure,’ I replied, giving him a wink. ‘So, are you happy if I now try to remove the snails?’

‘Of course,’ he answered, nodding his head. 'I can't wait.'


But, to my astonishment, as soon as I put my paws inside Jeep, he got the most terrible giggles. Not only did this make me laugh too – it’s quite something to watch a large tortoise rolling around on its back giggling - but, just as Samson came back outdoors, licking his whiskers and looking much happier after the milk, I had a brilliant idea.


‘Samson,’ I said, ‘Please will you go and ask Honky Donk, who I heard honking in the field early this morning, to take you down the road on his back to the bakery. I want you to bring us back a couple of big bags of dried eggshells. In case you don't know, the baker puts them aside every year after the Easter cooking rush, and stores them as future garden fertiliser for clients. I’ll tell you more when you both get back.’

‘No problem,’ he replied, and after a huge stretch, off he padded, not over the lawn this time, but through the house and out onto the road. Like this he was sure to avoid any possible run-ins with snails. (Not that snails do any running, of course!)


After Samson had gone, I told Jeep that I was going to leave him upside down for a bit so that I could track down the head honcho snail. ‘He calls himself Shultan,’ said Jeep, having some difficulty with talking clearly while upside down. 'You’ll most probably find him in the middle of the lawn somewhere, busy directing what the other snails are doing. Or so the snail you can see on my foot suggests. ’


And, sure enough, not far away, behind a black plant pot, was a very large snail shell, with a bulbous head and two long tentacles, protruding from the front. And, underneath this was  a thick, spongy mantle, which was followed along by a strange, narrow tail.

'Hello, and who are you?' I asked the snail, a bit sharply. 'I'm Sultan, the senior snail,' came the reply. 'Oh really,' I replied, 'And what may I ask are you and your mates doing here, squatting the whole of our garden?'

'We're having a marvellous, Monday munch,' he said casually.

'And, out of interest, how did so many of you manage get into the garden so quickly?'

'We didn't get in here quickly at all,' he responded. 'We've been living under the soil for quite a few days, waiting for the rain to come. However, once it rained buckets last night, we all popped out almost instantly, both to avoid drowning and also so as to benefit from the yummy, scrummy, sunny food everywhere.'

'OK,' I said rather pensively, scratching an ear. 'So if I understand correctly, you're all here, totally uninvited, gobbling up our garden - fruit, flowers, vegetables and grass - just because you fancy munching on a Monday? Is that correct?''

Staring me straight in the eyes, as if he'd every right to do whatever he wanted to do, whenever he wanted to do it, Sultan said, 'Yes.'

'Right. So, now that we've got that quite clear,' I replied, 'I want you to know something important. I am now asking you to make sure that all of you leave our garden by lunchtime today, and not a moment later. Not only because you are occupying the whole of someone else's garden without their permission, but also because you've just admitted openly that you are stealing from them too.' Completely ignoring what I'd just said, Sultan crept forward a little and started munching again.

At this point, just as I was about to get cross, Samson arrived with 2 large bags of dried eggshells. These he plonked down on the lawn carefully, just in front of Jeep. 'Super, and well done Samson,' I said, giving him a paw pat on the shoulder to thank him. 'Let's get busy.' And with this we started to empty the eggshells onto the lawn as best we could, pushing them up under the sides of Jeep's shell. Then, when we were ready, I gave him another tickling under both armpits, as I tried to get the unwelcome snails out. This made him laugh even louder and longer than before. And the more he giggled, the more his shell wiggled and wobbled about. Naturally, as I'd expected, this movement had the effect of crushing the eggshells in a higgledy piggledy way, meaning that in no time at all there were masses of cracked and crushed shells of all sizes, spread on the grass around Jeep.

As if pre-programmed to do so, Samson began to pick up bits of shell in his front paws and then, with a spritely shake, he sprinkled them happily all over and around Sultan. This Instantly gave the head snail shell-shock - now you know where the expression comes from - ha, ha - and quickly he became a very agitated large snail indeed. This agitation lead to him making, horrible, high-pitched, snail-snorting noises, which the other snails understood immediately was from pain of the eggshells getting stuck onto his mantle while he was creeping. In no time at all, en mass they headed off down a multi-snail-trail lined pathway, out of the garden and into the field. Watching this contentedly, I could see that this was definitely 'a rout', although, in this sense the word means, being 'chased away'.

And, as soon as Sultan had moved off, Serge pushed Jeep back over, so that he was now back on his feet again. Full of energy, excitement and with eggshells stuck to his shell, in no time at all, my friend began to chase the snails down the pathway himself, making the best of his wheels for extra speed. (I'm sure that you'll agree that the word 'chased' here is a bit of an exaggeration, because how many high-speed tortoises have you ever seen in your life?)

Yours, Graffi

Copy by Serge Cantsper

Illustration by @flowoolgarbarrington


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