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THERE'S a war going on in my back garden, and I'm losing. Night is falling as I write this, and hundreds of creepy, slimy slugs and snails are slithering out of their hiding places. I can hear them, squelching away, munching through my best plants.

Why don't they eat the weeds? That's what I want to know. There are plenty of dock leaves, and some perfectly nice buttercups to spare. But no, they turn up their noses (noses? snouts, perhaps?) at the weeds, and lay into our lovingly planted seedlings, or the expensive new perennials from the posh garden centre up the road. Last month my husband planted out three large lupins; last week, nothing remained of them except a few pathetic chewed stalks. And as for the lilies, forget it. They didn't have a chance.

My mother, who is a brilliant gardener, said 'Try beer' (to kill slugs, that is, not to drown my sorrows). So I left out some bottles, and a few stupid slugs did come to a drunken end - but it didn't do much good. Then she said, 'Try a hedgehog.' And lo, as if by magic, she found a hedgehog walking down the road and brought it home to our back garden. But the hedgehog disappeared the next day. I told my son that perhaps it didn't like the taste of our slugs - but secretly I feared that the slugs had eaten the hedgehog.

My next move, because I'm a soggy

liberal rather than a hard-liner in these matters, was to go and buy some ecologically correct slug pellets. The packet said they were bio pellets, which 'attract slugs and snails away from your plants and lure them to their deaths'.

I don't quite know why they were

supposed to be bio pellets (and what does bio mean, anyway? It's probably just a vague word to make people like me feel less guilty about killing things). But I gave them to my husband - getting him to do the dirty work - and he scattered these bright blue pellets around the garden, muttering about how the slugs had had it coming to them for weeks.

The next morning, the pellets had wreaked carnage. But instead of being gratifying, it was terrible to see. The slugs seemed to have escaped - and the snails had turned into tragic heroes. The big ones had tried to save the little ones from the pellets by carrying them on their backs, but it was a vain effort. They were all dead. 'That was probably the parents trying to help their babies escape,' said my husband, accusingly.

So that was that. No more blue pellets. And the snails, of course, are back . . . big snails, little snails, munch munch munch. But what is really sinister is the recent

appearance of a snail trail in Jamie's

bedroom. How did it climb up to the first floor, unseen? Could this be the Revenge of the Killer Snails?-