Fishing Lines: Worms ready for turning

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The Independent Online
SECURITY has suddenly become a big issue in the Elliott household. And it's all because of the Animal Liberation Front.

Ever since those bold freedom fighters raided the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, I haven't slept well. If they had carried off monkeys, cats or beagles, I would be less worried. But the only creatures they liberated when they stormed this northern seat of learning were ... worms.

I'm not kidding. According to my newspaper cutting, the university labs were disappointingly lacking in animals when the ALF attacked. The only living thing they could find were worms. So they let them go.

My information is sketchy from here on. It appears the worms were not even destined for experimental purposes, though quite why someone should keep worms for company, I'm not sure. Nor do I have any information about where the worms were released.

The trouble is, I too keep worms. Thousands of them: lobworms, redworms, brandlings, dendrobenas, though it takes another worm to know the difference. They all share a giant green container and as far as I can tell, seem happy enough. It's not easy to gauge shades of wormy wellbeing.

Unlike the university's stocks, however, mine are kept for a purpose that would incur the certain wrath of the ALF. I'm sure those urban warriors would disapprove of imprisoning worms in the first place. So goodness knows how they will view someone who keeps a whole host of cuddly little wrigglers, just to put them on a hook for fish to eat.

I can just picture the scene: coachloads of balaclava-clad vegans storming our little village, waving angry banners about Cruelty to Worms. Goodness knows how they would react when they discover I'm quite friendly with the chap across the road, for he is the inventor of battery chicken farming. Fortunately, breaking through my defences will be sight harder than sneaking into the university. For a start, intruders have to get through the gate. It's a real knack to open the damn thing: drives the postman crazy. Then there are garden implements cleverly placed to deter intruders. One false step and whack! The rake hits you in the face. I can personally vouch for the efficiency of this system.

Finally, there are the dogs. OK, they are springer spaniels, not pit bulls, and they are more likely to lick burglars to death than tear them into bite-sized chunks. But Lucky, the younger dog, has a bark like Cerberus and sounds fierce as a tiger with toothache. Furthermore, he hasn't quite learnt to operate his brakes yet . His method of stopping involves running into things at full tilt.

I was even thinking about placing a padlock in the wormery to protect my valuable stock, but scrapped this idea. A far better deterrent turned up this week - the news that the marine flatworm, pseudoceros bifurcus, will fight fierce battles with its penis.

According to a report in Nature, these worms have male and female organs. In a slightly odd twist on Doctors and Nurses, the flatworms have mating duels with their "rapier- like penises". They rear up at each other, striking, feinting and parrying until one gets hit. The loser is the first worm to be impaled, receiving sperm by hypodermic injection, says Nature.

This sounds like the best security of the lot. They may be marine worms, but a worm's a worm, after all. A bit of judicious interbreeding, and I've got a team of minders that will protect the resident stock better than any Neighbourhood Watch. Brave indeed is the ALF terrorist who would stick his paws into the muddy mess where my bait stock lives, and risk being stabbed by a worm's penis.