Gorleston boys’ massive molluscs

SOME see them as a Gallic treat to be enjoyed with garlic and maybe a glass of fine wine.

Others see them as a vegetable-patch destroying menace intent on leaving slime trails across gardens and carpets alike.

But for a pair of young nature lovers from Gorleston, snails are the perfect pet – especially when they’re XXXL in size.

AJ and Bradley Hudson, aged seven and 11, are each the proud owners of a baby Giant African Land Snail, both of which may eventually grow to 20cm in length.

But their exotic and non too cuddly creatures hail not from sub-Saharan rainforests: Frank and Doris, as they’re known, come from Cliff Park Infant School.

The boys’ mother Louise, 36, explained: “AJ likes creepy-crawlies and he was told by his teaching assistant in October that they had some baby snails they were trying to get looked after.

“When I said no, AJ was really upset so in the end I said yes. I suppose in the back of my mind I knew I would and I thought they’re only snails.

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“My husband Alan wasn’t surprised – they call me the ‘L’SPCA because of my love of animals.”

Louise lives up to her nickname. The massive molluscs share the family home with a French mastiff, two cats, seven guinea pigs and three rabbits, and, until recently, chickens and a pair of catfish.

But despite the competition, for AJ the snails are the best.

“It’s my favourite pet,” he said. “You can pick them up and though they’re slimy it doesn’t bother me.

“I’m taking good care of my snail, and when it’s on your hand it tickles and its antennas come out and if you touch them they go back in.”

Currently in a modified aquarium stuffed with coconut bark, the snails dine out on cucumber, apple, cuttlefish and, of course, lettuce.

And for Bradley, who has hydrocephalus – known as water on the brain – and learning difficulties including dyslexia, caring for creatures is a pastime he wants to pursue into the future.

Louise, who is a family support worker, said: “He is also very into wrestling, and he either wants to be a wrestling referee or a zookeeper.

“I think the animals play a big part in his life and he wants to go to Ormiston Venture Academy because it has lessons in animal care.”

That said, not everyone is quite so happy with the situation.

“Our other son Chris, who is 15, doesn’t like them at all,” added Louise, “and when we used to have them in our dining room he would always say they were putting him off his dinner!”