When I was young I had a pet tortoise.
We called him Roger, after the athlete Roger Bannister, who had been the first person to run a mile in under four minutes.
Roger was very sprightly for a tortoise. So sprightly, in fact, that he ran away.
Lost without my pet tortoise (and Roger presumably lost without me) I adopted another pet that I’d found in the garden shed.
Forty years later I wrote these poems for the children in Mrs Andrew’s class at Bromet Junior School.
The Garden Shed Pet
When I was eight years old
my tortoise ran away
So I found a pet snail
and kept him in a jam jar
in the garden shed
Every night he’d make his escape
leaving a glistening trail
for me to follow
down the garden path
In the morning I would find him
hiding in the rockery
At least I think it was him
You can never be sure with snails.
We’d put them on an old tin lid
and line them up on the racing track
Ready! Steady! Go!
Then watch them inch their way along
slithering, slimy, slowly
their tiny antlers pointing the way
Come on! Hurry up! We’d shout
but nothing we said
made them move any faster
My one always seemed to lose
when you’re racing snails
It’s hard to find a winner.
No photos of Roger the runaway tortoise, alas, but here’s a link to that historic run: