For Christmas I was given a really beautiful hanging bird table. It’s just lovely – slate roof, oak walls, hangs from a stand by a length of tasteful rope. It makes my other bird feeders, which are of the chrome and glass variety, look boring and utilitarian. The birds thought it was great too, and flocked around it looking picturesque. All was set fair, but the birds and I weren’t the only ones to admire it. Rats (and I keep reading that we’re only ever 10′ away from a rat, which I think is particularly true in rural parts) noticed it too and organised themselves into a raiding party. I imagine it went something like this (anthropomorphism rules OK, imagine Boss Rat shouting through a megaphone): “right, action! Rodney and Richard dig a hole. Now Ralph and Roger, climb up and gnaw through the rope! Nice one, boys! OK we’ve got it on the ground so I want Reginald and Rodney to roll it over and drag it over on top of the new hole and now perhaps Ruby and Renate could make a nice nest inside it. Well done, guys – job well done!” It all happened in one night, and please note that all names have been changed to protect the innocent. So my gorgeous new bird feeder was upside down on top of a rat hole with a rats’ nest inside it. Far from ideal, unless you’re one of the rats involved in whole sordid business, in which case the whole thing went swimmingly. So for the moment it’s back to chrome and glass (rat proof). But it was a very, very nice Christmas present. And I’ll think of some way to use it again that will also baffle rats.
First thing this morning, Eddie trod on a lump underneath the sitting room rug in his bare feet. He was intrigued – what could the lump be? A fugitive sock? One of the dogs’ soft toys? A cup cake? When he turned back the rug, the lump was none of the above: it was a large rat, squashed as flat as a pressed flower. Eddie was surprised, I was surprised, but when the shrieking and rushing about had finished (the excitement was completely on the part of the human elements of the household, the dogs and cat were unmoved) certain questions pushed their way to the surface:
- what was a rat doing in the sitting room? I am well aware that we have rats up near the chicken run, but those rats are gentlemen of leisure who live a furtive life of ease. We each go our separate ways and our paths do not cross.
- having found its way into the sitting room, what was it doing under the rug? It would seem self-evident that any rat finding itself in a new situation outside its comfort zone would retreat to a cosy corner such as underneath the sofa and ponder the next move from a position of strength and comfort. There are many recommended courses of action it could have selected, from bolting out of the door next time it opened and back to broader horizons, to hanging around for a while to pick up superior supplies for the winter and gross out the household as an added bonus. But to take up residence under a rug in the middle of the floor? Why? and last of all
- at what stage did it shuffle off its mortal coil? The rat that Eddie trod on and inadvertently flattened was not a live rat. It was dead, and had been for some time, and though my housework is of the slapdash variety I like to think I would have noticed a large dead rat under the rug in the middle of the floor sooner rather than later. These were some of the many questions that framed themselves as I donned full nuclear fallout gear and ousted the rat.
And that is what happened first thing this morning.