Saturday, 9 January 2010

The doubt never goes away

So you start to wonder … are there any more? We’ve only had evidence of four babies, but they can have a litter of, what is it ten, twelve? I can see why the Pied Piper was such a hit. And then again, is that the mother that I’ve hoiked out? Huh, see, I didn’t bother sexing it before I bagged it, wrapped it in 15 sheets of newspaper (a sheet at a time), wrapped it in another plastic bag and then sellotaped all sides before throwing it in the bin (which won’t be emptied now for another week). And I’m not getting it out again now. Not for anyone.

So, is there a father somewhere else? Is that the father, and there’s a mother somewhere else? Are there yet more babies somewhere else (we can only account for four so far)? It all comes down to (dah, dah, dah) …….can you still smell something?

It’s amazing how long the human brain can persuade itself it can still smell something. If it was something like bacon you’d think, yeah great, but unfortunately ‘eau de dead rat’ really doesn’t feature very high on most folks’ Christmas present lists.

I’m glad I’ve found it – no, honest I am. At least I know where it is, it isn’t decaying under the floorboards, necessitating a horrendously expensive ripping up of all the floorboards on the ground floor. I know it’s gone.

But the neighbours have decorators in who periodically seem to sand little bits of our adjoining wall – and every single one of those occasional scrabbling noises makes me stop and listen and think ….

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The end is nigh – but there’s worse still to come

Next morning – OMG the stench!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can smell it from outside the room, daren’t go in! Silly me, have to put my contact lenses in, which are inside THE ROOM. Can barely put second one in, I’m retching so much. Run to the kitchen and puke up, well nothing really since I haven’t had anything this morning, but you get the picture. Now, think about it, what is in the room which is desperate? Well, youngest’s rucksack including lunchbox (!), shoes, PE kit, can’t think of anything else. Find old mask which S has used when grinding bricks and decide to use that – any port in a storm. Works fine although I rather feel I’m just breathing in brick dust instead. Decide to call in at hardware store on way home from school run and buy new mask.

Find one which says it protects against vapours, sounds about right. “Caught it then, have you?” they ask.

Return home and decide that one really should have breakfast before one tackles the really grotty jobs in life. And grotty it was too. In between bouts of running outside to get some fresh air, I move every single thing in the corner of the room, and eventually I find the source of the stench. There, on a box in the corner, is the corpse. I take it, and its accompanying flies, outside and put it in a sealable bag. One of the flies seems to want to stay with it, so it shall soon suffocate.

I go back inside and move the last remaining box in the corner to discover just exactly how it has been getting in and out of the back room. It has gnawed a hole a good three inches across through the skirting board and the floorboard.

At this point I reflect that in my life so far I have duplicated vast quantities of press VHSs of a BBC series called ‘Life of Grime’, and have also done rushes transfers since the first series. I can still remember the very first tape I transferred for them, which I made the very serious mistake of putting on and sitting down to eat my lunch whilst watching it to make sure nothing went wrong. What a mistake! The whole of the first reel covered a visit from the environmental health bods to a flat where someone had died six weeks earlier, during the summer, and they were coming in to investigate the smell. Jeez, the flies were having a field day! Ever since then the words “bodily fluids” have made me cringe.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, but probably not short enough for most folks, I now realise that when these environmental council guys go in, even though they have the white suits and the gas masks, I can tell you now from real experience YOU CAN SMELL IT!!!!!!!!!!! AND EVEN IF YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY SMELL IT, YOU THINK YOU CAN. AND IT’S TOTALLY DISGUSTING!

I never, never, never, never, never (x infinity) want to be here again!

And still the smell lingers……

Monday, 21 December 2009

And still we wait

Ten days later ….

Well for the last couple of days I’ve thought there’s been a vague smell of gas in the back room vicinity – an area where there is no gas.

After a bit you can’t smell it as much, you’re obviously immune. But every time S walks in the room he says he feels a bit sick from it - and this from a man with a cold whose nose is not, shall we say, at full smelling capability surely.

So by the tenth day since we last heard anything … I’m beginning to think there’s more to this than meets the eye, or in this case, nose – and possibly even throat.

I start to clear the area under the table. I put on the Marigolds because who knows what I will find? First real evidence in this whole encounter of what I take to be rat droppings. But they won’t smell because they’ll just dry out, as indeed they have, and they rattle satisfyingly up the vacuum cleaner’s hose. So onward. Remove more boxes – reach the bit under the bookshelves in the nearer corner of the alcove (think about it). First real discovery here – remains of a rat baby. I say remains but in total there were two shrivelled back feet, some bits of fur, something that looked like a piece of shell but I suppose it was a bit of skull, and two whiskers. Not very pleasant, not moving, and I can’t imagine that was causing the smell either, as there really didn’t seem anything much left to smell.

It now seems that to get to the far corner of the alcove, and thereby the far corner of the room, I will have to move vast quantities of boxes, shelving, etc which is far too much for today. So I tidy up a bit and leave it till tomorrow. I shut the window as I’m half inclined to think that the moving air is just making the smell more widespread. However a couple of hours later I’m not so sure.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

And so we wait...

Next day. Nothing. All day. Have read somewhere that rats cannot exist for more than a day without water, so possibly all available rats dead by now, but who knows …. definitely was one in the kitchen yesterday ….

Go to bed, shutting all available doors, making sure all three traps are primed.

Come down in the morning to find that the trap nearest the entrance to under the back room has well dead baby rat in it – snapped across the neck and flipped upside down. Chocolate still intact so left that there for next victim – if there are any more left. We’ve only actually seen three babies and they’re all dead now, but can’t be too sure.

Nothing for, well what is it, three days? After a bit you become blasé, you think about removing some of the temporary barricades … well don’t you?

So, just when you’re starting to relax … last night we heard rustlings behind the cooker. Now it’s not unknown for slugs to be around the place and as they slug their way across anything that rustles – well, it rustles, but this did sound rather more of the four legged variety. So - traps still at the ready, barricades reinstated. Next morning – well the plastic bottle is well out of place, but is that done by the wind. The trap behind the sewing machine has been sprung but the choc is still there – so have I triggered it by accident?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

And another one....

Later I’m in the kitchen trying to make tea when suddenly S yells at me from the front room. When I get there, he says ‘I think I’ve got one trapped under my foot’ and sure enough there is a bit of a tail sticking out. He says he saw it come in the room through the corner of his eye and race towards the under bench area where his feet are when he’s sitting there. He says he stamped his foot in an attempt to deter it and hopefully frighten it back out again and somehow actually managed to stamp on it. He thinks it dead, and I should get the shovel which is still outside the back door. I fetch it back in but just as I’m going towards the door from the kitchen to the hall I see ANOTHER ONE which dashes under the cooker. At this rate we’ll be overrun before the day’s out.

In the front room S tells me to slide the shovel underneath it which I do and we manage to get it on to the shovel. What to do now? It’s dark and getting late, so S tells me to throw it into the road as far as I can, which I do. (Bit too far actually, it’s between parked cars on the other side of the road – it’s still there three days later – so evidently no cat wants to claim it for its own and no car’s going to run it over either.) Back inside there’s the little matter of the blood on the carpet, which as I’m the one with the Marigolds, seems to be my job.

S finds piece of wood that he can use to block entrance to the front room (there being too many things piled up inside the door to be able to just actually shut the door which would be the more solid option) so now we have to hurdle in and out of the room

Next clean blood off the trap that worked, get screwdriver out to finely tune the angle of the plate (after it had been well and truly flattened) and load up more chocolate (luckily an earlier tidy up session to remove possible food sources had uncovered a Quality Street tin which by now was past its sell by date, but still contained all the varieties that no-one likes – so plenty of bait available). The priming of rat traps is an extremely fine art, and I have by now the bruises to prove it.

Go to bed, shutting all available doors.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


I’m sitting at the table in the back room trying to get a package label together to send our disc printer off for maintenance and I can hear a metallic tapping noise under the table. Very apprehensively, I peer behind the sewing machine (you have to get right under the table to do this, so you can’t make a rapid exit easily. This is a bit worrying.) and there I see what seems to be a mouse with a trapped leg – but no sign of the chocolate! I pull the sewing machine out of the way and left S to pick it up on the shovel to take out into the back garden. Apparently it squeaked at him when he picked it up (complete with trap) which he found a bit unnerving. Having deposited it on the grass he said what do you want me to do? To which, the only real answer is kill it. After all, with a broken leg it’s not going to survive anyway. So he whacked it with the shovel which did the job – bit too enthusiastically really because the trap got rather flattened.

So – was it a mouse …. or a baby rat? Urgent internet research revealed a table and photos. Having deposited the carcass into one of those sealable bags it was decided, on the basis of large head, small ears, thick tail and bigger back feet, that this was definitely, oh no, a baby rat.

More, rather more urgent internet research threw up the added information that litters can be up to 12. So we’ve caught one …. trouble is they start to breed from six weeks, pregnancy lasts about three weeks – say we had six boys and six girls – just do the maths ….

Everyone now being rather twitchy, and conscious of bottoms of trouser legs. Go out to buy some Marigolds, as research shows they’re best when dealing with rodents.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

In which things go very quiet

Nothing – for several days …..

I’m in the kitchen, and I happen to glance at the door to the hall. Now when we rebuilt the kitchen we moved the ‘step down’ from the hallway round the corner and consequently the kitchen door is now about three inches off the ground. This is another of these things that will get fixed, one day. Anyway, as I said, I glanced towards the door and underneath it I could see what looked like a little paw sort of clawing underneath. Now this is rather worrying because I didn’t think the rat would be that bold and I’m now getting quite apprehensive. So I stamped my way towards the door and flung it open. Nothing.

Well that was a relief. So I shut the door again and then I realise that the “paw” is still there. Quickly I open the door again – but still nothing there. And then I realise that what I can see is actually a bit of fluff stuck to the bottom of the door which is moving in the breeze because it’s quite a windy day, and my brain has decided that this is a rat’s paw.

I actually tried this out on other members of the household, and they all fell for it, too.