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.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

More barricading is obviously called for

We decide to board off what we perceive as the main entrance to the under the hall floorboard area. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Still two traps – one under the kitchen floor and one in the back room. Decide to put the under kitchen floor one above the floor – perhaps it never used the superhighway – to see if that improves our chances. Build a little box to put it in so that there’s no danger of it approaching it from the wrong end and triggering it from the back. Go to bed.

S goes to bathroom and says he can hear a hell of a noise from downstairs. We’re too frightened to go and look so shut bedroom door so we can’t hear it. Next morning we discover the cause of all the noise. It’s eaten its way through the floorboards. There’s a tale on a website of some folks who scoured a flat looking for a hole where a rat could have got in only to find it had gnawed it’s way vertically straight up through two inches of oak floorboard. We now believe this story. This is now a tale of how to exist on plastic and wood – not your average diet for sure.

Invest in third rat trap, hoping against hope that one of them will work. Folks in the hardware shop, whilst naturally glad of the trade in this economic clime, must think I’m desperate. Balance of probability is that they’re right. Now have three traps, at all strategic points, they’re all VERY poised to go, as in that still hurts!

Friday, 11 September 2009

How desperate can a rat get?

No evidence of interest in traps, but following morning discovered a cookery book had been half pulled out from the ones that were lying on top of the books in the bookshelf in the hall. No humans admitted moving it, after all why should they?, so pushed it back in and carried on.

Following morning discovered MORE cookery books half pulled out. Not so much that they fell on the floor, mind you, just about half way out. How bizarre! It’s as if the rat can’t find any ACTUAL food, and is having to make do with PICTURES OF FOOD instead. Had a quick look but there really wasn’t any evidence of real food there, so pushed the books back again.

Day 3 of the cookery book saga and yep, you guessed it, more cookery books but this time they’ve reached the floor. This is getting truly weird! And then I discovered the only thing it could have been after, which is a measure of just how desperate it must be and how very acute its sense of smell must be. On top of the cookery books was a well pressed spaghetti wrapper which I must have saved because of a recipe on it. It was empty but the way it had been pressed between books meant it was empty before Ratty got to it. But even more incredibly the sell by date on the packet was April 1995 – fourteen years ago! The price ticket is for not just the previous incarnation of the supermarket chain, but the one before that.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

After that we went to a lot of trouble to make sure the back room door was shut every night. At least we could maybe prove that there was or wasn’t an alternative way to just blatantly walking through the door, which we thought was probably a bit brazen anyway, even for a rat. Bought another trap, put it behind the sewing machine in a quiet sort of place, not far from where it had tried to get at the drinks. Used Toblerone on this one, perhaps chocolate is better than stilton. Put an extra piece on the sort of lead-up to the trap – silly mistake, it ate that and ignored the trap. Now what?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Yes, it’s definitely on the inside

We've now become convinced it can get into the back room, when I discovered a lot of shredded plastic bag. There was a plastic sort of tier of shelves standing on the floor, and the middle one had Jess’ hiking/survival kit in it. Amongst this lot was a supermarket carrier bag with some of those little tubes of coffee/chocolate that you add hot water to when you want a hot drink. They’re very light and convenient when you’re on expeditions. The rat could evidently smell them (how strong a sense of smell is that?) but had approached the shelving from the back which is sort of slatted. It managed to pull part of the carrier bag through and then kept pulling and gnawing at it in an attempt to get to the food. It made a lot of ‘confetti’ on the floor and pulled all of the bag that it could through but of course the actual tubes were too big to fit between the slats so it eventually gave up and went away hungry. Well not quite that hungry because as already noted elsewhere it is partial to a bit of plastic.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

In which I spend a lot of time attempting to rat-proof the house

We've decided that it could evidently get in under the old back door where there was a four inch gap which had only been cursorily filled in. One day this will be finished off properly. I spent a couple of hours clearing everything away from the area – a job which had needed doing for quite a while, I must admit – and then building what can best be described as a rockery out of every brick, stone, etc I could find to fill the not exactly rectangular gap. There was a lot of scrabbling noises that night, but was it on the inside or the outside?

Next morning, the rockery was still intact but a piece of rotten wood which had been just lying in the drain below had been dragged out. Had the rat climbed out and then pulled its little bridge after it?

S decided perhaps it could work its way up the outlet from the washing machine and get in that way. Cue to remove everything (and there was a lot of it) from the top of the washing machine so that we could see what needed blocking round the back. Several hours later – nope, no way in there anyway.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Over the next few days various scuffling noises here and there. It is clearly able to move about overground in the kitchen as it’s found another stash of bulbs and seeds left over from previous years which I’d completely forgotten about. So - yet more clearing away and throwing out (at least they were past their use-by dates). S thinks the trap might be a bit unstable as it’s across three pipes, not all the same diameter, so thinks we should have a bit of wood underneath to help. This, of course, involves more lying on the floor, fiddling about and more unintentional firings of the trap – which is very painful.

The following morning we discovered it had attempted to get at the packet of tea bags which were on the lowest shelf. It had gnawed a couple of holes but then evidently pulled the packet over on itself which must have frightened it into running away. Unless it just prefers coffee.

Monday, 6 July 2009

S came down into the kitchen and saw it run towards him and disappear under the cooker. So, we’ve both seen it now but he thinks it’s not so big. Still not interested in trap, so S suggests we put the trap in the under the kitchen floor trough which he says is “the rat run”. This is easier said than done because a) you have to lay on the kitchen floor to be able to reach in there and b) the trough’s actually fairly full of pipes (when we rebuilt the kitchen we installed these fantastic troughs and gullies so that all the pipework could be routed under the floor and just come up at the right places. This was an admirable plan but failed to take account of the fact that now we have a rat superhighway enabling it to pop up here, there and indeed everywhere.) Anyway baited this with stilton to make it very smelly. Let's see how we fare with this one.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

You didn’t really think it would be that easy, did you?

Came down in the morning – trap totally ignored, but it’s found a few bulbs and some half used packets of seeds which were jolly tasty. Tidied up yet another area and put all untouched seeds into a tin. With a lid. Put another tin on top, just in case. Go to bed.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

First real evidence that this is a rat and not just a mouse – I came down this morning and towards the end of the kitchen is an area with a sheet of plastic over it to stop the rain which comes through the roof wetting everything under it. At this particular time there were a few (six size) multipacks of crisps under this sheet on the table. I heard rustling, looked over there, and under the plastic I could see a rat crawling over the crisps. It was about the size of a computer mouse. I banged about a bit and it ran away. Later I gingerly lifted the plastic to discover that it really liked cheese and onion crisps. There’s a possibility that one pack had already been removed, but there were definitely four packs which had been ripped open and their contents had completely disappeared. There was one other pack which was untouched, and then one pack was already accounted for – or had been dragged off for a secret snack elsewhere. I have yet to find any debris. Curiously the roast chicken flavour crisps were completely untouched.

So now we know the reason why it’s ignoring the mousetrap – its head’s too big to get in there! Straight down to hardware store for a rat trap.

Do I want to catch it dead or alive? No question, surely, DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!! As the guy says, what’re you going to do with a live rat? Where will you release that? He demonstrates how to set the trap and how little pressure is needed to fire it. He uses a biro which is well and truly snapped in half, that’s one hell of a snap. That will surely do the trick.

Set trap, go to bed.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Somehow it’s worked its way to the front of the house as there is now quite a large hole in the bit of damp proofing plastic by the front door which is still waiting for a skirting board. S is pretty annoyed about this. Not only does it look naff to anyone coming to the house, but also it means there's a big hole in the damp proof course. Still at least it's only between the outer hall and the living room, and not out to the outside world.
Also found a chunk bitten out of some plastic flooring in the kitchen. Clearly it prefers plastic to peanut butter. Still, mousetraps have worked in the past, so we wait some more.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Wait. Wait more. Wait even more. Perhaps it’s gone outside again and gone to live somewhere else. We live in hope.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bought yet another humane mouse trap – can never find the old ones when you want one. We must have had at least three, if not four, in our house over the years but it would seem that once you’ve caught the offending creature you put the trap in the place called ‘somewhere safe’ – which is also invisible. So, having spent (ie wasted) one morning looking for one (just one!) of the traps, went and bought another one. Primed it with peanut butter which has always worked well in the past.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The first real, “we have heard it together” noises of a “there’s something else alive round here apart from us” type rustling heard in the pile of carrier bags under the stairs. Put gloves on. Shall I do it, or will you – okay I have the gloves. There’s a lesson to be learnt here, but too late. Nervously remove everything a bit at a time – don’t want to get bitten or anything.

Ultimately reach floor, but nothing live to be found. However, Tesco bag which was hanging up (made of that material like enviromesh/fleece you put over delicate plants) has great toothy rips on the side where access has been gained to the chocolate bars hidden inside (hidden obviously to children, but apparently not to rodents). Judging by the evidence this has been a favoured source of food for some time. Throw out quite a bit (teeth marks are less than appealing), clear the area up, and resolve to keep clear in future. Clear proof that another exit from under the floorboards has been created.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The Rat Diary

One woman's battle against "those who would also live in my house".

13th June 2009

How can you tell when it’s the beginning?

You see, I didn’t know this was going to happen so didn’t write anything down at first. I’ve started this rather late really, so will have to try and remember what has gone before.

Various scuffling noises heard in kitchen, also occasionally in our back room. Possible evidence of rodent activity by the radiator in the back room, ie bits of wrapping paper turned into confetti. Sometimes noise of central heating pipes rattling as though something is running along them – this can get quite loud.