All I was doing was having a five minute break with a lovely cuppa. ‘I know,’ I said to myself, ‘let's see if the birds are enjoying the birdfeed I put out for them this morning.’ I often chat to myself during the day - it’s when I start arguing with myself I need to worry. Especially if I lose.
Anyway, a little peek at the bird table and all was well. Sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds, a robin and a somewhat larger beast slumping about amongst the snowdrops beneath the bird table. ‘If it’s that pigeon,’ I actually said out loud, only to be stopped mid-sentence as a head appeared.
Rat! A rat. A big rat. A big brown rat. A big brown rat with scrappy ears. A big brown rat with scrappy ears and a mean look in its eyes.
I looked at it. It surveyed the bird table. It tried to clamber up, falling down at its first, second and third attempts. It gave up. I stared. It moved. I shuddered. It looked at me. I froze. It skulked past the window, sniffed at some herb pots, did that whisker cleaning thing they do and then ambled up the patio, over a wall, under the hedge and off into a neighbour’s garden.
A rat. A big rat. A big brown rat with scrappy ears and a mean look in its eyes.
Now, I’m all for wildlife in the garden. Or actually, all the nice wildlife. Birds - lovely. Hedgehogs - sweet. Even squirrels - funny. But a rat? I know some of you won’t mind them. I know that some people even keep them as pets. But deep down in my psyche they are the carrier of plague (the rats not the owners). I know that this one, the size of a large chihuahua, was intent on spreading bad things about. It was that look.
So, I did what any scared gardener would do - check the internet to become an expert in 3 minutes. So here goes:
- My rat is Rattus norvegicus and not really responsible for the plague back in the Middle Ages (when I was but a lad!). It still looked nasty.
- All rats, even mine, can carry a host of nasty diseases.
- Digging deeper into the world of rats, three words repeatedly leapt out from the screen. Rats are ‘intelligent’, ‘ingenious’ and ‘aggressive.’
Now, is that really the kind of wildlife you want a-snufflin’ and a-sniffin’ about in your snowdrops and cyclamen? Is that really the kind of beast you want striving to nibble at your nuts? I think not. Something had to be done. But what exactly?
I mentioned ‘the rat’ to a friend. ‘Oh, I’ve got a trap’ he said. ‘A trap?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘A killer trap?’ I said. ‘No. It catches them live and you release them miles away. But they don’t half squeal and stink.’ Hmm.
I mentioned the rat to the internet search engine. Oh, lots of companies will come over and put poison down. Not sure about that.
I then made a big mistake. I mentioned the rat to the rest of the family. I showed them the blurry image of the rat. Talk of moving house ensued.
But things have quietened down. Bearing in mind that rats are creatures of habit (more extensive research) and usually taking the same route, en route no doubt to chew through someone's electrical cables, I waited and watched.
Every day at 10.05am, I watch. Sadly, for them, so do the birds. You see, I’ve decided to stop all bird feed being placed on the bird table until the beast has gone. A harsh sanction with collateral damage but - a rat?
A big brown rat with scrappy ears and that look, that intelligent, ingenious and aggressive look in its eyes.
I mean, you’d do the same. Wouldn't you?