A couple of packets of cookies had been found ripped open and the contents nibbled. Personally I suspected a tea-leaf; a member of staff helping themself to a biscuit subsidy... it happens, let’s face it.
But droppings were found. Small, black, like tiny raisins. No human could have produced such evidence unless they had a sphincter tighter than a nun’s, er, habit.
So the pest control guys were called in. They lifted ceiling tiles and trap doors, They poked around shelves and cupboards. They drank loads of tea. And below the ground floor of the building, among the foundations they found hundreds of rat footprints. They fixed their jaws and pronounced their grim verdict. We were being overrun by a rat army. A veritable rodent blitzkrieg.
Now I suspected that, given nobody has really been down among the foundations for 10 years, it could just as easily be one lone rat chasing its own tail among the dust of centuries.
The pest control guys humoured my inexpert opinion with a small laugh and then threw 250 sticky traps down into the void beneath the floor. They were expecting a big haul, I could tell.
Now these sticky traps (or rat glue traps as they are professionally called) are just like blunder traps that can be bought for catching insects. They rely on your chosen prey wandering along, going innocently about their business, and suddenly finding themselves glued to the sticky surface of the trap. Rendered immobile and very cheesed off.
I must admit the thought of having to retrieve live rats, squealing and wriggling, glued to a bit of board didn’t particularly appetize me but the advantage, when explained to me, was obvious: putting down conventional poison leaves the rat free to go off and die somewhere where it’ll never be found. Once the body count reaches the hundreds the smell is going to be very bad indeed...
So the traps were laid and we waited.
And each morning during the week’s treatment I came to work expecting to find a living carpet of rat fur spread around the foundations of the building and at its head, dressed in bright, gaudy clothes and a strange feathered cap, a strange thin man of German origin blowing very feebly into a wide-ended flute.
Instead, when bodies were eventually discovered, the rampaging rat hordes proved to be no more than 2 measly rats and 8 mice (wearing dark glasses).
I phoned the Whitehouse and told them to stand down the troops.
In a way I feel relieved (and vindicated). We are not and have never been overrun. Bubonic plague is not about to rear its ugly head in my McVitie’s Hobnobs.
But I could never be a rat catcher, for all they tried to sell it to me as the good life – go where you want, when you want, do as much as you want when you want, etc – it has a decidedly ugly side.
The live rodents have to be dispatched quickly and humanely by the pest control operatives themselves.
Thankfully this was done out of sight of me. But I did overhear one of them say to his mate: “yeah, I’ve squished this one good and proper...”
Another Hobnob anyone...?
I realize rats and mice have to live, too, just not around me, thank you very much. Wouldn't want to be a rat catcher, either. (Shudder-shudder)
The Crow: I must confess to a huge upsurge of sentiment when I heard of the 8 dead mice. Even though there is no proof I automatically assumed they were all from the same family. All wiped out in the name of hygiene and convenience. Why? Why?!
That would make a great poster, wouldn't it?
Oooh, shades of Willard... he said with a shiver up his spine. Amazing how maligned the rat is... except in the Wind in the Willows... as long as they stay in the basement, and don't come inhabit your nightmares whilst sleeping...
Owen: I certainly hope the half dead rat I saw twitching in the trap this morning doesn't become my ghost of Christmas present...!
Who needs rat catchers; bring in the Jack Russells - sort em out in no time.
Mark: I have to deal with enough crap at work without having to clean up dog poo on a daily basis!
A terrier might be more efficient.
Yes, sentiment about the mice. I had a friend who had decorated his Christmas tree with popcorn strings and this little mouse, thinking it was invisible, used to sneak onto the tree and eat bits, causing the tree to shake. I was sad when they dispatched it because they found droppings in a pan.
ArtSparker: aw, that is really cute but droppings do kind of spoil the festive effect...!
Nice one, Steve - especially the bit about the pest control chaps drinking loads of tea and poking about.
How about some thermal-image gear? Then they could find the freshest brew too.
I was working in a canteen once; got there in the morning, opened the door SWOOSH! something the size of a cat catapulted across the eating area having leaped from the kitchen counter HEART-ATTACK! It was as if the floor had become electric - in the second it took to open the door, see the afore, and slam it shut again I was hanging in the air like a cartoon character. Total shocker! I really felt an urge to do battle and get some pride back. Then I thought of the (presumed) size and the incredible velocity. And germs and so on.
I didn't really see it, it was just a brown blur, a horizontal lightning streak, an after-image fading fast on my screens.
So I tucked my tail and slinked off to call a rat-catcher.
Ah! These joyful memories.
I even got them on tap... come on over and you'll see what I mean.
I'm presuming you know all too well yourself how DIY jobs can drag on a bit when all you've got is the cardboard tube from a roll of loo-paper, a paper clip and elastic band... and maybe a piece of chewing-gum.
This reminded me of a place I worked at in my late teens; the boss was a rather annoying and overbearing man who we had to put up with. Obviously. However one morning when I had been sent off to make the morning tea, I noticed that the Krispie biscuits appeared to have nibble on one side, near the base of the packet. The packet was standing upright on the tea table. I thought to myself "I must throw them out" and got on with making the tea. The boss arrived and, before I had a chance to stop him, helped himself to a biscuit. When I later pointed this out to a workmate, he said we should leave it and see what happens - in the end it was the mice who got most of the biscuits but it took 2 more days for the boss to comment that "Hey look, mice have been eating these"....I know, I should have said something sooner...
I agree with the crow... I can live happily without them !!
Steve: whatever you do, do NOT go over to the rat catcher's side. All that freedom might sound appealing, the call of the open raod etc., but I think you were meant for finer things.
Stay where you are son.
Clippy Matt: I don't think Roland would ever forgive me anyway (though the thought of Roland is a vote in favour of joining the rat catchers...
Amanda: did he like the chocolate chips...?
Janete: I can live happily without seeing them...!
Joe Bloggs: your problem is the materials you are using for your trap - all things a rat considers good to eat. Apparently they're equally happy munching on concrete and aluminium sheeting too...
I'd draw the line at rats, never realy recovered from that book, popular in the 80s but the mice, they could have been taken to a nice home in the country, a farm maybe...
We have problems in our block of flats.
The latest is mice - though I hadn't seen any evidence in my flat.
The man came, looked under my kitchen sink and said 'hm yes - pregnant female'.
That was it.
Kaz: I shall send you some hot towels and a tub of Drapolene for Christmas...
MissBehaving: yes, shipped out with little brown suitcases like war time evacuees with name tags tied on with little bits of string. If only I'd been quicker before the Rentokil Luftwaffe started their carpet bombing...
It's funny, I think mice are awfully cute when they are a pet in a cage. Why I've even been known to hold one. But...when they are racing around the skirting boards just watch me leap up onto a chair.
Rats....shudder. Twice the size, twice the horror.
Ahh, and it just came back to me the other image that popped into mind whilst reading this... the movie "Straw Dogs" with Dustin Hoffman... seems to me there is a rat catcher in that, as well as some dead rats, and a bunch of mates who love to stand about and drink tea or beer or whatever rather than work... Well, your story ends better than the Straw Dogs does... a little less of an ordeal...
I always feel a bit creeped out by the idea of rats. There are supposed to be so many of them about. Yikes!
I once had a mouse in my car. It kept digging out all the stuffing in the panels of the doors and putting it in the footwell. I was worried it would chew through the wiring so I set a trap. I was told Snickers bars are what mice like best and I think I was told right because he was nabbed within hours of the trap going down. Poor thing - his eyes were all goggled out!
I think it would be very hard to sell Rat Catching as a career really!
Some use I would be.
I even had to Google 'Drapolene'.
I was sure it had something to do with curtains.
Gypsy: I think mice are cute fullstop - it's those little brown eyes. But rats... all those teeth that can chew through anything... vicious things they are!
Owen: I must admit I haven't seen it but now feel I ought to to pick up on intriguing reference points!
Gina: a mouse in a car? Guess he liked speed and gadding about a bit. Death by Snickers doesn't sound too bad a way to go!
Kaz: it is great for smoothing out pleats...
I lived in an old flat next to a river once and it suddenly got some lodgers, a rat. Needless to say I was straight onto the landlord telling him to get rid of them, nuke them, napalm them, enslave them just get rid of them. Ugly things, destructive - there was only one but it made more than enough racket until it was brought to book. Definitely they would be in my Room 101, yuck!
No, no, no, no, no!!! I'm standing on a chair just reading this.
I'm sorry I hate rats and mice with a passion. Ugh!
Selina: they're certainly not everyone's cup of tea... and it's not good to have them roaming willy-nilly; apparently they're both very incontinent...
Löst Jimmy: it's amazing what a single rat can do. I'd hate to be up my neck in a full infestation. I think nuclear warheads might have to be deployed.
I've got to re-inspect a student house which failed the first inspection due to rats. However I simply told the occupants they had to get rid of all their overflowing rubbish (the rats' food source) and the rats should vanish of their own accord. I guess it's harder in a confined space though. My rats are at the bottom of the garden. The compost bin is a great way of ensuring they never have cause to come anywhere near the house and they participate in the composting process or so I'm told.
Laura: a student house? Gosh, that rat must have been hard-up and desperate is all I can say!
Oh yuck - I almost feel sorry for these little creatures. How awful to be stuck to a board like that.
Glad you weren't over-run with them though.
FF: it's not a great way to go, is it? Glued to a bit of cardboard and then stomped on by a pair of Nikes. Still, it might be bad karma paying some Victorian villain back for all we know...
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