Saturday, 22 April 2017

Rodent review.

I was greeted at 7:30am by one large stiff mouse on my kitchen counter. The good thing about getting a professional rat-catcher is that they know the most efficient way to kill... and just in case any of you would like to know how to set the most effective mouse trap, you put the food end of the trap right up against the wall because then the mouse has to come from the side, and their death will be fast and accurate. I do apologise for being so graphic but it's a handy tip!!

The mouse in question was large. 5 inches long in the body large. I didn't know quite what to do with it because I thought it best to leave it in-situ for Simon, the rat-catcher, to see. So I happily cleaned the counter top around it and made breakfast. Some people might find that absolutely disgusting but funnily enough, I'm not actually that squeamish when things are dead (I'm sure you remember my taxidermy course when I actually gutted and stuffed a mouse - Midge now adorns the top of my Christmas tree as a rodent angel) so eating a bit of toast with a mouse corpse inches away from my head, didn't faze me at all. Oh, I forgot to say how I knew it was a mouse and not a rat. The difference between a rat and a mouse is the tail. If the tail is the same length as the body, from bum hole to nose, then it's a mouse, but if the tail is longer than the length of the body then it's a rat. Good to know. There was also a second large mouse caught in the shed so I'm hoping that's it now. But just to be sure, Simon left 6 traps in the house and he also put a motion sensor camera in the attic.

From the first night of being in the cottage, I noticed peculiar noises coming from the attic. They sounded like something bigger than a mouse but I was reluctant to put a trap up there in case it was squirrels or bats or birds. Simon even told me a story (he has some great stories) about a badger being found in someone's attic. A badger! The mind boggles... how on earth? So, he will check the camera for activity on Monday morning but I'm dreading it. What if there are no living creatures up there and some random ghostly face pops up on the screen instead? I mean it is an old cottage, someone must have died here at some point. Oh God.

Until then, at least I know I can rest safe in my bed without James Herbert's The Rats book popping into my head every few minutes. I will never forget the scene of a man in a tent being eaten alive, from the inside out! Or the memory of my horrific journey in a Vietnamese sleeper train, where I was trapped for 8 hours in the top bunk of my compartment, by a family of marauding rats. It was the first, and I hope the only time, I have seen a rat jump vertically! Absolutely, without doubt, the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. So, as long as the rats leave me alone and stay in the outside shed, and there is nothing more sinister in the roof than a small bat, then I will be fine.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Rat-catcher.

The Rat-catcher, aka Simon, is Karen's brother-in-law. Karen is the caretaker of the estate cottages, and I am currently staying in one of the cottages.

This cottage is at one end of a very long tree-lined drive that leads to a rather grand old house. It is usually rented by my friend Katie, but as she happens to be skiing and cooking in Zermatt for a few months, she kindly offered to let me stay while she is away. So far, so good. The cottage is in a rather blissful situation, surrounded by ancient woodland and meadows on 3 sides. It is attached to the cottage next door, and the occupants of the cottage next door, make my stay even better. They have two gorgeous dogs and a small holding of chickens, ducks and geese, all of which roam freely. Everyone that works at the house and in the gardens is wonderfully friendly and kind and I have already had numerous visits and plenty of eggs. The only thing that has taken a dislike to me is the goose, who charges me and my car with unnatural brevity.

Until a week ago I thought the goose was my only enemy. I was wrong. I began hearing noises in the night that weren't explicable. Scratching noises in the roof, small pitter-patterings above my head and in the walls, slight creakings in the floorboards below. I thought I was imagining it until one morning I went down to the kitchen and saw a half eaten tomato on the counter top. I had been very careful to leave no food out because I know that being in an old cottage in the depths of the countryside, there are mice. But do mice eat tomatoes?

The following night I made sure everything was sealed and in the fridge... apart from a rather spicy 3-bean soup I had made and left in a saucepan on the hob. A mouse surely wouldn't climb into a high-edged pan and eat chilli would it? It wouldn't risk having a hot bottom for days on end would it? Indeed it did. The next morning I came into the kitchen and saw tomato-ey footprints all over the hob, across the counter and onto the floor. I then found a pile of kidney beans (they left the white beans and cannelloni beans for some strange reason) in between the washing machine and the cupboard. I found another stash by the cellar door at the bottom of the stairs. Holy moly. Now I didn't feel so cool. Understatement.

I texted Katie, in mild panic, asking what the hell to do. I rang my mother and asked what to do. I spoke to the next door neighbours and asked what to do. I hadn't slept because I now knew we weren't dealing with a cute little field mouse. We were dealing with something bigger, judging by the size of the red footprints across the house. Yup, it was rats. And rats are clever little buggers. When I spoke to the neighbours they seemed quite blasé about it, regaling me with stories about the dogs catching them or seeing them run up the drainpipes, or shooting them with their air rifle. But when it came to how I could get rid of them from the house, everyone was stumped.

And then Simon turned up. The rat-catcher. And he came armed.

My neighbours and I were very much against using poison. Poison is not only a horrible death but it can be eaten by other animals, not just rats, and we couldn't risk that. Plus, even if it was just the rats eating the poison, if the rat was then caught by a dog or cat, then it can poison them as well. So no, we forbade poison. The rat-catcher sighed at that news and came back with 10 mousetraps, 4 rat traps and a jar of crunchy peanut butter. They love peanut butter apparently. He went around the house looking for gaps in floorboards, holes in walls, spaces between window and windowsill, and set them all up.

I am now so on edge I don't want to go downstairs. Plus I've already forgotten where Simon has put all the traps so I'm afraid I will catch a toe in one. If I hear a snap I'm going to feel terrible (and my Buddhist credentials will be out the window). If I don't hear a snap then I will forever be terrified.
Ain't country living grand? I await the bloodbath.