They say that until you inhale the feculent stench of putrefying rat right up your nostrils, you cannot truly feel that you have teetered on the abyss of olfaction. And I think that they might be right.
“And just how long might this aroma last” I gingerly enquired of Rat Man, whilst clasping a lime, basil and mandarin Jo Malone citrus scented white linen hanky to my mouth.
“That all depends on the size of the body, the ambient temperature and the absorbency of the surface it is resting upon,” said the voice of pest experience, looking sadly at my hanky.
And that particular question has yet to find a distinct answer. Visitors to my home no longer gag on entry but we still do keep at least four windows open throughout day and night, wind and snow and several storm warnings.
This is probably the key lesson learnt from our recent vermin tempest. Never agree to putting down poison to kill these home invaders. It will work and they will die, but almost certainly within the confines of your home and almost certainly just outside of reach of any vermin captor, bar a £5000 structural excavation exercise.
It has been a testing time. A few months ago one of these malodorous mammals was spotted in the kitchen. My hopes that this was a socially ostracised beast and lone invader were quickly shattered.
The basement of our home, AKA the receptacle of all household items without an obvious, immediate use, was packed to the gunnels and only entered infrequently when we needed a light bulb or to flick the fuse box. But upon entering it didn’t take long, only a quick google search of rat pooh for confirmation, for me to realise that we were in a state of invasion. (My middle daughter has also queerly become quite obsessed with googling rat pooh.)
(I have included a picture of a hamster in a blanket eating a carrot because, until it becomes strictly necessary, I’d refrain from googling pictures of rat pooh)
In times of crisis I can be impulsive. A rat infestation was certainly one of those times. I googled rat eliminators London and called the first number that came to hand. I was assured that a rat expert would present himself at my house within the next four hours.
I answered the door to a man trapped in a Dickensian time warp. He bore an unmistakable resemblance to the animals he had spent so many years tracking to kill. A pinched white face of dead eyes, narrow yellow, almost brown, teeth gnarled to sharp points, and a low slung, thinning Friar Tuck hairdo, informed me that he was the answer to my dreams.
Friar Tuck’s thinner, dirtier, and less genetically gifted brother, strolled through my house with the frays of his jeans flapping on the ground. After a perusal of the sodden rodent latrine in my basement he came up the stairs and looked very surprised to be asked to take off his shoes. I explained that, short of levitation, there was just no way he hadn’t trodden on rat pooh and piss, and I wasn’t keen for this to be spread throughout my house.
He responded by slowly running the palm of his hands down the soles of both shoes and then lifting them languidly to his nose and inhaling deeply.
“Nothing there” he said, as I tried to stop myself dry heaving.
He returned to the basement with his kill gear, this time donning a pair of plastic gloves. After removing bodies, faecal matter and laying poison and traps, he sat down to fill out the form and receipt for his services. I could see what was going to happen. Internally screaming I searched increasingly frantically for a pen. It did not come in time.
“Please sign here” said Tuck, proffering me his pen from his latex encased hand.
I signed and then poured bleach and hot water on my hands for the rest of the day.
Clearly I would never have wanted to see Tuck again even if had been professional but his fate was sealed when I spotted he’d put mouse traps down for the job that i had clearly articulated was a rat problem. “They’ll still work,” he promised.
I told him that I was talking about rates the size of small dog and that there was no way that was going to be effective. We parted company and latterly I managed to secure a refund.
And so, like a hero in a moving eighties action film, rolled in Rat Man two. Here was the acceptable face of rodent control. A chap who seemed far less likely to be found Morris dancing in a loincloth made up of the tails of his past conquests.
Rat Man two, as he became moderately affectionately known within the family, was pleasant, professional and normal. A couple of steel no return rat valve traps later and the rats are having to find other drains to make home. The smell of the final body is ebbing away and spring bulbs are pushing their way up through the earth. What a scene of North London pastoral bliss.