Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rats

It’s about this time of year that you start to see them. Once the corn has been cut, you catch sight of them feasting among the golden stubble in the early mornings, or dodging the traffic to gobble up any grain that has been spilled on the road. They don’t all survive the road: I have seen about half a dozen squashed rats today. Drivers don’t tend to avoid rats like they do other creatures.

There is something in the human psyche that recoils at the mention of rats. “They’re just sleeker, less cuddly rabbits with a PR problem,” I said to my mum tonight. “No they’re not,” she said, and shuddered, “they’re dirty and disease-ridden.” That’s just the point: I’m sure our collective revulsion is a racial memory dating back to the plague. But rattus rattus, the black rat that was infested with Black Death-carrying fleas, was expelled from Britain long ago. Our rats today are his cousin, the brown rat.

I have not inherited the rodent-terror that runs down the female line in my family, but mention rats to many otherwise sane people, and they feel fingers of repulsion creeping up their spine. Rats still have the power to strike fear into people’s hearts. We thought we had the rat story of the year when I was a trainee journalist. One of my fellow trainees spotted a couple of rats one morning; research revealed they’d been lurking in the area where the city’s cholera dead had been buried decades before. How long could cholera survive in the soil, we wondered? We communicated with the director of communicable diseases at the hospital; (un)fortunately, he told us that the disease did not lie dormant.

Apparently there is a new breed of ‘super’ rat that is resistant to warfarin. These fortnightly bin collections are probably keeping him in a manner he’s become accustomed to. His country cousins, gorging on the grain, don’t know what they’re missing …

15 comments:

Gill said...

Aw- who could resist Templeton in Charlottes Web?

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I also think that rats are unfairly maligned. I mean - to see a mother rat with her babies -she's just as fussy and protective as any mummy animal. Seals and rabbits - Aw! Cuddly! Nice!
Rats and snakes - Eeek! Run a mile! Nasty!
It's a Pavlovian predictability and it sucks.
I wish I was a rat. I'd gnaw for England.

ziggi said...

I quite like rats, it's those great big bath lurking spiders that come out at this time of year I loath and detest - yeeeuch!

GeraniumCat said...

I like rats when they are outside - they've got lots of character - but not when they invade what I like to think of as "my space". There's a longstanding route into our loft, and last winter they gnawed a large hole in the shed floor, it's going to be really inconvenient when - if ever - we can get past the junk and into the shed again.

Our whippet lurcher likes rats too - she thinks they are FUN!

Mopsa said...

They are my own room 101:
http://mopsa.blogspot.com/2007/05/room-101.html

Winchester whisperer said...

Bring back the rat catchers - do they have them at your agricultural shows up there?

hannah said...

Rats - Brings back horrid memories...I lived on a farm when I was young and I distinctly remember the ratting sessions that followed the removal of pallets which had been laden with winter feed. All exits to the barn were closed off, the terriers bought in and men with spades stood everywhere - then the pallets were raised and there was a squealing pit of rats - what a mess - I think I'm scared for life!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

We have far too many of them running riot in the sheds. My husband has a slightly sadistic streak as he wanders down late at night, armed with air rifle.

Crystal xx

mutterings and meanderings said...

No rats today but I did see a red squirrel this morning, standing by the side of the road until I'd driven on. He was probably a member of the Tufy Club..

Gill, the my shame. I have never read Charlotte's Web..

YP, if you were a rat you would feast on roast beef ..

Ziggi, I have just removed a bath spider to the garden 10 mins ago ...

GC, they can be a bit naughty I think ...

Oh no Mopsa!

WW, you would imagine there would be, as we allegedly haven't left the dark ages ... They'd probably charge 2 and ha'penny for their services and display the rat corpses on a long pole over their shoulder...

Welcome Hannah - that sounds bloody!!

CJ, I think they bring that out in people!

dulwichmum said...

I'm sorry, I don't like them. James has a teenage cousin who always has one on her shoulder and even though he is white and called Arthur I just don't like them... his eyes are pink!

mountainear said...

Don't have a problem with rats per se - but then one hasn't poked its whiskery nose up here yet. My son in London (and living above a takeaway had a little ratty moment - nicely described in www.theyechild.blogspot.com) how he remained so cool calm and collected I don't know. Drink probably.

@themill said...

The Terrorists are excellent ratters - I knew they had to be good for something!

Gill said...

oh you should read it- it's still good when you're an adult.

occasional northerner said...

I don't like them. I still remember seeing my first dead one in a granary as a small child. My daughter seems more robust - we had a rat funeral here not that long ago and she threatens occasionally to dig it up to see if it has composted!

Karen said...

I don't mind pet ones but I don't like the idea of dirty ones scurrying around my house and in back alleys!