Top of my to-do list today was to find a rat-catcher.
I imagined a wiry, old fellow; a moustache stained with nicotine and a length of string tied around each trouser-leg. A tweed jacket, its pockets stuffed with unidentifiable essentials, and without doubt some sort of cap. His accent would be pure Cotswolds, although words spoken would be few; communication carried out in the main through a series of woeful head shakes and the click of a tongue against teeth.
Perhaps such rat-catchers exist, but instead I called the council, who – with astonishing efficiency – sent a man round just three hours later. Matt was a chatty, broad-chested Londoner, who grinned when I shuddered through my tale of rodent horror, and declined a cup of tea because he’d only just had one.
I showed him the tunnels under the fence, and the teeth marks on the shed door frame. He showed me the droppings by the wheelbarrow, and the maze of smooth channels which wove their way into the depths of the compost heap.
Well established, he said. Probably at least five or six, he said. Big ones, he said. I shuddered again.
He cheerfully administered poison and we chatted about rodents in general, and my rats in particular. I was rather sorry to see him go.
I can’t say the same about the rats.