Monday, 25 July 2016


Apparently there are some suburbs of the city plagued with rats at present and irate citizens are not only calling radio talkback lines and contacting local MPs but even writing to newspapers demanding action. Fortunately, so far the hinterlands of leafy Parnell seem to have escaped this problem. We lived in Kohimarama when the children were growing up, a veritable stone’s throw from the city. What I mean I suppose is that even in those days Kohimarama was not the back of beyond and certainly had running water and electricity – in fact all the mod cons one could possibly expect considering it was the nineteen eighties. We even had a home computer on which the kids played exciting games like Apple Panic. Who remembers that edifying game I wonder? But I digress. We also shared our property with a large number of rats, most of whom seeming to feel they had prior rights to the place. Over weeks they became utterly fearless in their invasion of our space and as time progressed, rather than waiting for us to retire for the night, they scuttled across the carpet between us whilst we watched evening TV and invaded the kitchen cupboards for tasty scraps, and if they could not find any they chewed their way into previously unopened packets of cereal and sultanas. Our three cats, Hector, Harriet and Heidi became sick to the back teeth of trying to get on top of the problem and after a while they simply gave up and scarcely twitched an ear or whisker as the intruders scampered past in the half light. During this period I learned that rats are agile creatures and can scale vertical surfaces with absolute ease and no discernable decrease in pace. I saw them do it, more than once. It was The Husband who eventually suggested that we might attempt to deal with the problem by engaging the services of Rentokil. Gareth arrived within a day or two and laid poison and told us that the average rat did not come inside all year round which was reassuring because as he spoke one fossicked at his feet. Gareth said they only came into the house to look for water because unlike mice they were unable to live without it. He managed to make this latter statement sound almost, but not quite, distressing which I imagine it would be if one happened to be a rat. Sinead, age eight at the time, had the glimmer of a tear in her eye. Seamus, a year or two older and less emotional wondered how long it would take the average rat to die from the effects of dehydration. What they did begin to die of was the very effective poisoning procedure. Then a new problem emerged as we attempted to trace the rotting carcasses in ceiling, walls, and behind furniture. Retrieving dead rats was much worse for me than avoiding live ones. One morning I entered the kitchen to find a long rodent tail emerging from under the stove. `Just pick that dead rat up,’ I said to Sinead, `And take it outside to the rubbish bin.’ I think I added, `please’. But she resolutely refused. `Why on earth not?’ I demanded, `It’s clearly dead.’ She gave me a withering look and said that it might simply be sleeping and I should do it myself. It was some months before the last ratty corpse was scraped from behind the washing machine and we could really call ourselves rodent free. It was a huge relief and so on the demise of the most senior cat, when Seamus fervently demanded that a pet rat should replace him we were most reluctant. Despite protest, however, a large cage was soon installed beside his bed inside which Blanche resided for several years. `The cats might dispose of it,’ The Husband had suggested doubtfully, but of course they never did and in the end she outlived them.

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