Sitting resolutely in my office yesterday trying to put my mind to various troublesome bits of paper work, bill paying and a thousand other niggly annoying things that had been put on the back burner – for so long that they had begun to bubble and boil – I became conscious of heavy furniture being dragged along above my head.

Half listening, I wasn’t taking too much notice when there was a great crash…
“Olly? Olly…is that you up there?” No response. The dragging resumed.

I got up, stuck my head round the door and called down the corridor
“Hey Oll, you getting Christmas decorations down from the attic or something? Okay? Need some help?”

Nothing. I should explain, my office is on the first floor, Will’s old bedroom, and the noises were emanating from above me, from the attic. Olly wasn’t in the house. Of course, when faced with an enormous in-tray it’s very easy to be distracted and use a diversion as a sign to do something completely different and much more urgent. My concentration had been broken but I determinedly, if half heartedly, resumed paper sifting and sorting. The noises continued.

I knew exactly what it was; rats, and possibly squirrels, moving in. Rats live outside in the hedges in the summer and autumn, scavenging from the stock’s food and our bird table, moving into the barns and house as soon as the weather really begins to change. Having experienced torrential rain all weekend followed by a freezing cold night and morning, their timing was spot on.

Daydreaming now, rather than getting on with the job in hand, my head was filled with a vision of a whole community of rats decamping, refugee-like into our attic. An annual migration, such as the wildebeests on the great plains of Africa, but a bit more domesticated.

Led by the elders of the community I can imagine the first whiskery, snuffly snout appearing at the top of the cob wall, just before the final little scramble up and over the joist and boards into the attic, the look of horror and surprise.

“Oh my gawd, Maud, what has ‘appened here?” whiskers twitching manically, black beady eyes flicking back and forth.
“What ‘ave they done! Gorn and moved the ‘ole bleeding lot”

(Aside: we, human creatures, cleared, swept, de-cobwebbed, moved, sorted, cleaned, decontaminated the whole of the attic one week during the monsoon summer.)

“Just look at it! An oi’m expected to make a residence for all of us? Now? When they’ve gone and done this? Get ‘Arold. Get ‘im quick. Send a message to the ground. Well bugger me, I didn’t fink they ‘ad it in them!”

So the next twenty-four, forty-eight hours has resulted in an army of rats tearing, dragging, biting, pulling, heaving and destroying all the beautiful sorted and arranged attic we spent painstakingly setting in order.

I haven’t dared go and look yet, and then, what’s to do when I finally get up the courage to assess the damage? I hate using poison. The death is slow and cruel. The dead corpses are a danger to the dogs and wildlife. But what choice is there?

In the meantime there is a frantically busy creature in the eaves, about a foot above my right ear, shredding, scrunching, scratching and constructing the cosiest of cosy beds, with occasional mutterings and mumblings about “’em f…ing buggers below that should be shot.”

 

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