Arggghhh rats! Blooming rats. A plague of them. Well at least two. Apparently disgruntled by the harvest in the field behind the house, or perhaps the building work on the barn before it. And clearly too rude to consult me and discuss their very unwelcome existence in my garden so we could arrange mutually satisfactory terms.
I saw them as I sat sipping a terribly pleasing cup of coffee one afternoon, on a perfectly lovely day when just for once the world seemed to be behaving itself. I saw something wriggle in one of my veg beds and took it for the robin (My Mum) currently reassuring me by living on the fence. But on closer inspection, it wasn’t a robin taking a mud bath, it was a huge rat. And he had brought his wife, who was scurrying up the ivy and SWINGING from a branch as if she were on a rope swing in the park.
Had I been in the mood for laughing, the tears would have been rolling between guffaws. But I was not laughing because there is nothong inside of me that finds rats funny.
I shouted Ste and in he came to stare at the rats currently having a conflab in a pot of daffodil bulbs.
Ah yes, he said, looking at me out of the corner of his eye, field mice. Nothing to worry about!
Those aren’t field mice, I shrieked. Because in times of trouble, I shriek in rather spectacular fashion.
Yep, he says, yep they are. Field mice, fat on the harvest.
I look at him suspiciously and he looks at me in a reassuring fashion and pats me on the arm in a there, there fashion and being the most trusting person in the world and willing to bow down to his superior knowledge of all things animal, because he is the Doctor Dolittle of Burscough, I nod slowly and agree that perhaps these are two really hungry field mice who simply need to consider intermittent fasting and of course, if we just ignore them they will go away.
He looks at me as if he can’t quite believe I bought his blatant lie, and I look back at him willing him to maintain it because I am not a person who can be dealing with rats, and quiet agreement passes between us and all is well and he says he will if I want him to, get some humane traps and all is ok with the world and I make us some soup so we can watch the ratty show together, before he announces his intention to go for a walk. Presumably to talk to the animals and think about what he has done.
So off he goes while I sit and dwell on how often I feel utterly freaked out by all that other people take in their stride and then the phone goes and it is Mark and he asks how I am and I tell him about the rodent crisis in the vegetable beds, and he laughs and I say what are you laughing at, and he says, you. (RUDE).
Me, I say, outraged!
Yep. You. They are rats, Al.
Noooo, I say, they are just really, really fat field mice. Ste said so.
As big as a little ruler you said? They are rats, Alison. There’s no such thing as really fat field mice. They are rats. Ste said they are field mice because he loves you, but they are rats.
Damn the father of my child. Damn him to a rat infested hell hole for laughing at me. And always telling the truth. No-one wants ratty truths Mark!!
So yes. rats. When confronted with my outrage, Ste gave in, and he too laughed and agreed that yes, they were rats. Trotting about Chez Brocante as if they will be popping in to a polka-dotted tutu and taking tea in the bird-bath any day now.
I can’t even think about it. I simply cannot have rats infiltrating the rodent free bubble I have built around my delusional ideas about how lovely life is. I don’t want them popping the rosy-coloured balloon I exist in, floating about believing all shall be well, and all shall be well and at the very most I shall have a minky smooth shrew nipping in and out of the undergrowth near the shed for heaven knows a person could be forgiven for convincing herself that given the opportunity, that little shrew and maybe one or two of her field-mousy friends might join her in Mary Poppin’s style song as they brush the path and pull out the weeds, while the sun cracks the flags in October and a row of happy robins provide a rousing chorus.
All this to say, that despite a lifetime of lessons from PollyAnna and our darling Anne of Green Gables, sometimes rats come and live in your garden. Sometimes we cannot avoid the ugly truth, because the ugly truth will climb up your ivy and swing herself into ratty delirium, before taking a detour around the conservatory and heading up the drainpipes. Shiver. And sometimes our imagination will have us convinced that we have erected an impenetrable field force around all that matters to us and the rats will come anyway.
Tis the sorry truth. and one I am only just realising other people learn long before they are forty-nine and a half. Thank heavens then for those who love us. For those who love us by protecting us and those who love us by telling the truth.
Somebody call the rat catcher please?