Home Front Alice Pit­man

Alice Pit­man: Home Front

The Oldie - - NEWS -

As read­ers may re­call, a rat took up res­i­dence be­hind the cup­boards in our kitchen while we were on hol­i­day.

More wily than its pre­de­ces­sor (which Mr Home Front quickly trapped a year ago), this one ig­nored our new high­tech rat trap, con­tain­ing a piece of cho­co­late smoth­ered in peanut but­ter (as rec­om­mended by the He­ston Blu­men­thal-style instructions on the box). And turned his nose up at the iron­mon­ger’s poi­son.

Re­luc­tance to pay for a pest con­troller meant we ac­com­mo­dated our lodger for some weeks. There may even have been a touch of Stock­holm Syn­drome. One night, when I was pour­ing my­self a sec­ond glass of Lidl’s Pinot Noir and heard him scrab­bling un­der the floor­boards nearby, I felt the usual re­pul­sion, this time mixed with a per­verse creep­ing fond­ness.

But then the rat ru­ined things by invit­ing his friends round. I knew this be­cause we kept hear­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ous scuf­fles in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the house. Even we re­alised it was prob­a­bly time to call in the pro­fes­sion­als.

Af­ter look­ing through the cre­den­tials of nu­mer­ous rat­catch­ers on­line, I opted for Mick. Partly be­cause his pro­file pic­ture showed him pos­ing with a happy-look­ing dog. And partly be­cause of all the glow­ing cus­tomer re­views. ‘My ve­hi­cle car­ries no sig­nage or mark­ings re­gard­ing pest con­trol ser­vices,’ he promised on his web­site, ‘So you can be as­sured of com­plete dis­cre­tion when I at­tend to any pest re­moval work.’ When he ar­rived two days later, it was in a van with a pest con­troller logo em­bla­zoned on the side, ac­com­pa­nied by a sil­hou­ette of a vi­cious-look­ing rat not un­like the one I re­called from a Look and Learn fea­ture on the Black Death.

Mick was a bor­der­line rogue who looked and sounded like Ian Dury.

‘Well, I’m per­plexed,’ he ad­mit­ted

af­ter a cur­sory search round the out­side of the house.

‘There’s no point of en­try, noth­ing.’ In­side, the house yielded no clues ei­ther.

‘There’s no drop­pings, can’t un­der­stand it. It’s weird.’

His at­ten­tion drifted to the paint­ings of Lupin pep­pered around the walls. ‘Some­one likes dogs,’ he re­marked. I told him I had painted them. Mick gave an un­cer­tain nod. Then he stopped be­fore the only paint­ing I hadn’t done. It de­picted a dog sit­ting on a des­o­late rail­way plat­form in the snow. ‘Did you do that?’ he en­thused. The urge to say ‘yes’ was strong. ‘No,’ I ad­mit­ted, ‘I bought it in Bridling­ton.’ ‘Who’s the artist?’ ‘A re­tired cler­gy­man called Barry,’ I said, rather re­sent­fully.

Mick stared ap­pre­cia­tively at it for some mo­ments.

‘There’s a real at­mos­phere to it, isn’t there?’ he mused. ‘Makes you won­der why he’s there. I mean, is he wait­ing for a train, or just hav­ing a rest, or what?’

Even­tu­ally, he laid down enough poi­son to kill a coun­try. A week later, only the bait in the at­tic had gone.

Over the next few days, ro­dent ac­tiv­ity re­turned with such re­in­forced vigour that I won­dered if Mick had given them am­phet­a­mines. In the kitchen, it sounded as though rats were try­ing to break into a cup­board with a bat­ter­ing ram. While, from the at­tic, the noise of cas­cad­ing rub­ble and the pat­ter of tiny feet brought to mind a ro­dent orgy akin to the fi­nal days of the Third Re­ich.

Then all fell silent. And re­mained so un­til Mick’s third visit (bill so far – £175).

‘I think they might have gone,’ I said in a cheer­ful voice tinged with de­spair. Mick gave an ironic chuckle.

‘Think so? Well, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s prob­a­bly more of them. Shall I come back in an­other week?’

Re­al­is­ing it would be cheaper to de­mol­ish the house and build a new rat-proof one than to keep Mick on, I de­clined his of­fer. Be­fore leav­ing, he dis­cov­ered what he claimed was a rat’s nest in an old com­post heap at the bot­tom of the gar­den.

When I told Mr Home Front we had a rat’s nest, the prospect of light­ing fires and killing things turned him into Quint from Jaws (com­plete with peaked cap). He spent Satur­day burn­ing the con­tents of the com­post heap and smok­ing out the nest (no sign of flee­ing rats, I noted).

‘I don’t think you’ll find any more prob­lems from that quar­ter,’ said Mr HF rather smugly that night.

On cue, the fa­mil­iar scrap­ing sound from be­hind the sink…

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