Hunted by animals


How can you tell when you’re turning into a 1970s Latin-American dictator? Is it when the only solution to a minor irritation is murder? Because in that case, just call me Evita. I haven’t actually killed anything yet, and I probably never will. Not like my friend who emailed only yesterday to say that he had rats in his cellar and thought he was going to have to finish one off with a shovel. Urk. In a bag, he said, to stop ‘rat splatter’. That gave me pause, I must say.

See, officer, it’s the animals. The animals in South London. You wouldn’t think there are that many of them, but honestly, at night it’s like the bloody rain forest with the screaming of things shagging or fighting – possibly both. How foxes get it on I don’t know. They must be deaf as adders once they’ve had their end away. And I hate the way they rip open the rubbish bags and crap everywhere. But I was prepared to live with the poo, the screaming and half-gnawed takeaway containers up and down the street, but once they dug up my apple sapling, that was IT.

I’ve a bit of form with animals and fruit trees. One house I lived in had a magnificent cherry tree that would crop extravagantly every year. For two weeks or so in late May, early June, I’d step outside and pick a fresh bowlful of luscious cherries for breakfast. I handed out bowls of them to friends and neighbours and all was joy and delight. Until the wood pigeons spotted me and got the idea. The next year, every time I opened the back door from April onwards, the tree would explode with pigeons fat with cherries, way before the fruit was ripe. I hoped they’d get the shits until I realized that I’d be victim No. 1 of the, er, fallout.

The battle of wills escalated, and my unenthralled workmates were kept up to date with my pigeon grievances, until a colleague recounted in a steady voice – never once meeting my eye – the story of her granddad who became so obsessed with pigeons eating his cherries that in the end he chopped the tree down. That shut me up, and six months later I moved house. The cherry tree is still standing, but never again did a human taste one fruit from its branches. I know this because I only moved next door and my resentment burns anew every spring.

About two weeks before Christmas, my flatmate and I became aware that something was living in the ceiling. Too big for a mouse, too horrid to think it was a rat, we made up our own myths. I that it was a little Japanese lady like that one who lived in someone’s wall for a year, Carina that it was a cute little bunny with twitching whiskers. It bashed and scrabbled sporadically for weeks, and we tried not to imagine it chewing through cables until the house burned to the ground.

The other day, for the first time, it gave voice. I thought it was an undetected flatmate Skyping upstairs, but no one answered my quavering ‘hello?’ The house was empty. Emptyish. Ulp. I got a bit hot and scared that it was just me and It, so in a moment of muddle-headed panic I grabbed a broom, ran outside shouting and found, sitting on the extension roof, a huge, fat squirrel. We danced from left to right for a bit, in a kind of idiotic Mexican standoff, until it leaped towards the guttering and disappeared. Not quite disappeared. It went into a hole but left its big bushy tail sticking out. Moron. It was very tempting to reach up and yank the little bugger out backwards, but they have teeth that can bite through nutshells, and a nasty, squirmy muscularity, so I left it and rang the landlord.

Next day, it was back and making even more noise: clearly a ladyfriend had arrived on the scene. Panic really set in. Oh crap, now they’re going to make sweet squirrel love. God only knows what THAT sounds like; Pepe le Pew cartoons are about the height of my research, and he’s not even a squirrel. Then they’ll have loads of babies and we can’t brick them up. What to do? How to get them out of there? Some sort of squirrel tear gas, that’s the ticket! (Incidentally, I actually googled that term later and it offered me ‘Marmots drink antifreeze’. WTF?)

Being a bit low on crowd-control stuff just at that moment, I threw a scrubbing brush at the hole by the gutter and a couple of seconds later, both squirrels came flying out like they had a firecracker up their arse. Delighted with the result, I turned round to see the local fox curled up and lazily watching proceedings from the roof of the neighbours’ shed and some pigeons eyeing me from the fence. I quit the field with as much dignity as I could muster, and bolted the back door. I am so calling the council.


2 Responses to “Hunted by animals”

  1. 1 PaulW

    Rat update: Having driven the edge of my spade through the rat’s neck, I can report that they’re more crunchy than splatty. Maybe it’s the cold. I seem to recall one that I picked (dead, obv) from between the central heating pipes was much more squishy. A dead ringer, in fact, for those pointless bags of flaccid salad that you get with an Indian takeaway. Mmmtakeaway.
    That’s four rats. A litter can be double figures, easily. What do you reckon? A small gilet? A big hat? CUFFS?

    • 2 vanessaharriss

      Oh heavens, it ain’t a real rat until you can scoop out the insides and use it for a backpack.

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