Wednesday 7 September 2011

Sit. Vac. - Rattenfänger

It's very hard to concentrate on writing about having coffee with a countess in an English stately home upstairs from a library of 6000 leather-bound books, Napoleon's desk and chair from St Helena and an array of framed family photos on the grand piano that include the Queen and Diana - very hard, I say, to concentrate on all that while there are rats rampaging around in the ceiling insulation above my head.

Although, given that Highclere Castle was neglected for years so that the upper storey of 50 bedrooms is pretty much uninhabitable because of the leaky roof, I'm sure rats are not unknown to Lord and Lady Carnarvon. Perhaps we could have bonded over that. Too late now.

Here I am, back home half a world away, with rats in my roof - probably the very ones I've been inadvertently feeding down in my sieve of a henhouse. This very cold winter they must have moved from their damp tunnels in the dirt up into our roof to snuggle cosily under the pink fibreglass duvet there. The Man has been through with his nasty baits, and in a week or so all should be quiet - although that won't describe my state of mind, envisaging decaying corpses scattered all over the ceiling. Poisoned rats don't go outside to die, apparently - and unfortunately. Urban legend.

I have no photos of the rats in my roof, but it's only a short leap from them to bats in the belfry, and thence to the wonderful sight of vast clouds of fruitbats flying out over the northern Queensland town of Cairns to feast on mangoes: their nightly outing from where they roost in trees on the other side. It was a staggering sight, but I haven't got any photos of them either; though there is this one of the stainless steel fish in the swimming pool on the Esplanade where I was sitting when I saw them. It's where everyone swims because there are crocodiles and stinging jellyfish in the sea. Oh and sharks - nobody mentions them because they're pussycats compared to the danger presented by the others. Rats, bats, crocs, stingers and sharks: is that enough animals for you today?

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