Man vs. rodent

I went for a bracing 6 mile walk several nights ago – a distressing experience in more than one way. It hurt, for one thing. This was almost a week ago, and my calves have only just stopped aching. I’m back to striding manfully about the place, instead of tottering around like an arthritic tortoise, but it’s taken far longer than it should.

The hurt also hurt in other ways, as it made horribly apparent just how much of a flabby desk jockey/couch potato I have become. Ten years ago I’d have shrugged this off with barely a whimper. Quite why I secretly believed I should be different from the vast majority of the idle middle-aged, slumping gradually into complete stasis, I don’t know, but I obviously did. A comfort I will henceforth no longer be able to clasp to my (rapidly increasing) bosom.

Worst of all, I have only my own idiocy (and a large scotch) to blame.

I’ve been afflicted with rodents for a few weeks now – one of the joys of living in an old property, I suppose – and the latest stage of my campaign to be rid of my little furry lodgers has been about bins. I discovered a while back that they can get in the old plastic flip-top item in the kitchen area. I got a metal bin with a heavy lid. It worked. No more exploding bin-liners due to rodent-gnawed holes. Result.


Not wanting to simply chuck the old bin out, I shoved it amongst all the piled up stuff that occupies the outer fringes of the bedroom until I could think of something else to use it for.

The rodents beat me to it.

Having skillfully evaded all the traps (traditional and humane) that I have dispersed around the place, one of them somehow managed to fall into the bin. Lacking a bag full of rubbish to clamber through, it couldn’t get out again.  It could scrabble  around energetically though.

You’d be surprised how effective an empty plastic bin can be as an amplifier, especially at 1.30 am.

I’d just been drifting away, in that delicious half-sleeping half-waking state….to be rudely jerked back into consciousness by what sounded like an elephant roller-skating across a tin roof. I know I don’t have a tin roof, so that couldn’t possibly have been it. Even with the more surreal options ruled out, though, the noise was so loud and un-expected that it took me a good few minutes to work out what it might be.

At this point any sensible soul would have simply taken the bin outside, possibly lodging a half-brick on top to stop the wretched rodent escaping, and left it till morning.

Any sensible soul…

Quite why it seemed it a good idea to deal with it right that moment, I still can’t quite explain. I’d like to blame my nightcap – an immoderatly large scotch – but I have a nasty feeling that that it goes much deeper than that.

Whatever the reason, it was but the work of a moment to throw on jeans, sock, shoes, t-shirt and (mercifully) a big fleecy jacket. Grab the bin and down the stairs to the car. No need for the wallet or mobile, this won’t take ten minutes. Five miles or so up the road, into the countryside, eject the rodent (I’m still not sure whether it was a large mouse or a small rat) and back to bed.

It seemed such a good plan – apart from the (in retrospect glaringly) obvious point that only the somewhat deranged would even contemplate exchanging a nice warm bed for a nasty, damp night in the first place.

It worked, too. Up to a point.

The point where, having driven miles up the road into the dank depths of South Northants, pulled up in a layby and firmly deposited the piteously squeeking rodent into the hedgerow, I tried to start the car and head home to aforementioned bed.

There’s something singularly dispiriting about that sad whining noise a car makes when it can’t quite start at the best of times. It seems to gain in depth and poignancy in the early hours of the morning, I find. Despite the fact that (as far as I knew) there was no-one around to hear me, I did not let out a manly roar of blasphemous annoyance. I might have uttered a choice oath or two sotto-voce, but I chiefly remember shrugging and thinking – ‘serves you right for not replacing the obviously inadequate battery the car had when I brought it a few months ago’. I might even have laughed ruefully at myself a bit.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the long trudge home. Six miles (I know how far it was, on account of having asked the kindly delivery lady of my local car repair shop to clock it for me, as she gave me a lift out with a new battery the day after) might not sound like much, but it’s far enough, believe me.

Far enough to reduce me to arthritic tortoise-hood for a few days.  Far enough marvel at the willfull blindness of the average lorry driver (none of whom stopped for my outstretched tumb) and (on a more positive note) how many Tawny Owls I heard calling.

Far enough to indulge in any number of mental games and muttered conversations with myself. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I wasn’t gesturing to myself as well.  Maybe I don’t blame the lorry drivers, after all.

Pondering how many randy owls seemed to be on the pull that night (they tend to  call whilst mating, I seem to remember reading somewhere), I indulged in a spot of soul searching as to my own single state. Given the fact that I was staggering along a country road, money & phone-less, in the wee small hours of a singularly damp and unpleasant morning, the answer to ”why is this man single?’ seems, with the benefit of hindsight, embarassingly obvious. At the time, however, it kept me happily occupied for a good few miles.  A circumstance which explains a lot, I suspect.

It was, however, around the point where I caught myself thinking – ‘maybe my rodent has ended up as an Owl’s supper – shame!’ that I realised that the whole thing had now tipped over into farce, and that there’s really no hope for me at all. An oddly bracing realisation which cheered me up no end, and carried me, giggling intermittently, the rest of the way home.

Despite the pain, the expense of a new battery and the bemused laughter of friends, I don’t bear the rodent any malice. I like to think of him now enjoying an exciting new life in the country, and look forward to bringing the rest of his family out to join him soon.

Somewhere around the 4th mile, it suddenly struck me. ‘Slightly mad idea that kind of makes sense at the time, before it tips over into ridiculousness…’

That’s so typical of me. I know I laughed out loud at the thought.

Man versus rodent ?

I reckon it’s a score draw, so far.

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