Some time in the 1990s a neighbour of mine reported having seen a squirrel, probably one of a number, entering our loft. He offered to provide me with a trap. The following morning, against the trunk of one of our trees, I found a large metal cage with a strong latticed grill beside a bucket of water, a hammer, and a pair of strong leather gauntlets. Inside the cage a frantic creature with a bloodied nose repeatedly threw itself at the sides of the container.
No way could I carry out the obviously intended process. I rapidly unlocked the door of the cage, backed away, and watched the animal disappear into the shrubbery. My neighbour was most disappointed when I explained my inability to commit murder.
Some years later, when Louisa and I were still living in Lindum House, and I was down in London working for a couple of days, she telephoned me to say there was something wrong with the shower water. It had a disgusting smell. I said I would sort it out when I got home. Thinking that my daughter (although that was never her wont) may have been being a bit fussy, I climbed into the shower cubicle to sample it…… No way was I going to shower in that! I instantly recognised the most unsavoury stench as that of a dead rodent. Before Louisa had existed we’d discovered a dead rat in our Soho flat and that smell, once experienced, is never forgotten.
I ventured into the loft and, sure enough, floating in the albeit securely covered water tank, were the putrid remains of an adventurous squirrel. How it got in there is a mystery. Removal of the corpse was an extremely delicate task. Imagine trying to scoop up a furry jelly which hasn’t properly set.
Having drained the tank several times the water was still nauseous. Knowing that Matthew would be able to advise on the problem I telephoned him. He suggested a trip to the local swimming baths – not for a shower, but for a solution. I just had time to get there before they closed, and a very kind young man, at some risk, he assured me, to his job, provided me with a bag of stuff. This was to be applied to the water and subsequently drained off. I needed to do this three times before either of us dared contemplate a shower. I hope the young man has risen up the ranks.
In 2008 I was living in a rented three story house in Bayswater’s Leinster Mews when such a malodorous hum next beset my nostrils. This was thought to be the scent of a rodent which had met its demise in one of the walls. The estate agent organised fumigation, but the stink lingered, and I was forced to see my clients on the flat roof at the top of the building.
They say that if you live in London you are never more than a metre from a rat.