A Knight’s Tale (117: Fumigation)

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.