After I left home I was still encountering these animals. There was the mouse who ran over my toes in a kitchen of a place I was working in. It was an old period house and the field mouse probably driven indoors by the cold.
Indeed we had a plague of them ourselves when the family lived in an old barn of a house, started back in Elizabethan times and built on until the early 1900s. Field mice living indoors behind the skirting, in the piano, keeping warm the best way they knew.
It was then I discovered a positive downside to old buildings, there are soooo many tiny entrances . The size of a pencil, the rodent man informed me, look for holes as small as that.
I found them.
In a fortnight of knee breaking endeavour, with an apology for doing it at every filling in. Daft that’s me.
Once on my travels when staying in Kathmandu, I got locked into a room with the ugliest rat one has ever seen. Who was the most scared him or me? I was the one that had to get to the door to unlock it for his escape. Did I dare put my foot on the floor in the dark or would this unsavoury, no doubt disease ridden rat bite me?
I the door.
He his escape.
It felt good, in a strange way, that he had run to fight another day. I had released something from a cage - albeit a room sized cage.
On my travels in the 70s I was to meet many rats at a distance, they lived in hordes all the route overland to Australia. I didn’t spot so many mice but I am sure they were there in the shadows. Watching.
It was while working in the outback, in Australia, I came across mice in numbers. There was a plague of them at the time, out in the desert, and the motel I worked in had hundreds inside. One of my jobs was to check the motel rooms and beds for these unwanted creatures.
They kept quiet while we were around but turn on the light unexpectedly and one could spot them diving into cover, into the toaster, into the pans, under the stove, under the beds.
We didn’t encourage our guests to turn on lights unexpectedly!:)
The second day I was there I disturbed one that had settled down at the bottom of my bed. I never tuck in bedclothes and he had taken advantage. The first I knew he had run up my leg and popped out under my chin making his escape. So swift had he been I didn't have time to make a sound.
You can be sure I tucked the bedclothes in after that.
Maybe it was the same one I befriended a few days later. Having a rest on my bed, with a book and coffee, a movement attracted me and I turned my head to spy him balanced on the rim of my cup, drinking my coffee!! Well I didn't really want to have his head in my coffee so from that day on I poured a small amount into the saucer and shared my drink and a digestive biscuit with him as I read.
I lost this free ranging friend. He vanished abruptly one day when the plague of mice was over-run by a plague of snakes! Such is the way of the world.
I didn't share my coffee and digestives with a snakes, they were Western Browns!
A few years back I watched through the window as a rat slipped through the hedge from the field into the garden. He carefully went sniffing all the windfalls and then selected himself a large, fairly unblemished, apple.
It was so big he couldn't get it back through the hedge. Nonplussed he sat and thought a while, tried going backwards. No good. He wasn’t about to give his prize up. After another few moments of pondering, Ratty bite a large chunk out and carried it through the hedge. Then he popped back and repeated the performance. It took him five bites to transfer the apple to the other side of the hedge.
Wanting the whole apple for storing?
For a family?
Who knows but I was silently cheering him on.
Ratty deserved every mouthful, he had had to work on the problem for at least 15 minutes.
I have known two people in my life who have shared my liking for rats. One indeed allowed his to sit on his shoulder while he sketched children’s illustrations, just as I had imagined all those years ago. They were intelligent, clean and harmless as I had told Mum at the time.
I never made good my promise to buy a rat the day after my parents died. I grew old with my mother and although I would have liked one, the responsibilities of caring, dogs, cats and increasing infirmities made it a nonsense desire. But I do still have a liking for them:)