Sunday, 7 February 2021

Cold weather. Rat invasions.

Yesterday my weather app was predicting snow flurries and a light breeze for today. This morning it has changed to thick cloud and a fresh breeze. Considering that I can see moderate sized patches of blue sky I wonder how they define thick cloud. The temperature is set to stay at 0 degrees all day, sliding down to -2 by mid-to-late afternoon. That bit of the forecast might be accurate. It was certainly cold when I went out for a run first thing. At certain points my run turned into a careful walk over icy surfaces - it’s a lot harder to control where your feet slide to when you run - and at others I had to work my way round the mud puddles to avoid getting wet feet. Wet feet are not terribly good at the best of times but when the weather is cold they are really best avoided. 

And so here we are, another Sunday, another week about to start and no clear idea of where the pandemic is taking us. Vaccination is working - well, it’s being “rolled out”, as they say - but despite all the hype about how well it is all going, I keep hearing more stories of people being sent to places some distance from home to get their injection. And we are not the only people to have been reminded to go for vaccination after being vaccinated! I’m just glad ai don’t have to coordinate it all.

According to this article rats are taking over empty offices and workplaces while their usual occupants work from home, another odd consequence of the pandemic. The writer sounds almost sympathetic to the poor rats, whose pickings on the streets have been more than decimated as commuters have pretty well disappeared. He can fully understand their invading empty workplaces, climbing round u-bends to get in via the loo! He sounds almost admiring:-

“... it is true that in addition to being able to slither round a U-bend, rats can survive a 50ft (15m) drop, tread water for three days and hold their breath for three minutes. They giggle when tickled; experiments on rats have located the “tickle centre” in mammal brains. Their teeth are harder than iron, and their bite is six times stronger, relative to their size, than that of a great white shark. “When a rat’s bite touches the bone, it makes you faint in a minute, and it bleeds dreadful – ah, most terrible – just as if you had been stuck with a penknife,” reported Jack Black of Battersea, the rat-catcher profiled in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor. Black anointed himself ratcatcher to Queen Victoria and sold a couple of pedigree “fancy rats” to Beatrix Potter

Rats are clever, too. Extremely clever. A trap is nothing to the older, more experienced rats, an exterminator told the journalist Joseph Mitchell in his classic New Yorker essay, “Rats on the Waterfront”: “They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read.” Young says he once saw a rat pause at a glue trap that had been laid in its path, return to the bin it had just come from, and fetch a crisp packet to stick over it, meaning it could pass with ease. “I think they’re a fantastic rodent,” he says. “Not just because they provide me with a living. But everything tries to kill the rat. When you think about how much they pack into 12 months of life, you gotta have a bit of respect for them.””

Our oldest granddaughter is fond of rats. She has four “fancy rats” in a cage in her living room and gets most offended when her mother and I protest and tell her that they smell. (They don’t just smell, they stink!!) I don’t think she likes the wild variety quite so much. When we were sorting out the wilderness of brambles that constituted her back garden she expressed her horror that there was a rat living in there. Of course, this may have been an excuse to stop pulling up weed and prickly brambles. 

In similar fashion, I suppose she could use the possible presence of rats in her work place as a further reason not to return to the office any time soon.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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