Chinese Torture

I’m afraid I have a tendency these days to blame everything on the Chinese.  Maybe you would too, if you could see the demise of Africa’s elephant and rhino populations all to feed the insatiable demand for ivory and rhino horn in the Far East.  There are daily reports in the news of poaching incidents, or troves of ivory being discovered – only yesterday 2 tonnes of elephant tusks were uncovered in a Chinese resident’s house in Dar-es-Salaam buried under a pile of garlic cloves and snail shells, waiting to be smuggled away in some eagerly awaited container ship.  It sickens me.

But that’s not really what this story is about.

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We had a veritable plague of these monsters

I’ve been away from home for ages, and longed to be back.  The normal French rodent patrols kept me busy – while we’ve managed to get rid of the rats that were a plague in the spring raiding the bird table (by, sadly, refraining from feeding the birds – thankfully it was a good summer and Nature provided all they needed), the dormice predictably began their search for winter lodgings as the days drew in.

Our old pusscat Noir made her journey to the Heaviside Layer (‘Cats’ lovers will understand) in the summer – and she left behind a massive void for such a small friend.  Although in recent years she hadn’t done much hunting I’m sure her presence was some sort of deterrent to trespassers.  But this autumn, without Noir about, the dormice were out in force.  I caught 6 – sadly all separately, but diligently translocated them one by one  – after a night in the DORchester – to the Faraway Woods.

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Checking out the penthouse in the DORchester Hotel

I suppose I shouldn’t complain – you all know I love wildlife, and animals in general and could be forgiven for thinking that I’d enjoy the company.  I have to admit though given a choice I’d probably go for a companion with two legs – and fewer whiskers and more hair (it’s those bald tails I just can’t stomach).

I wasn’t anxious leaving France this time, without the worry of abandoning Noir.  Leaving Achilles with instructions to keep checking for dormice and frozen pipes, I headed home relieved to be going back to the simple life once more.  Nothing could have been more welcoming on my first night home than the clatter of Sykes monkeys moving around the bamboo outside my house, tree hyraxes rattling their guttural calls from the canopy and bushbabies’ blood-curdling screams echoing around me.  There was even a mournful hyena whoop in the direction of the National Park, as I drifted off to sleep.

Morning, though, brought a different story.  When I went to run a bath I noticed my bar of soap had been gnawed, thoroughly along each edge – the way I eat KitKats.  I knew what that meant.

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Then, the following night, when I went to bed still feeling a bit peckish (my landlord had kindly left me a bunch of delicious baby bananas and a loaf of bread for my arrival, but there wasn’t much else and I was determined not to go shopping until Monday), I nibbled one of the sweet lemony bananas, and idly plopped the skin on the floor to throw out in the morning.

In the morning, the skin was gone.

The third night – last night – I was woken by a sense that I was being watched.   Turning on my torch, the beam picked up an adult rodent – smaller than the swaggering French rats, smaller even than Monsieur Dormouse – scuttling along my windowsill and wriggling up the rafter of the A-frame roof, almost to the apex where he/she/it turned and stared at me from behind the hanging lampshade.  After a couple of minutes’ contemplation it retraced its steps and disappeared behind my bed…

There was no going to sleep and I lay tossing and turning, flinching at every raindrop that dripped from the leaves outside.  And then – a shrill mouse call – I’m almost fluent in the bloody language.  It was conversation, and we all know it takes two to converse…  I turned on the torch again.

A baby version of the bigger one – this one the size of a walnut – was calling for Mum and shadowing the route I’d watched the larger one take.  Along the sill, up the rafter, back down the rafter, back along the sill… then, instead of diving behind my bed, it went up another rafter – directly above me – wobbled, lost its balance and fell.  It missed my bed by 2 inches.  Landed on the floor, shook itself and ran under the bed.

By now it was 4.00am and there was no way I could sleep.  I turned on all the lights and sat – like a statue – bolt upright in bed.  And stayed that way until the first birds began to call at a quarter to six as the sky slowly grew lighter.  Only then did I turn out the light and fall into a dreadful sleep where I dreamed four of my teeth fell out and were rolling around my mouth like marbles (which I know means I was grinding my teeth in a state of heightened stress).  It’s not funny.

As I’d kept vigil and reflected rather dejectedly on my year of playing the Pied Piper to rodents across the globe, it occurred to me it was bound to be the Chinese’s fault.  This is probably the Year of the Rat, I decided.  That would explain everything.  But – I confess – I’ve checked, and it’s not the year of the rat.  It’s the Year of the Snake (now I’m really in for it!)  Giving up on astrology, I reached for my Field Guide to African Mammals.

Not having had the clearest of views of the adult, I’ve struggled to positively identify it, but it most closely resembles a Multimammate Rat which has…

up to twelve pairs of teats, and…

can give birth to 22 young at one time.

Meanwhile ‘friends’ have been contacting me to welcome me home.  And I’ve told them about the reception committee lying in wait for me and how I don’t think I’m going to make it through another night like last night.  If I expected sympathy, I was a fool.  My tale of woe has been met with gales of laughter and unhelpful texts and emails like these:

Sorry to laugh, but it could only happen to you!! You definitely made a mistake trying to identify it! I wonder where the other 21 siblings are hanging out??????????????????????

and

Dear Me!!  Why do these funny ‘things’ happen to you??!!  Call me before you go to sleep so I can wish you a good journey (into the after life)……….. Eeeeeeeeeeeeek

and by anonymouse text

I am watching u…  squeak squeak!  Mousey Mousey loves your housey… Ps Thanx 4 the banana skin x

Who needs friends, when you’ve got rats?

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9 comments on “Chinese Torture

  1. Franca Ross says:

    You’re not really THAT afraid of the little rodents are you? One the size of a walnut – how cute is that????. Whereabouts “home” are you? Love Franca x

  2. I’m freakin’ out! Would YOU like one on your bed with you? That’s surely too close for comfort. A friend of mine woke one night when a rat ran along her arm. I don’t think that would wake me – I’d just have a heart attack! Anyway tonight certain strategies shall be put in place. And as for which home? Home home, where my heart is…

  3. Dave Breed says:

    Better stock up on wire wool…

  4. Paula Pape says:

    Love it, Tash! Hope you had a better night? I was very fed up with speckled pigeons pooing in my gutters once as their poo was so acid it was burning holes in the metal. I tried everything to get rid of them to no avail. I resorted to having a telepathic conversation with the king of pigeons and asked him to kindly inform his subjects to poo elsewhere. Guess what? Within a couple of weeks the whole lot had gone. Perhaps you should have a word in the ear (if you dare get close enough) of Mr. King Rat! xxx

    • I survived the night, thanks! And, have two nights away now, staying with a friend. Meanwhile, much to my delight – one of my other ‘friends’ – the one who wanted to know where the other 21 ‘walnuts’ might be hiding, is coming to stay the night with her husband… I’ve gladly offered them my bed! That’ll teach her to laugh….

      Will certainly think about communing with the Ruler of Rats if none are caught in my absence. I’m using cage traps and banana skins… And then I know someone whose garden they’d probably love!

      xx

  5. Jane Craig says:

    Tasharoo Brilliant want to send it to everyone!!! See you later “en Shallah”!! looking jolly stormy from here.

    • Sue says:

      Hi Tasharoo, you really made me laugh out loud! I can just imagine your dilemma as they obviously gravitate towards you as they can feel your vibe and want you to love and nurture them and then maybe they will give up trying to be your friend. Try it and see what happens, they do have the sweetest little beady eyes and beautiful whiskers!
      xxx Sue

      • Sue – I wish I could deliver a situation report of a marked improvement in conditions. As it is, I’m still displaced – having moved out when I had no less than FIVE sightings of rodents – mice and rats – inside my house. Traps – yes, the murderous variety – have been set but so far, 5 days later, only one small mouse has been dispatched. There’s probably another blog to write, but I’m all at sea, once again living out of a suitcase (kikapu) and not organised at the moment. Will see what transpires…..But as for winning hearts and minds of the little darlings – I just don’t think that’s going to happen!

  6. Sue says:

    Tasheroo, its worth trying everything once!~ Dont give up, I do hope your bucket traps will work tonight, let us know soonest please. xxx

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