You dirty rat!

The house is in a mixed area of human striving. There are several biggish homes of which this is one and all the land between them is in-filled with shanty development. The house, itself, is built round a quadrangle. There is no glass in the windows, only mosquito netting which means we don’t use air conditioning which means we are a little more ecological. In this sprawling, fissured, sandy-tracked part of Accra, unlike the various guarded, sentry-posted estates nearby, there is a sense of nature close in tooth and claw. A cobra scaled our wall and our squatter neighbours came to warn us. A big thing lives in the roof space. It scuttles and sometimes we can hear the despairing last gulps and moans of its prey which it has brought home to feast upon. Chickens and goats scratch and munch around the little lawn in front of the high walls of the property. Birds boom, warble, shriek and make electronic beeps. The goats bleating at night sound like women in labour.

All very well, producing an acceptable sense of cohabiting with all except the mosquitos, the over-loud stereophonic speakers of the evangelical churches, nearby – and the RATS.

For the last few days, the rats have come, probably, judging by their intelligence, from being stowaways on a ship that passed a nuclear power station in Le Havre where they have been fast-breeding in the dark spaces by the reactor. Naturally we want rid of them fast. They may be only six feet from you wherever you are in any urban environment in the world but not materialising in your own kitchen and living room. Last night they were chortling as they dropped into the courtyard and tap danced on the tiles.

They were triumphant because, it turned out, they had discovered our last stash of poison, stored high but, unfortunately, not out of reach. They had dragged this box of ratty hemlock down to the floor and then devoured the contents by first shredding the polythene and cardboard. Like some horror film we have no more poisonous gifts until tomorrow! What will become of us tonight? You see, they enter the house by biting holes in the mosquito netting. Nowhere is safe. Not even the bedroom…

If we survive, then it’s off to the shops for more armaments. Do we buy these seductive pellets again? We can’t set traps because they may harm the dogs who are largely empty-headed creatures that would investigate them with their muzzles. The locals use something interesting but perverse, rather like an artefact out of a Laurel and Hardy sketch. It is sticky paper. Mr and Mrs Rat investigate, love the smell and the expansive dance-floor, practise their tango, becomes gummed up and finally, totally incapacitated. Thence to our own abattoir – the gardener, because killing them by machete or whatever, is a step too far for me.

It will only be a temporary reprieve in the war for, as we know, The Rat is dead – long live the Rat!

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