It’s not a question I ever thought I would have to answer, but recently as I walked up a lane to the supermarket I was confronted by a big rat. It stood bold as brass in the middle of the path in broad daylight. This wasn’t a cute pet rat, it was big with black eyes staring up at the pram. What would I do?
To put it in context, I’ve never been a fan of rats.
As a child I was a big fan of James Herbert, and his novel The Rats didn’t make them seem very friendly. Just look at that artwork!
Then I read a novel about doctors developping a vaccine in an Asian hospital (if anyone knows the name from that poor description please let me know). The introduction talked about plagues being spread by rats and stated that if two rats mate, the speed of gestation means there can be a million descendant rats in just a few months. Scary stuff!
But the incident that really cemented my fear of rats happened in 2003 when I was backpacking solo in Thailand. I travelled to the island of Ko Samet, and keen to get away from the main tourist drag I travelled down the coast to an idyllic looking beach called Ao Thian with a few beach huts clustered around a small bar. The wooden thatched huts were basic – mattresses on the floor and open air bathrooms, but they had electricity, a fan and mosquito nets, and they cost about £3 a night so I checked in for 4 nights.
The first night I met a couple from New Zealand in the bar and we went across the headland to another bar and stayed out pretty late. I crashed on the mattress on the floor of my hut and had a good night’s sleep.
The second night I just had dinner and a few drinks in the bar, and read my book on the veranda. I turned in for the night about 10pm and had just got into my sleeping bag when the fun began.
I heard a rustling above the bed, and quickly snapped on the light. Did I see a rat? No! I saw dozens of rats running round the roof beams. I counted at least nine, but they were moving so fast it was hard to be sure.
They scattered so I decided to leave the light on, which suddenly seemed so pathetic and dim. That worked for all of 5 minutes and then they started slowly to appear again. I clapped my hands and they dispersed, but once they realised it was just a noise they came creeping back out.
I was getting ready to make a break from under my flimsy mosquito net and head outside when I heard a pack of dogs on the veranda. As I didn’t have rabies vaccinations I didn’t want to risk going out, when I wasn’t near a hospital.
So I got in my sleeping bag, pulled it up over my head and pulled the draw strings as tight as I could. I was sweating let like an ice cube left in the sun, but I didn’t care. I got out a book and started to read to keep awake, and I stayed awake all night watching them, dreading them coming any closer, and wondering what would happen if they fell on the mosquito net.
Going through my head was the thought I’d slept unawares the previous night and they could have been running all over me. The only consolation was I didn’t seem to have any bites, so they hadn’t tried to eat me.
Just as dawn was breaking about 5am a giant toad hopped out the bathroom and across the floor towards the bed. That was the final straw, I decided to take my chances outside.
I ran down to the end of the pier, and sat and watched the most amazing sunrise. One lone dog came and sat a few metres away and together we watched the fishes swim below, and I felt sad he wasn’t part of the pack, and it reminded me I was there alone, with no one to share the sunrise with.
It was so beautiful I was almost tempted to stay for another night, but then I looked back at the room and remembered and shuddered. I grabbed my stuff (no signs of the rats now) and jumped on the first boat headed for the main resort. I checked into a modern hotel which was mercifully rat free.
So back to now, what did I do when confronted with a bold rat? My options were turn and go back and find another way, or charge at it with the pram and hope it scattered.
My adrenaline was pumping and I made the charge, but ran with the pram at an angle, so if it made a dash for the pram I was ready to do my best to kick it away.
In the end it turned and ran off and I rushed past. A man coming the other way saw me running and I felt I needed to explain, so I said there was a rat, but he didn’t look at me like I was any less crazy.
So in answer to my question, would I fight a rat for my baby. Despite my fear of them, the answer is absolutely yes, I would do anything for her!
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