Number 13 is the house next to mine.
They’re gutting it again, I see.
It’s owned by a banker who works in the pyramid glass building you can see from the top floor of any of the houses on our terraced street. He never comes round this way. He pays someone else to inspect the damage, when there is any, the damp, when it comes, and the rats… Well the rats are always here.
They say that in London you’re never more than six feet from a rat. In actual fact you’re never more than six feet from someone saying that you’re never more than six feet from a rat.
But it’s true. The rats are here. And they are big.
Sightings are rare, for reasons I’ll go into shortly, but since the advent of cameras on phones, one or two bona fide images have found their way to the press. Which is the only reason you’ve heard of our ‘monster rat problem’. It’s been going on for years. Let me tell you.
The most credible current theory is that with all the kebab shops and takeaways on Burdett Road (that’s the one behind our street) the rodents have a ready and ideal food source. Before that their size had variously been attributed to overhead power lines, background radiation from a nearby power plant, and chemical assistance from a domestic experimenter. The police even came round and nosed about looking for any home chemistry sets we might have tucked behind the fridge.
Luckily they did not look in my attic.
Most houses on the street have attics. But the residents don’t know they have attics. No one looks up. That’s the main problem. Not the only problem, but then I’m not here to help.
I’m surprised they can sleep at night – my neighbours. My bedroom is downstairs for precisely this reason. The rats. Scampering in the rafters. Scampering may be the wrong word for the noise an animal the size of a small dog makes. It probably is, isn’t it?
Of course the experts are wrong. My rats don’t eat kebab.
They’re the size they are primarily because of selective breeding. If you only let the largest male mount the largest females you end up with a physically superior next generation. After a decade or so… Well, I’m sure you get the picture.
Of course diet does help. They dine on the bloodiest steaks that Fred the Butcher can find me. I usually let them sit, unrefrigerated, for a few days first. Let them smell their dinner for that long and they’re ravenous. Eat anything. And once a year, if they’re lucky, they get their treat.
Their treat. And mine.
I wonder when the new neighbours will move in.