I was sitting on the sofa with my wife this afternoon, watching "The Sound of Music", as real outdoor macho men like us are wont to do, when in the corner of my eye, I spotted something scurrying from under the decking outside, over the lawn and into the hole at the base of the compost bin in the corner of the garden. I assumed it was a squirrel, as there are always half a dozen in view from our window in our West London garden, duly ignored it and re-immersed myself in the existential crisis of an unconvincingly Austrian nun. But a few minutes later, I caught another blur of grey going in my peripheral vision, this time back from the bin to the decking. I stood up at the window as this blur seemed to lack a long fluffy tail and I wanted to know what it is. "What are you doing?" asked my wife. I explained that there was something raiding the compost and it wasn't a squirrel. "What do you think it could be?". "Maybe a vole, or a mouse, or a weasel" I said, deliberately omitting what I thought was the most likely culprit. Suddenly, there it was again, in a flash it was back out of site in the bin. Definitely no fluffy tail. A couple of minutes later, a couple of round ears, a pair of twitching whiskers sniffed the air for a few seconds, then out it came. "Oh merde", I said. "C'est quoi?". "Un rat". "UN RAT??!!" came the predictable horrified response. "Well can't you put down poison or something?". "Well I could, but it's indiscriminate". And then, I remembered what Tom Cruise said when we saw him in Jack Reacher yesterday evening: "On second thoughts, I'd like to kill you".
So I manfully strode into the spare room, took my old child-sized Diana spring-powered air rifle from the wardrobe, found half a tin of .177 pellets, and opened the window that gives onto the garden. Now this rifle hasn't been shot for over a decade, only has bashed-about open sights, is less than a metre long, and I have absolutely no idea whether it's zeroed or not. Still, it's maybe a ten metre shot, and I used to be able to shoot the heads of matchsticks with it at that range as a teenager. Worth a shot, so to speak. I cast around for a likely-looking rest, and selected the tacky cushion embroidered with a Yorkshire terrier that one of my in-laws gave us for Christmas, for some unfathomable reason. I took an experimental pop at a garden cane to try and work out where the rifle shot. I missed the cane. Insufficient information to compensate, but a rat's wider than a bamboo cane. And so I lined up the hole in the compost bin.
By this stage, my wife was looking over the back of the sofa through the window to see what I was doing. The answer was lying in wait, which is pretty dull to watch, and it was the "Lonely Goat" bit, so she turned back to the TV. A few minutes later, out pop Ratty's whiskers for a precautionary sniff. I was losing the light fast now. So I focused on the black foresight, placed it over the lighter patch of grey, squeezed, and down he went like Whack-a-Mole!
I walked back into the living room past my wife, holding the open rifle, to go and check the carcass. "Did you get it?", she asked, aghast and disbelieving. "Well it went down" I answered, as I cocked the little break-barrel rifle and put another pellet in the chamber. "There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded brown rat" I explained in my best Australian accent, and strode manfully onto the decking, hopped onto the lawn and crouched down in front of the compost bin.
Ratty had been knocked back into his hole, with just the end of his nose visible. Following adapted best practice learned from DSC1, I administered the eye reaction test with the rifle muzzle. Well, a nose test really. It didn't seem to move, but then I could only see its' nose, and as I didn't really feel like sticking my hand into a sodden compost heap to retrieve a possibly live rat, I put another pellet through it, opened the rifle, and stepped back inside. "Well?" asked Jane. "I am MAN! THE HUNTER!" bellowed Tarzan. "Edelweiss, Edelweiss" mumbled Christopher Plumber, oblivious to the drama.
The sad thing is, that's going in my game book because that's my only success so far this season. Enjoy the party tonight everyone!