But we have never seen one and only heard something that sounded like gnawing once, so I was prepared to remain in blissful denial until provided with any evidence to the contrary.
Evidence came in the shape of some strange animal droppings we found under a pallet when we moved it recently. The cats can't get under the pallets and wouldn't, I hope, dare do such a thing there anywhere. And they were too big for the desperate purgings of a mouse being vigorously toyed around with by needle-sharp claws. So, I reluctantly concluded that they must belong to a rat.
This theory appeared to be backed up this week when it became apparent that something was eating the cat food. I had left this in the awning, for some stupid reason; I think the cats were annoying me, they usually do. So it was that when I opened the door of the caravan one evening, I heard something crunching its way through the Whiskas.
Call me slow, but I figured that this was irregular, since both cats were asleep in the caravan.
I opened the door wider and in the light saw a dark and disturbingly large shape ambling away slowly, nay, insouciantly.
I shut the door quickly and addressed the caravan occupants. 'There's a freking rat out there the size of a Shetland pony,' I said.
I was somewhat freaked out.
Ten minutes later I opened the door again. The creature had returned and was knocking back the cat food. I shut the door – next time he was going to die.
I spent the next ten minutes whipping the dog up into a state of nervous frenzy. 'Where is it?' I said excitedly spinning round and looking under things. 'Where's that big old rat?'
|Oody – faint of heart|
The dog, I should remind you, is half a bull terrier – half an English bull terrier to be exact. A dog so menacing in appearance that it was picked to play Bullseye, Bill Sikes's nasty-tempered sidekick in the film, Oliver!. Oody doesn't have a temper, or a lot of courage come to that – she is a dog deeply in touch with her inner chihuahua. She is scared of rats and a lot of other things besides.
So, I was forced to head off to bed with the vermin issue unresolved. Once there, I sat upright, covers pulled up to my chin, unblinking eyes on the large hole in the door made by the cats as their own personal entrance system.
Soon I heard the unmistakeable crunching of cat food. I rang Gully who was still in the caravan. 'It's out there,' I hissed.
The door banged open and he came flying out torch in hand. And there, frozen with fear and blinking in the light, was a hedgehog.
So I could sleep easy after all, happy in the knowledge that I have a cute little helper hoovering up the slugs and snails in my indoor garden. But I am under no illusions that there might not be a rat ...