This story still makes me laugh, an old favourite that dates to the early 90s. I was a single woman with a new job and a newish car, happily house-sitting in Islington thanks to a good friend.
And in those days Islington, North London was considered an up and coming area, a desirable place to live.
After several years of renting and sharing with others, it was a huge privilege and relief to have some accommodation for myself. An incredible piece of good fortune, especially after some of the places I had lived in previously.
I remember returning home early one evening and spotting a foot-long rat, scuffling about behind the bins at the bottom of my road. Dismayed to see it there, I continued on my way while pondering what to do. I couldn’t completely ignore what I’d seen so after some thought; I decided to phone the council offices at Islington, convincing myself that they would want to know.
Details of the call itself remain a blur, but once I had done my ‘civic duty’ and reported the said rat, I promptly forgot all about it. The subject of rats came up coincidentally a few weeks later while I was talking to my two younger sisters, and I mentioned the rat and my call to the council.
To say that two women fell about laughing is putting it mildly. While holding their sides, they managed to ask for details of the call and ‘what did I expect the council would do?’
In the face of their mockery, which included further questions about whether the rat had a bag marked ‘SWAG’ on its back? Was it wearing a stripy jumper and mask? How big was it, exactly? Did I think Islington was a ‘rat-free’ zone?
There might well have been something about beady eyes; this did go on for a little while.
And at the time I had to admit, ‘well no.’
Now thirty years later, I can only imagine what the person who took my call was thinking. From what I can remember, he was courteous and appeared to take down the few details I was able to provide. With everything else, a council deals with one rogue rat is probably not high on their list of priorities.
Today my sisters still tease me about the fact that I bothered to pick up I the phone and call Islington council about the rat I spotted at the bottom of my road. Though in my defence, it was a pretty big rat, and I had just finished reading the series of books by James Herbert.
So, there you have it until next time.