Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 28 October 2013

The rat. Gone but not forgotten…

Grandpa WebbThings are coming together. We have at last replaced the TV with a line down the screen (see The thin blue line) with a new smart TV that is connected to the internet and to Freesat through a new satellite dish.

When I bought the TV and the Freesat set-top box the man in the shop said it was worth keeping my terrestrial aerial connection because in certain weather conditions it provides a better signal than the satellite (funny how you only find these things out after you have bought everything). Anyway, when Thomas called to fit the dish, he agreed it was a good idea to retain the old aerial.

There was just one snag. On examination, a three inch section of the old coaxial cable was missing its insulation and the outer woven bit of wire. All that was left was the thin central copper wire with a few teeth marks on it. “You have rat,” said Thomas. “I did have,” I said, “but he’s gone now.” (See There’s something alive in the kitchen ceiling).

Rats follow the outline of a building and prefer to work close to a wall. This one had chewed a small section of the cable where it emerged from an air-brick. The rest of the cable was untouched.  

What can be done? “Nothing,” said Thomas, shaking his head. So the rat- damaged cable was cut and used to pull a length of string through the airbrick and under the floor to emerge through a hole in the floorboards just behind the new TV. The string was then used to pull through two new cables from the dish and somehow Thomas managed to leave the bit of string in place in case I wanted to mend the old cable.   

After he had gone, with grandma’s help I re-threaded the old cable under the floorboards, and at the local electronics shop I bought what they call an HQ Coax plug and socket. These were fixed over the broken ends of the cable and pushed together to make ends meet and wrapped in insulating tape. The rat owes me £4.18 for the new components.

The rat. Gone but not forgotten…How could we protect our newly-repaired cable? Rats, the internet tells me, given the time, have been known to chew their way through wood, plaster, asbestos, brick, four inches of concrete – you name it. The only thing that deters them, it seems, is steel wool, presumably because it tickles their noses and makes them laugh.

Here was the answer: wrap the cable in steel wool. The only problem is that steel wool left outside will go rusty. What we needed was rustproof steel wool -or a pack of stainless steel pan scourers from the local supermarket. The woolly scourers were wrapped round the vulnerable section of cable and fixed with garden wire. So far they have been untouched by rats or any other rodents.

Bearing mind that the main topics of conversation for ageing pensioners are things like hip replacements or what was on the telly last night, a good rodent story can be a useful conversation piece, and the rat has served me well. However at a party recently I heard another rodent story that makes my rat-in-the ceiling tale sound a bit ordinary.

Peter, a former work colleague, tells how, sitting in his first-floor London flat one evening, he saw a mouse run across the floor.

“What was a mouse doing in a first-floor flat in London?”The rat. Gone but not forgotten…

“We have a pet parrot and he was after the seeds that had been scattered from the cage.”

A kindly soul, Peter obtained a humane mouse-trap. These don’t kill the mouse. Instead, they have a small tunnel and the floor of the tunnel is covered in glue. As the mouse crawls though he gets stuck to the floor and can be gently peeled off and set free -- hopefully some distance from where he was caught.

Peter’s humane mouse trap caught three live mice which he carefully removed and put in a container to take them to the local park to release them. What happened next, he said, was like a scene from a horror movie.

“I gently tipped the mice on to the grass and within seconds three crows appeared, grabbed the mice and flew off with them. It was awful – I could hear them squeaking in terror as the crows carried them off.”

It turned out that these were not the only mice in the flat. Others became so skilled they climbed up into the parrot’s cage and helped themselves from the seed bowl. “I had to use poison in the end,” said Peter sadly. “We caught 28 mice.”

Maybe he should trade in the parrot for a crow…

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