Lockdown day 9: ennui, rats and the Old Masters

Canberra daughter posted a few days ago: “Garden Australia just legit suggested encouraging carpet pythons to live in your garden as a means of controlling rats.” We are New Zealanders. We don’t do snakes. At all. Ever. I looked up carpet pythons and all I can say is that you maybe don’t want to encourage them if you have a domestic cat or small dog.

The visiting kitchen rat finally succumbed to the temptation of peanut butter on Mark’s homemade bread

Mark quite liked the idea of a biological control for rats. At this time of the year, he is doing daily trapping rounds to try and reduce the population. In a household where we try and relocate house spiders outdoors rather than sucking them up the vacuum cleaner, we don’t get sentimental about rats. That said, even vermin deserve to be despatched quickly, efficiently and without undue suffering. Mark uses cage traps from preference. He carries the trap out to an open space and opens the door for a waiting Dudley. Despite being a town-bred dog, Duds is a whizz at instant rat killing and the victim rarely hits the ground before it is dead. Man and dog  then leave the carcase out in the open for the resident hawk who has taken to doing daily rounds looking for such carrion. This is another reason to prefer cages and a quick death over slow-acting poison.

The inspiration, back when Tecomanthe venusta was in bloom

I have an entire photo file devoted to rats and rat catching, both alive and dead. I find this slightly bizarre but it indicates the role rat incursions play in our life here on the land. It was the poignant mummified rat in a blackbird’s nest that sent me down a different track. We pick up spent nests when we find them, mostly to admire the craft. I assume this rat had climbed into an empty nest and died there because it is such a snug fit. And there was something haunting about it. One day, I thought, I may try and stage a scene inspired by the Dutch and Flemish old masters and their sombre still lives.

That day came a little sooner rather than later when a combination of self-isolation and forced inactivity coincided (the inactivity related to my dodgy back deciding to make its presence felt). The backdrop is just the mantlepiece in our dining room but I expect you at least to admire the detail of the mouldy oranges. Designed to channel the spirit of the old masters. I very rarely use filters on photos but I admit I indulged in a few here. In the spirit of the topic, you understand.

When I had done with the dining room setting, I walked into our drawing room and thought well, the stage is already set for Rattus in the art deco revival fireplace that we never use on account of the chimney not drawing the air very well. No additional staging required here.

Ned Kelly Rattus

The bleak humour of the Ned Kelly rat may elude some of you. But if you find it quirky and you have not yet met Henri, le Chat Noir, may I point you in his direction? It has very little to do with rats – just a brief walk-on appearance by one – but instead the struggle of the tuxedo cat to cope with existential issues and extreme ennui. Ned Kelly Rattus, by the way, was found like that. Mummified in a stack of plastic nursery pots where he became trapped despite his best efforts. There is a metaphor there somewhere but I do not think it would be uplifting at this time.

From earlier times – Spike the dog in his younger days, wearing his Julian Clary coat, attempting to climb the shed walls after an escaped rat

Another little carcase from another time


21 thoughts on “Lockdown day 9: ennui, rats and the Old Masters

  1. Winifred Kiddle

    Haha. Why is it that modern day dogs like the little luxuries. My dog pats down the cushions on the window seat before she lies on them. Are you sure it was Duddley? His face looks so innocent. “Who Me?!”

  2. Bev Rennie

    Amazingly creative, and inspiring!
    The use of filters heightens the ye old world look
    A natural talent!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Thank you. I resist the temptation to use filters when it comes to gardens, landscape and flowers because I want an accurate representation. But they are fun for a project like this.

  3. Janet

    Thank you so much for Ned Kelly and for Henri le chat noir.
    It all made a dull grey lockdown morning much happier.

  4. Paddy Tobin

    I can see that this lockdown has had dire effects on your mental stability. Keeping mummified rats is not the worst thing in the world, I suppose, but it is a little, well, different!

    The guillotine trap is my preferred method but, should the quarry prove too clever for that mechanism, I will resort to poison. I don’t keep trophies so have no photographs to share.

  5. janet

    I hope you are familiar with the wonderful book by our Gavin Bishop called ‘Rats’ It is a different. take on rats.

  6. Robyn Kilty

    I could supply you with plenty of dead rats!! Just me, my cat, my garden and dead rats at the moment, which my cat, Polly, presents me with at the back door. I’ve got to pretend to be all thrilled with Polly, as she is so proud of herself presenting me with lovely prezzies!! Yukk – I’ve got to scoop them up and put them in the bin which then stinks till it is emptied at roadside – no big wide open spaces in the middle of the city to dipose of it!

    Have fun with your vanitas phase! Why not pick up a paint brush like the old masters??



    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I have no potential with a paintbrush, Robyn. I know my limits. Good to hear that Polly is keeping life as usual but it does not sound as though she is keeping your bubble secure. Stay safe and stay sane. Abbie

  7. tonytomeo

    Wow, I would say that is sick and demented, but I was tempted to do the same with three dead rats I found while clearing trash from a new garden space days ago.

  8. Pat Webster

    The Ned Kelly rat and the pauvre chat noir made me laugh. Thank you. I haven’t counted the days but we self-isolated about March 7 and today the Premier announced that the measures would continue until May 4. Thank goodness the weather is getting better and I can start to work outside.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Oh Pat, that is much longer than us. I bet you are enjoying the weather warming sufficiently for you to get outside to your garden. At this point, we are only locked down for a month though there are no guarantees that it won’t be extended. But after two weeks, the number of cases each day remain consistent and not increasing so no exponential growth and very little community spread. I think we all have our fingers crossed that the next few days will see our daily numbers dropping which will mean that lock down is working. It helps not having a land border. Enjoy your garden. I will look forward to your next post.

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