Waterlow Park visit really put the rat among the pigeons

Stand stock still in the open space next to the railings encircling the pond in Waterlow Park and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a rat will gnaw at your shoe. Last Sunday just after midday I was witness to several visitors with little chi

Stand stock still in the open space next to the railings encircling the pond in Waterlow Park and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a rat will gnaw at your shoe.

Last Sunday just after midday I was witness to several visitors with little children in tow hesisant to cross the road in fear of the rats scurrying across, aghast at the sight of these creatures in broad daylight on a public footpath.

Rats are nocturnal (rarely diurnal) and to find them boldly scavenging for scraps of food thrown to the ducks by inconsiderate visitors came as a surprise to me.

It is time signs were put up to discourage the practice as it is encouraging the breeding of rats in a much loved park. As rats are known to carry over 20 different diseases such as typhus, salmonella and the dreaded weil's, some minor re-landscaping of the rocky outcrops along the bank may be necessary to discourage their breeding and disrupt rat runs.


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Throughout the ages rats have inspired fear and loathing. They are reckoned to be dirty, smelly, disgusting and rapacious and a human with such attributes is not surprisingly referred to as a 'Dirty Rat'. One could also be labelled a 'Ratbag' and if sufficiently drunk 'Rat-arsed'. The phrases ''to smell a rat'' and ''to rat on somebody'' crop up frequently.

There is reigning confusion however as to how the work 'Rat Pack' originated and why it was applied to legendary crooners Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Joey Bishop, though it appears that these icons were not eager to shirk the tag.

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Not everybody it seems thinks rats are disgusting. Beatrix Potter and more recently Angelica Jolie are reputed to have kept them as pets. There is even an association known as the National Fancy Rat Association (NFRA). Fancy that.

For the rest of us however, our feelings are summed up admirably in Robert Browning's epic The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Revolting little buggers, to put it mildly.

Walter Roberts

Henfield Close, N19

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