The Smell

It started after a stormy night last weekend.

There was an unpleasant smell in the bedroom. I thought it might be a side-effect of the storm and the fact the chimney has now got a cowl. Storm rain doesn’t come down it like before, so maybe the chimney lining was reacting somehow? When you own an old house, such logic seems reasonable. I cleaned the fireplace, scrubbing it down and even digging out the black paint for the surround and the grate polish for the old cast-iron fire grate. The fireplace and chimney were as clean as they have been in decades.

And it still smelt.

It clearly wasn’t the chimney.

A thorough sniffing of the room narrowed it down to where a central heating pipe runs under the floorboards. Maybe the pipe was leaking? The whole system was power-flushed in the summer and the pipes are old. That wouldn’t cause The Smell, as it was becoming known, though. Unless the water was seeping into the ancient lathe of the ceiling below and causing a damp, ancient Smell to be released. Or maybe, now the pipes were clean and the new boiler more efficient, the ancient lathe was reacting to extra heat?

Except the Smell was getting worse.

And then the Chap heard scritching in the night.

I had to admit it: something had died under the floorboards.

We chatted to the neighbours, who had mentioned the week before that they’d had the council in to deal with a rat problem. The Ratman had been back and checked the traps: the rats had eaten all the poison, so he reset them. The neighbours gave us the details of the Ratman and I arranged an appointment for today, the first free slot.

In the meantime, we decamped to the spare room in the attic. The next morning, the Chap went downstairs first.

“He’s got something very big and very dead,” he called up. I went down, and taught the Chap the fine art of getting a dead rat off a cat and bagging it. He needs to learn these skills now he lives in Devon. I didn’t like to say that I’d seen bigger in the past.

Sébastian’s kill count

  • Rodents:
    Rats – 2 3 (although I suspect it was nearly dead already)
    Mice – 51
    Voles – 11
  • Birds:
    Sparrows – 5
    Dunnocks – 1
    Robin – 1
    Ringed pigeon – 3
    Uncertain – 10
  • Other:
    Frogs – 1
    Unidentifiable remains – 3
  • The Ratman arrived this morning. He was cheerful and praised the cat for his actions. He sang a jaunty tune whilst crowbarring up a floorboard, removing what was under there and then using disinfectant to deal with ‘wriggly things’. My usual curiousity didn’t kick in this time. I might have wanted to see how a bit of my house was built, but I didn’t want to see what the Ratman was dealing with. Oddly enough, whilst being delighted with his work – he was calm, efficient, reassuring – I didn’t shake hands with him when he left. I suspect he’s used to that.

    I’m airing out the house, and should be able to move back downstairs over the weekend because The Smell should be gone.

    I hope.

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    3 Responses to “The Smell”

    1. Mark Clapham Says:

      The whole experience reminded me of Junji Ito’s ‘Gyo’:


    2. Stuart Douglas Says:

      A Ratman! That’s authentic country living that is!

    3. Mags Says:

      I think I did very well not to start humming ‘sheriff fatman’ (a song about infamous slum landlord Rattman).

      and we’re in the city suburbs…

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