Born in the year of the rat

Born in the year of the rat

Born in the year of the rat: I’ve never thought about it before. That’s the trouble sometimes, thinking too much. We have a very friendly Chinese takeaway nearby. Every year they give us a calendar. I looked at it while munching on some noodles and realised that I was born in the year of the rat. I’m not sure how significant that is for a wildlife cameraman, but I have had many encounters with rats over the years. This is one of them.

Rat eats a digestive biscuit – milk chocolate of course

My wife was born in the year of the rooster. Perhaps that’s what makes us so compatible. Just before the end of last year I had been working in a very nice studio on a programme about pig intelligence. That is by the by. The owner of the studio had been looking after some harvest mice and was looking for a good home for them. I had one in mind.

I think I’ve been a member of the Gwent Wildlife Trust for more than forty years, boy and man. I do some voluntary video work for the Trust from time to time. At Magor Marsh the Trust has an education centre, and out in the fields near the education centre you can find harvest mice. Will you ever see one? Unlikely. Will the eager kids who come to the centre ever see one? No. So, thinking as a wildlife cameraman, and someone born in the year of the rat, I thought it would be great to have these captive harvest mice in a large display tank at the reserve. They can live perfectly happily like that. That’s why my wife and went back to the studio, to collect the mice.

The studio was host to a large number of rats, tame, for a film project. There were loads of them in cages in a side room just waiting to be filmed. Mostly cute, some were getting on a bit, and they tend to look less attractive as they age. Don’t we all. Anyway, before decanting the harvest mice into a travelling container we all sat down and had a cuppa. My wife isn’t that fond of rats. I happened to glance down under the table just as our friend said, very calmly, “Oh, there’s a rat”. It reminded me of that old ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode when a rat sticks its head out of a biscuit tin just as Basil is offering it to a guest. In this instance the rat was sat on my wife’s foot.

If you’re born in the year of the rat then perhaps these things don’t phase you. And to my delight neither did it phase my wife. She sat there quite calmly as our friend picked it up and fed it part of a digestive biscuit. I think a lot of people would have jumped onto the table making a lot of noise. All good fun!