Now mice of course, even really large ones, are not to be confused with rats. Specially the dark brown rat variety with foot long bodies and arm length tails that many years ago I’d often see scurrying away as I rode my horse past the edge of the local rubbish tip that cascaded onto the Petone beach near the mouth of the Hutt River.
I doubt the tip still exists, wouldn’t be PC these days would it to have rusty car bodies, broken fridges and rotting rubbish cascading over a bank onto a sandy beach only yards from the water? The area’s possibly quite posh now - high-rise apartments and three-bedroom pensioner housing perhaps ??? Wonder where the rats went…
I’ve only ever had physical contact with two rats in my life so far. The first one, a small skinny grey was riding on the shoulder of a black spike-haired young Goth as we crossed paths early one morning. Well, spose you can’t call passing at arms length actual physical contact with a rat, but all three of us did make eye contact and I did mutter an early morning like greeting and got a sort of grunt in reply - I think it was from the Goth. I expect he’s is now a respectable family man, wonder if he kept the rat…
I think pet rats might have been a sort of status symbol for persons of a certain age during that era. Many years ago on a visit to my eldest’s flat in Thorndon I was personally introduced to a fat white rat called Ratus Ratus. Yes I know that’s what they are but this one's name was actually Ratus Ratus. He lived in a large cage complete with plastic Ferris wheels, shredded newspaper and pieces of limp teeth imprinted carrot. They said he came with the flat. Not wanting to appear unworldly in the way of rats, I could hardly refuse the request later that night to hold him while his cage was being cleaned.
Remembering the rubbish tip rats I steeled myself to sharp little claws, rough hair and bad breath but amazingly he felt so soft and warm and squidgy that I immediately felt an affinity with all the people who ever wanted to walk around with rats on their shoulders and lovingly shred newspaper strips night after night.
Well that was until he escaped my hands, ran up my arm, clawed his way to the top of my head and softly, gently and warmly peed down the side of my face – it was a very personal experience!
Eldest left that flat at the end of the year, I never heard what happened to the rat… Perhaps it went next door to live at Katherine Mansfields place.