WHEN I was a young boy, I lived in a lovely Victorian end-terrace house. There was a park at the end of the road, which I frequently visited, and which I mentioned in my previous blog entry. This was, of course, in the days before paedophiles were invented.

In the early days, although we had an inside toilet (it being the mid-1970s), we also had an outside toilet, which was rank but occasionally handy. In fact, I also mentioned the toilet in my previous blog entry. I am always mentioning the toilet. I should stop mentioning the toilet.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, as, indeed, must all bad things, and my parents had the toilet removed.

Unfortunately, we did not use a qualified toilet remover, we employed some bloke with a lump hammer who knocked it down and naffed off, crucially neglecting to stop up the pipe properly.

Flash forward a few years, and the chickens came home to roost. But not real chickens, as that would be quite nice and we’d have had eggs. No, these were metaphorical chickens. THE WORST SORT.

The flagstones in the adjoining alley had collapsed into the mulchy horribleness caused by the unblocked pipe. The water board repaired the path, but the damage underground was already done.

Flash forward a couple more years and teenage GB went into the utility room just off the kitchen. They say that in the city you’re no more than 10 feet away from a rat. On this occasion, I was no more than two feet away from one. It looked me in the eye, I looked back. Then we both ran away squeaking like mice, and not brave mice, either.

The rat’s underground pad had been washed away by the toilet demolition, and since then he and his extended family had been living under our floorboards.

We called the exterminator, who dropped little red bowls of poison here and there about the house. “Don’t let the dog eat it,” he warned us. We’d guessed that. “What happens now,” we asked. “The poison makes them drowsy, so you can kill them,” he replied. We hadn’t guessed that. We’d thought he was the exterminator.

For the next week, the men of the house, aided by our trusty Jack Russell ratter, Patch, went on a killing spree. Slightly drunk rats would stagger out, to be clubbed by the end of a walking stick, or their necks would be broken by the jaws of our runty dog.

Finally there were no more rats left. I felt like George Clooney at the end of From Dusk Till Dawn (which hadn’t yet been made, just going to show that Jung was right). Rats are horrible, by the way. Not one redeeming feature.

It was two weeks later that the smell started. A sickly sweet smell whose origin could not be determined. Eventually we traced it to behind the television. We looked, our hearts in our mouths.

There was nothing there. Then I suggested that we check under the floorboards. We lifted the boards and there it was. A rat. A dead rat. A dead rat decomposing with its stomach cavity fizzing with a white substance.

“I’m not picking THAT up,” I said.

“I’m not picking THAT up,” said my uncle, Bernard.

“Woof!” said the dog.

Then I remembered THIS…


The robot hand toy I had been given years before. At last, a proper use for it. I gripped it and slowly manoeuvred it into position. I squeezed the trigger and with a certain amount of grim satisfaction I lifted the rat by its head. I gently raised it, ready to drop it into the Kwik Save bag being held open by my uncle, when . . .

SPLUP! The rat broke in two around the stomach and its hind quarters fell back into the hole. I was a bit sick in my mouth, but concentrated on the matter at robot hand. I dropped the head end into the bag, quickly went back for the other end, then emptied a bottle of bleach over the rat’s next-to-last resting place. Then I ran upstairs to be properly sick like a big vomity sicko.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. It was this: never attempt to pick up a decomposing rat with a robot hand toy without the assistance and/or advice of a qualified structural engineer.

Lake Woe, begone

WHEN I was six years old, I made a new friend called Matthew Small. It was an appropriate name at the time, but I expect it rankled when he was older.

I was not one of those children one hears about these days with a garden. We had a yard with an outside toilet. This is not one of those misery-lit blogs – we also had an inside toilet, but nobody was ever so desperate as to use the outside one. I used it once, but it was not the best place to be in the dark at six years old.

Anyway, let us move away from the toilet. This is the second of two consecutive blog entries which mention toilets and I do not want you to think I am an obsessive.

I was lucky that there was a park – Greenbank Park – at the bottom of my road, and when I was not reading or drawing I was there, riding my bike and attempting – and failing – to climb the easiest tree in the joint. This, of course, was in the days before they invented paedophiles.

Anyway, a few days after I befriended Matthew Small, who lived down the road, I was playing at his house, and his mother, Maureen, suggested, presumably in an attempt at damage limitation, that she take us to the park on our bikes.

She had not met my mother at that point, so she took us to my house and introduced herself, asking for permission to take me to the park. “I promise I will look after him,” she assured my mother, and they both chuckled at the very idea that I would be involved in any sort of calamity, and off we went.

To be fair to Maureen, she had not read my column at this point, owing to the fact it was 1978.

Anyway, Matthew and I had a smashing time riding around the park, fully revelling in being six-year-old boys on bikes.


Here is a picture of Greenbank Park. There is a boy standing in the middle of the picture. I do not know who he is, but he is a handy placeholder for my exact location, just before we were to leave the park, when Maureen noticed I had managed to get dog excrement on the hem of my, no doubt flared, trousers.

And this is the point at which I display the cartooning skills which I began to manifest as a six-year-old boy…


I do not know if you have ever ridden a wet bike home while covered in lichen, crisp packets and duck poo, but if not I have experienced it on your behalf.

This is what it was like in the 1970s. It wasn’t all Studio 54 and Welcome Back, Kotter.