The Rats In The Walls

I originally wrote an entire entry about how much I hate The Libertines, but I deleted it. The only thing worthwhile it yielded was describing Doherty’s pasty skag-bloat as “looking like a condom filled with sick.” Perhaps I’ll put that in the novel. Keep your eyes peeled, kids.

Berlin. Well, that seems like a distant memory now. A friend of mine got lost in Berghain for 4 hours and can’t recall anything. When he returned, he looked like a cat that had spent the week trapped under the floorboards.

I can’t relate to blackouts whatsoever; I have always been able to remember everything. ‘But that must be great,’ people often say. Would you like to remember all your fuck-ups the moment you open your eyes the next morning?

I’m happy these days, but I guess happiness is subjective. A 10 for me might be a 4 for someone else, and so on. People often say to me ‘Jack, why are you smiling?’ They are usually the same people who think having an unfailing memory is a good thing.

 

History…

In 2007 I woke up in the wilderness. My band had split and I was working some shitty temp job in Farringdon. The only things that got me through the day were buying Sparks CDs from Covent Garden HMV (RIP) and putting little bits of sticky tape over the LED sensor in my boss’s mouse.

I decided I’d had enough of living with other people – there were four of us (two guys, two girls) in a glorified squat in Clapton, E5 – so I found a studio flat on Mare Street to rent. Upon the announcement I’d be moving out, the guy I lived with lost his mind. Turns out he was in love with me. No accounting for taste, eh? The night he smashed a bottle of Newcastle Brown repeatedly against the wall over his bed, crying hysterically, saying ‘I just want to sleep in broken glass.’ Newcastle Brown bottles of quite sturdy things and he ended up sleeping in shattered plasterboard instead. Such is life.

I moved regardless.

The flat was a converted Victorian loft above a little dentistry practice by a busy junction. Pizza Hut to one side, KFC to the other. There was one, small heater and a single bed. This all makes is sound far nicer than it actually was.

Eventually the shower (which was tacked onto the flat via a plywood outside wall) broke. I rang my landlord (let’s call him “Mr P”) and asked for it to be fixed. He sent his mate George over three weeks later.

George was a big Jamaican guy who seemed to think it was my fault the shower was didn’t work. I poured myself a whisky, adjusted my tie (genuine Primark) and calmly refuted his allegations. He then got mad at me for not offering him any booze. I just couldn’t win.

After drinking half my bottle of Bell’s, George botched the shower and told me to ‘fuck off’ as he stumbled out of the flat. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last I saw of him.

You see Victorian houses, wall cavities, London…well, they can only mean one thing: Rats. I awoke to the sound of scurrying, jumped to my feet and grabbed a kitchen knife. My ex had bought the set and they were cheap and blunt, which seemed kind of appropriate.

So I was pacing this borderline bedsit, brandishing a knife, 3am, balls-out naked, in the no man’s land between drunk and hungover, looking for this fucking rat. This wasn’t how my life was supposed to turn out.

Anyway, rats don’t travel alone. Or even in pairs. And it struck me that above my head, above the dangling wires from the smoke alarm I’d cut when wasted and trying to impress a girl (thank god the scissors had plastic handles), was an entire pack of the dirty little bastards.

I banged on the ceiling and they clawed and squeaked.

This is some real James Herbert shit, I thought. But somehow it was bleaker than that.

The next night I heard nothing. Perhaps they’d moved on.

I am flanked by fast food outlets. Why are they in my little space?

It wasn’t consistent, but every now and then, whenever I was most depressed, the rats would appear. I never actually saw one, but I heard them. I heard them all.

Life carries on. Every so often, my charm would bubble to the surface and I managed to persuade a girl to come back to the flat.

‘Yeah, I live on my own. Successful modern man. Can I pour you a mug of Tesco Value vodka?’

These nights I spent awake, petrified the rats would come out and greet my temporary lover with squeaks and scratches. But they never did. The rats were just for me. Waiting.

Eventually there was a real reason to get rid of the rats (I think a one night stand probably evolved into a regularly-scheduled session of stilted conversation and regretful fumbling), so I called up Mr P. Mr P. said he’d send George over. Brilliant.

So I got home from work one day – it must’ve been summer or a tube strike because I remember the sweat patches under my arms – and George was sitting there on my bed, playing my acoustic guitar, smoking a joint and drinking my fucking scotch. ‘Ain’t nothing I can do,’ he says. ‘Besides, I can’t see no rats.’ Then he breaks into the worst version of ‘No Woman, No Cry’ I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard a lot of ’em).

I moved out a month later. Mr P. tried to fuck me for the deposit. He was a real bastard about it. So I sued him and won.

But my point – and I do have a point – is that during all this time, I was writing. Short stories, diary entries (every single day) and I even wrote 100,000 words of a novel. Other than the rats, the blank screen was really the only friend I had.

I dismissed all of the work as bullshit and promptly filed and forgot about it, but going back over it now…well, there’s some pretty good stuff down there. It’s all rough and needs rewriting and editing, but the heart firmly beats. And stories without heart are nothing more than a lifeless amalgamation of scenes and conversations. The heart is the invisible glue that binds it all together.

So I thought I might put a few shorts out. Dip my toe. Some of them are downright horrific (I must’ve been overdosing on Clive Barker) and some just simple musings on the ridiculous lives we lead in London.

The Rats In The Walls? Ah fuck. Lovecraft’s already done that. I’ll have to change the title. It’ll come to me in good time…

The novel’s still going very well, but it’s a long way from completion and it’s quite hard to work on during my 9-5. These little gems feel like they might satiate my desire to ‘put something out.’ Previously I’ve been petrified of sharing my writing with anyone. It’s dark and it’s weird and the grammar’s all over the place (don’t worry, I’ll get an editor). But mostly, it feels like I’m showing a part of my soul. And that’s scary. These days, however, I’m older, wiser, and I don’t have an alcoholic paranoia hovering over me. I think I’m ready now.

I’ve left that life far behind (although I often think of it). I am respectable these days. You could introduce me to your mother and your mother would say ‘Well, he’s a nice boy.’ But every now and then, when I’m depressed or angry, I pick up the phone and call Mr P. and whisper the word ‘Cunt.’ The way I look at it, it’s better the recipient of my bad mood is someone who deserves it rather than an innocent bystander or someone I love.

Have a nice weekend.

21 comments

  1. I was cringing as I read this, for I am in mortal horror of rodents. I’ve never experienced rats but I used to live in a national park (I was working there) and the house was infested with mice. I’d hear them in the walls and ceiling at night, as well as leaping across the dishes in the kitchen. They seemed to like me and my stuff most of all (I had roommates) for they would only chew my clothing and cache food in my shoes and turn up in my room. I endured that for a year and a half (how do you get rid of mice in the middle of a national park?) As a result, to this day, I promptly lose my shit whenever I see a mouse, so if it were a rat, I’d probably pass out, hit my head, and die (and be all the happier for it).

    That is exciting that your excavated writing contains some treasures. It’s always a good feeling to know you didn’t used to suck at writing as horribly as you feared!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The thing is, I’m assuming they were rats. I never actually saw one, but they sounded too big for mice. There’s some ridiculous statistic that, in London, you’re never less than 2 feet away from a rat. I should probably debunk it on Snopes.
      It’s not the animals themselves I loathe, but rather the sheer gall that they feel they can crawl all over your stuff without asking. They’re rude.

      Like

  2. I still tell people I lived in a flat off the Portobello, when in reality it was a bedsit. Jade Jagger once came round to see me and said she liked it. No, I’m not making that up. If I could make things up like that I’d be successful. Remember, fiction is a serious of lies held together by suspending other people’s disbelief with a ridiculous plot. I have a problem with telling lies; I’m an obsessive truthteller. Actually, that’s only half true. It’s why I never made it in my incredibly short career as a travel journalist. Still, it got me invited into a cave near Gyumri in northern Armenia on one of my travels. Three old women made me coffee, and one read my coffee grains. I’ll never forget Noush, Anoush and wotsername. See, what obsessive truth telling does for you? It leads to you being branded a liar. The Sufi philosopher Gurdjieff was born in Gyumri.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah Notting Hill! I have a story about that place I can’t write on here…
      Agree re: truth telling. I’m often too honest for my own good.
      Got any links to your travel writing?

      Like

      1. I’m glad you asked me that. I have a whole site called Pedersen’s Last Dream mainly devoted to my journey to one of the most nothernmost towns in the world. Hammerfest in Arctic Norway is a last stop to the North Pole. My Norwegian grandfather was born there and I had wanted to go there since I was a very small boy. I lived on a very small island up there for a while. The idea was to finish the eternally unfinished novel I was working on. Also titled Pedersen’s Last Dream, some chapters of the first draft appear on the site too. That reminds me, I must finish that.

        Two of my travel articles, which The Independent used, are there too, but I’m not so proud of them. Here’s a link to one of the better accounts of my northern journey: https://pedersenslastdream.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/the-morning-after/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Apologies for the delay – I’ve been making my way through your blog. You’ve had a very interesting life!

        This is particularly brilliant: “The last thing my body needed was a cigarette, so I went outside and popped one between my lips.”

        Excellent stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Very well written, I’m glad you followed me so I had a chance to see this. I can’t give you much in the way of constructive crticism however, just know that I was thoroughly hooked. I’d love some feedback on some of my stories if you aren’t too busy. Keep writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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