Time is a wasting

27 10 2008

..and I’ve my first TMA due at the end of this week.

Luckily though, after a slow start, my muse has been working overtime and I’ve been blessed with a pile of stories. The trouble has been trying to decide on which one is good enough for the TMA.

For instance, we had an activity on using research as a leap-board. We were asked to choose from a selection of subjects to look up. I chose rat-catching. (Why? I don’t know…it just sounded kind of interesting.)

After trawling the Net I found a wonderful book through Project Gutenberg. If you don’t know already, Project Gutenberg is a website dedicated to making the printed word accessible via the internet. It has loads of out of print and out of copyright works available to download, or browse via the site.

Anyway. On with my rat-catching research. Detailing the 25 year career of a Victorian Ratcatcher, it was a surprisingly good read. And short too. With my attention span at the moment its 28 or so pages fitted nicely thank you.

So here’s a wee excerpt of a story I came up based upon it…

The places near the Clydeside docks had it worst. We did a lot of work in big warehouses there, catching what the local cats couldn’t keep up with, but I liked working in peoples homes best. I got to set foot into the homes of the Tobacco Lords and other grand merchants. Houses filled with more beautiful objects than I’d ever seen if my life. A less respectable man might have been tempted to pocket a candlestick here or a brooch perhaps, but not me. Mr Macintosh said he hired me because I had an honest face and because my ma had raised me a good Catholic boy and I knew stealing was a sin.

Mr Macintosh said the rats infected the houses of rich and poor alike except in the rich houses you’d often only be called in after some eejit gent had tried to poison the rats himself.

“Stupid, stupid wee man.” Mr Macintosh would whisper under his breath once the man of the house was out of earshot. “Jim”, he’d say, “What’s the first thing I taught you about catching a rat?”

At which I’d repeat,
“Never lay down poison in an enclosed space.”

Because the rats take the poison but then go off to find somewhere dry and warm to die. Mostly they end up under the floorboards or down inside the wall cavity. As a ratcatcher I worked in some unpleasant places with smells that would choke you blind; under floors, beside water-closets, in the drains. But the stench from a decomposed rat has to be one of the most stomach churning of all, as though death himself has caught the back of your throat.

The story goes on…Jimmy is somewhat naive and tries to help Mr McIntosh, but in doing so he nearly ruins the man’s business. How will he make amends?

One of the problems I had when writing it though was trying to make sure I kept up with telling the story rather than just describing the work. But the grimness of the work made for an interesting background. In my revised versions of the story I worked harder at trying to keep a balance.

Now I have to decide which story I’m going to use for the TMA.

As much as I love the rat-catcher, I think I’ll develop it for use later. I’ve a much better one up my sleeve.

Keep your fingers crossed for me when my marks come back.

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4 responses

28 10 2008
Kate

I hade written a large part of my TMA as life writing and the subject depressed me so much (a little too close to the bone), I have had to stop! With time runnign out, I plan on using what I have written and fictionalise it somewhat – hopefully a bit of distance will make a difficult subject easier to write about? Do you think that will work?

28 10 2008
Kate

ps love the rat catching research – fascinating!

29 10 2008
Weegiewumman

I remember watching the ratcatchers at work when I was a wee girl in Anderston, I must have been about 4. They used traps not poison, and sometimes the rats managed to escape. Huge things the size of cats.

30 10 2008
Jenny

Hi Kate,

Hopefully it will help, especially if you make the lead character as far removed from yourself or change the circumstances to create a different scenario. Perhaps, if the story still nips, you could turn it around into the ending you would have liked?

Whatever you decide good luck!

Mum,

Yeah..I read about the traps being hidden in sawdust. They’d plant food in the sawdust the first few nights until the rats got used to it. Sneaky beggars that they are. Apparently you had to catch them from the traps really quickly though or they’d start chewing off their own legs to escape. Eugh!!

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