Friday, 22 March 2013

The Rat

Whenever gigantic waves power ashore many thousands of lives are turned upside down along with the mountains of debris and the missing and the injured and the dead.

There have been three gigantic waves (as opposed to merely huge or ernormous waves) in the Sendai region in the last 120 years. And of course we all remember the Boxing Day Indonesian tsunami. 

Gigantic waves are not uncommon. It is not a question of whether another one will strike. It is only a question of when and where. 

To build nuclear power stations on coastlines which are subject to the destructive power of these 40 meter high waves is not a very bright idea. 

Earlier this week at Fukushima Daiichi the engineers on site were puzzled by the sudden loss of electrical power to the spent fuel pool. After two or three days of hectic activity it was discovered that a rat had chewed through vital wires in a fuse box.

How many rats now live in the affected area is anybody's guess. Maybe it's millions. Who knows?

The poem titled The Rat is based on a sister-poem a few posts below which is titled no immediate danger the spokesman said. 

If you have read no immediate danger . . . before you read The Rat you will get a sense of what I think I have attempted. The idea of the structure of the poem came to me after visiting a George Baselitz exhibition at Vienna's Essl Museum. Baselitz is an artist known for painting some of his subjects upside down. 

The dog seen in the flames below, which George Baselitz painted in his Third Reich reflections series,  serves to highlight the invisible dangers we face today. 

The Rat

the ship 
on the horizon 
grows smaller 
the sailor looks 
at his digital watch 
it has stopped
the four waters 
of the apocalypse
the dark horse before 
the boiling waters 
the big wave
the thunder roar 
no immediate danger
the spokesman said 
the rat 
through the fuse box
! !


12 facts about Rats - taken from a Junior School text book:

1. Rats chewing through electrical cables can start dangerous fires.

2. Rats have been known to chew through dams. 

3. There are so many rats that it is thought wherever you are on land there will be a rat within 15 meters. 

4. A rat is able to climb a toilet waste pipe and swim through the u-bend to emerge in a bathroom. 

5. Water pipes and tunnels under buildings that carry sewage and electrical cables make perfect homes for rats.

6. In 1997 there were an estimated 28 million rats were living in the city of New York. 

7. In 1961 a French rat called Hector travelled into space. He returned safely to Earth.

8. Black rats arrived in Europe on ships from Asia and the Far East. 

9. Brown rats originally lived only in Eastern Asia and Japan. Now they are found everywhere on Earth except the Antarctic. 

10. Female rats are pregnant for 22 days before giving birth. 

11. One pair of brown rats can produce 15,000 descendants in one year.

12. Rats can swim for two days in open water and travel up to 2 km. 


  1. I read this report Gwil. I will say this for you Gwil, you have done a lot to heighten my awareness of this kind of danger - not that I can do a lot about it.

  2. I had a white rat which I often took school and I would let it run back and forth along the long Chemistry and Physics benches. I was deservedly whacked for my sins!

  3. I was told you are never more than 6 feet from a rat here in East Anglia. We used to keep a Rat Book and poison them every month on our farm. I like Georg Baselitz and there was an exhibition at the RA a few years ago. I thought he painted the right way up and then turned them upside down. I do that with some of my work. It looks better that way. I was born on an Easter Saturday too. (Who were you referring to as being born on an Easter Saturday?)

  4. Rachel I can believe that it could be true about there being so many rats in East Anglia. I think Fukushima coastline is the same type of terrain from the photos of the farms I have seen. Baselitz really does paint them upside down. The Easter Bunny is Adolf Hitler. Thewre are 3 paintings in the set, a kind of triptych, of which this one.

  5. Thanks. I checked, at least I don't share a birthday with him. I see it must have been a late Easter the year he was born. I was a kind of more regular Easter date.
    East Anglia has lots of rats because of the cereals we grow but mostly we are on top of them now. Defra come and inspect the Rat Book and check the number of dead bodies recorded.

  6. When I was a boy I used to go fishing in the evenings for perch in the local canal. A favourite spot was opposite a disused mill which was infested with rats. Sometimes I would see the tiny lights of their eyes twinkling like rubies as they made their way along the side of the canal one behind the other. One time I counted a line of more than 60 rats going quietly along nose to tail. I've never really understood why these religious festivals have to be moved about although I believe it originally has something to do with the moon. Christmas is fixed. So why not the others? I would make life a lot easier.


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