Friday 1 August 2014

Roland the Rat - 1

 Two weeks of torrential monsoon rains had pursued us relentlessly across the Indonesian island of Java. Finally, at township of Malang and with floodwaters up to our thighs, we waded to the bus station and made haste to the port of Ketapang to catch the ferry boat to Bali; we needed a refuge to dry out.
We discovered a perfect Balinese haven at the picturesque artist colony of Ubud where we rested up for a couple of weeks:
A well-built bamboo cottage in the garden of a local architect was just what we needed: it had a thatched roof, elaborate carved gilded doors, cool, white tiled floors, and a covered veranda. The rock wall of the enclosed, alfresco bathroom was draped with lush, tropical plants from which a small waterfall poured forth as a shower – it was straight off the pages of House & Garden magazine.  All this, plus breakfast, afternoon tea and the services of a houseboy for just $7 per day. It was too good to be true!
We soon settled into lazy days of reading on the veranda, painting the verdant jungle view around our haven and generally enjoying our good fortune.
On the second morning, I got up and went drowsily into our designer bathroom, lifted the lid of the rose pink toilet and felt my eyes somersault and do a double flip. Silently, I closed the lid again.
I stood and stared incredulously at that throne of contemplation for what seemed like several minutes, waiting for my brain and my eyes to connect. Had I seen what I thought I had seen? or was I still drunk with sleep?
My eyes were beginning to ache from not blinking. Confused, I tentatively lifted the lid again and took another peek, then gently lowered it again.
Zombie-like, I walked back into the bedroom and passed Jean en route: “I shouldn’t use the loo this morning if I were you.” I said as casually as possible. 
“Why not?” she asked. 
“Well, Roland the rat is taking his morning bath.” I replied. 
Jean, bless her, knows me far too well to take the slightest notice of my black sense of humour, particularly first thing in the morning.
What should I do? Too late! A blood-curdling scream, enough to wake the whole village and half the cemetery, emanated from the bathroom. Jean rushed out glaring daggers at me. We then both fell into a heap of nervous laughter at the absurd truth of the matter … we had a rat calmly doing the dog paddle in the toilet bowl.
We had a situation that obviously needed dealing with. Our options, as I saw it, were:   
1.Treat it as a problem, complain like mad, demand our money back and leave our little paradise. 
2.Treat it as an inconvenience and get the houseboy to deal with it, or 
3.Interrupt Roland’s bathing routine, hand him a towel and tell him to sod off!
Being ever the diplomat I chose the middle course, then watched our totally bewildered houseboy spend half an hour trying unsuccessfully to fish Roland out. 
Eventually, in desperation, he wrapped his hand in a cloth and tried to grab him, but in doing so, found he had pulled his tail off and in the ensuing panic had pressed the flush-lever. The now tail-less Roland had disappeared into the depths of the sewerage system and presumably out of our lives.
Later that morning I completed my ablutions, during which I sat on the loo reading a chapter of a travel book. I then washed my hands and halfway through cleaning my teeth I heard: “Squeak, squeak. I thought it was Jean trying to get her own back on me so I ignored her … brush, brush …
Squeak, squeak.
splash, splash … “OK Jean, I know it’s you,” I said and turned around to find her, but she was not there,I could see she was outside busy painting the scenery.
Oh, no! I don’t believe it. I thought, and gingerly lifted the lid to the toilet … there was Roland, back again as large as life doing the breaststroke with what I swear was a silly grin on his face!
My God! I thought. “I have just escaped a fate worse than death.” Had I dallied three minutes longer on the throne, Roland could have grabbed me by the ‘dingly-danglies’ and made his escape. I slammed the lid shut, broke out in a cold sweat, threw myself onto the bed and watched the room swim round and round.  I swore Roland and Jean were in collusion. 
I called Jean. She called the houseboy. He called the owner who then called a crowd of neighbours and a passing ice-cream vendor to help solve the problem.
After much debate and disagreement, we ‘solved the inconvenience’ by using a deadly concoction of bleach and poison. Roland sensed we were up to something sinister, he did a back-flip and disappeared, never to stick his head around the bend again, leaving us to enjoy our little paradise. 
 Mind you, I gave up reading on the loo and took to hovering a good three inches above the seat … just in case. One can never be too careful. 
Written by:- Roy Romsey


  1. What a lovely story. This is beginning to sound like "My Family and Other Animals".

  2. An event that can only be experienced by the more intrepid travellers and one you must have rfelected on with some humour over the years. Rudyard Kipling would have been only too pleased to use this as a basis for a chapter in "Jungle Book" although I'm not sure what name he would have given the rat. A great fireside yarn. RGM


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