Category Archives: Tony’s tales

I Bury Those Cock-A-Roaches – Anyone for cockroach chicken?

This story happened to me when I was first employed as a pest control officer working for a London borough council. I obviously had no qualms about the fact I was going to see some fairly disgusting stuff, like dead rats and filthy houses, but nothing could quite prepare me for the shock of one of my first jobs. What happened was beyond anything I could have possibly expected.

We were out on a job and the boss told me that we were going to see a house that was particularly bad. He told me to prepare myself to be a bit shocked, because as Cockroach Infestations go, this apparently was a totally over-run property. He’d already been and had a go at the roaches, but his previous efforts had done little to rid the house of these pests.

Usually smaller cockroach infestations can be sorted out with a good dose of insecticide. As these creatures like to eat their own excrement, it can be very easy to get insecticide baits into a cockroach community, and then all you have to do is wait for them to die.

After arriving at the block of flats and walking up the standard smelly staircase, we arrived at the door of the flat. A few loud knocks later and we were standing eye to eye with a middle aged Jamaican lady who greeted us in a thick patois. She was glad to see us and all that and invited us in.

When I entered the house, I’d never seen filth like it, but the whole place seemed devoid of the cockroaches we’d come to destroy. I asked the boss what the problem was, because I couldn’t see any of the filthy insects. He pointed to a corner of wall-paper that was slightly unstuck and told me to peel it away from the wall.

When I pulled back the piece of wall-paper I almost jumped out of my skin. Hundreds of the little brown-black horrors fell to the floor, as if they were the only thing left that was holding the wall-paper up. Apparently cockroaches are literally suckers for wall-paper paste. They love eating it and had got behind almost every bit of wall-paper in the house.

The boss got on with the business of laying down the poison and I decided to go and have a look round the house to see how far the roaches had got. Every room I looked in was covered in rubbish. It was no wonder the house had become some kind of safe haven for half of East London’s roach population, the place was a right old pit.

I decided to go into one of the rooms, which looked like the lounge. I espied some half eaten chicken on the floor, which was crawling with roaches. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked around and was certain that there was no one in the room, as the sofa was covered in rubbish and walked towards the chicken, in order to get a better look.

As I got to the plate of food I bent over to get a closer look at the roaches, when I suddenly heard a noise from behind me that made me literally jump out of my skin. I looked round and an old guy had emerged from the rubbish on the sofa and sat up. I’d not even seen him there underneath the pile of filth.

He seemed incredibly unhappy with me and accused me of trying to steal his half eaten chicken. I was so shocked by the incident it was all I could was mumble a quick apology and leave the room. As I got through the doorway to go back and see the boss I realised I’d literally come out in a cold sweat. He looked me up and down and commented on the fact that I looked a bit pale and joked that maybe I’d seen a monster roach. In my mind I had seen something almost as bad. It was the first time I’d got a bit of a shock in my new profession as a pest control agent, and somehow I didn’t feel it would be my last.

Tony’s Tales – Rats in the Kitchen

Tony Halliday, our boss, has spent years on the front line of pest control in London. His tales of strange situations and even stranger customers would fill volumes. He’s allowed us to record some of the skirmishes he’s experienced in his battle against vermin in Southwark and beyond.

A lot of Tony’s pest control stories feature Rats. These unsavory rodents breed in the old London sewers, making their burrows in the cracks and crevices of decaying Victorian brickwork and broken pipes.

Not surprisingly, rats often turn up in kitchens. They’re always hungry and always looking for food. In older houses, often those which have not been so well looked after, there are plenty of gaps and holes through which the rats can slip in.

On one call-out in Southwark, Tony and his mate were met by a burly South American bloke who didn’t speak a word of English. Tony tried to explain why they were there and the South American responded by waving his arms around and firing off a torrent of words in a foreign language.

Eventually the South American seemed to calm down and led Tony through to the kitchen, a ramshackle affair that had seen much better days. There, on top of the washing machine, peering out from under the worktop, was a rat.

Despite his size, the South American refused to enter the room and simply pointed from the doorway. Tony and his mate knew that they had to get rid of the rat and take measures to protect against other vermin.

Catching a rat is relatively easy using modern pest control measures, such as sticky boards. Unfortunately, this encounter was before Tony’s team had such equipment. So he was forced to hunt the rat down to catch and dispatch it.

This particular rat had a strong sense of self-preservation and did not want to be caught. It quickly disappeared, leaving Tony and his mate to begin a cupboard by cupboard search. They removed kickboards and emptied cupboards as they methodically closed in on the creature.

Looking into one cupboard, Tony thought he heard a noise from the back. He grabbed his torch, put his head in the cupboard, and found himself literally face-to-face with the rat, which was hiding in a saucepan.

For the rat, it was almost a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. Tony dealt with the rodent quickly and efficiently. The South American, despite being unable to speak a word of English, understood that the job had been done and was effusive in his gratitude to the pest controllers.

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Tony’s Tales – The Giant Midnight Rat

Tony Halliday, our boss, has spent years on the front line of pest control in London. His tales of strange situations and even stranger customers would fill volumes. He’s allowed us to record some of the skirmishes he’s experienced in his battle against vermin in Southwark and beyond.

One of London’s most unpleasant Rodents, the rat, can grow to an enormous size. The average rat is usually the size of a man’s shoe, but occasionally pest controllers run into a giant specimen. When that encounter happens at midnight, in a confined space, a routine pest control call-out can become an alarming experience.

Tony’s tale begins, as so many, with an emergency callout just before midnight. A customer had returned, with their family, to discover rat droppings in their home. Having a baby, it was particularly important to have the problem dealt with.

“I know where the rats are coming from,” the customer told Tony when he arrived. “I know because I’ve killed two of them already.” He seemed pleased with himself for taking on the rats. “I hit one with a golf club and killed it instantly. Blood everywhere.”

He told Tony there was another rat upstairs. Asked why he hadn’t dispatched that one, the customer replied by holding his palms two feet (60cm) apart. That’s how big he thought the rat was.

Tony’s got wise to people overestimating the scale of their rodent problems. Unconcerned, he entered, alone, the small bedroom, containing a baby’s cot, where the rat was thought to be hiding. He closed the door behind him.

The creature soon revealed itself. And it was huge, just as the customer had described. Tony had heard occasional reports of giant rats, almost two feet in length, but this was the first time he’d met one face to face. It was enough to send a shiver down any spine – even that of a seasoned pest controller.

Trapped, the sewer rat hurtled around the room, too fast to catch. Not wanting a nasty nip from those disease-ridden fangs, Tony waited for it to settle. It hid beneath a pile of nappies under the cot and Tony surrounded the baby’s bed with sticky Rat Catcher boards. These would catch the lank fur and hold it tight, allowing for easy dispatch with a hammer. Not pretty, but practical.

Tony poked the nappy pile, provoking the rat to run. One leg was caught by the sticky board. Held fast, the rat squealed loudly. Outside the door, the customer and his wife exclaimed in shock. They’d never heard the shriek of a trapped rat.

Tony raised his hammer, only for it to catch on the cot. Knocked from his hands it fell into the grasp of another sticky board. He lifted his foot over the rat, a desperate last resort, but the creature slid out of the way as he struck.

Both Tony and the huge rat had one leg trapped by the sticky board. It would have been a ridiculous sight, if the massive rodent hadn’t turned its sharp teeth on the pest control specialist, ripping lumps from his boots and trousers.

Superior strength won the day and the rat was eventually subdued. But the experience left Tony white and shaken. That was the largest rat he’s ever seen and he’s in no hurry to meet another like it, particularly at midnight.

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