Belfast Telegraph

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Why that rat video was wake-up call about our throwaway culture

By Lindy McDowell

Published 12/08/2015

A lighthearted wee story amid the bleaker headlines this summer ... in England a pub owner opened his premises one morning recently to discover a scene of utter chaos. At first sight it looked as though vandals had ransacked the place. Bottles and glasses were smashed and debris strewn across the floor. There was spilt beer, spirits, wine everywhere he looked.

And there, right in the middle of the mess, the culprit. A very sozzled squirrel. It appears the creature had managed to gain entry to the building sometime during the night. It had - presumably accidentally - landed on a beer tap thus activating it and as the amber nectar flowed, had supped a squirrel-sized bellyful.

Drunk as a skunk the creature then staggered around the shelves leaving mayhem in its wake. When the story got out the publican was only too happy to talk to the Press about the incident. "He's now barred," he told interviewers.

Carlsberg don't do "and finally" news stories. But if they did ...

Squirrel gets rat-assed. That's funny. But rats in the kitchen? A creepier matter entirely ...

In terms of a story that got people talking over the last week, that Belfast Telegraph exclusive on the rats in coffee shop (with accompanying squirm-inducing video) took some beating. A couple heading home after a night out in the city centre were passing a branch of Caffe Nero when they spotted movement in the darkened indoors. They peered through the window and to their horror spotted two very large rodents besporting themselves along the counter.

In the very same spot where you order your choco mocha latte thingy.

Anyone for a skinny ratuccino?

The guy had the presence of mind to record the scene on his mobile phone. He said he was concerned people wouldn't believe him. And, fair point. You probably wouldn't have if you hadn't seen it with your own eyes.

But having seen it, another dark thought occurs - where else might this be happening in Belfast city centre?

Food outlets are, of course, responsible for keeping their own premises clean and hygienic. But I do have some sympathy for the Caffe bosses. (The premises concerned have been closed this week for an overhaul). As a pest control officer points out, where you have humans - and their food refuse - you will also, inevitably, have vermin. And we do have such a lot of food refuse sitting around in the streets awaiting disposal.

How much is the fortnightly emptying of bins to blame for what would seem to be a rat pack - and indeed seagull - population explosion? It's hard to think it doesn't have some sort of impact. The authorities seem to be more concerned about meeting landfill limits than they are about protecting the public's health. How else to explain a system that tolerates so much rotting garbage being stored in people's backyards? Surely this has to be feeding the problem. Literally.

Do we have to wait until there's an epidemic before we start to assess whether there may be cleverer ways to encourage recycling than leaving the bins to fester for a fortnight at a time? When you think about it, Sammy the Squirrel scarpering around the bar counter is every bit as much a hygiene concern as his cousin Ratty at the espresso spout.

But we humans understandably, rightly, feel a more powerful, primeval revulsion where rats are concerned. We recoil at the very sight of them. We don't want to think about them. Much less talk about them.

That Belfast Telegraph video nasty that got everyone talking - and squirming - has then been a bit of a wake-up call. A valuable, timely wake-up call.

In the absence of a municipal Pied Piper, a more robust strategy towards the local rodent community would currently seem to be in order. Or do we have to wait until we're overrun?

Piqued Benedict stages a drama

Alas poor Sherlock - or as we know him well, Benedict Cumberbatch. In his new incarnation as a Shakespearean actor, Benedict hath been having a torrid time as his fans taketh and shareth ye olde YouTube videos of his Hamlet rehearsals.

Forsooth Benedict has been none too happy about this. To the point where he has even appeared at the stage door remonstrating with them to lay down their mobiles and give him a break.

Inevitably this soliloquy was itself filmed for online distribution. Whatever would the bard make of this rumpus? Possibly he'd suggest his leading man just geteth over himself. And sticketh to the drama onstage.

Blooming bizarre rebirth for Zayn

In the aftermath of the break-up of his engagement to Perrie Edwards (singer Little Mix) Zayn Malix (fomerly One Direction) posted a Twitter pic of a lotus flower laid on piano keys. As you do.  

A picture of a lotus flower. On a piano. What was that about? Fans were initially mystified.

Then it emerged that Zayn had got himself a new tattoo. Of a lotus flower.

So not some sort of fragrant, meaningful message about lost love. Just a template for a new inking.

Apparently a lotus flower symbolises rebirth.

Pretentious? A pop star? Surely not.

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