“Guten tag, mayor’s office, Hamelin Town. Ja mein Herr, I gettim now.”
“Blimey,” said the mayor. “You got rats? Then you’re in big trouble. When we had our own famous plague they fought the dogs and killed the cats and bit the babies in their cradles, and ate the cheese from out of the vats and licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles.”
Yeah, yeah I know. I read the poem.
“An’ know what? Then they split open kegs of salted sprats, made nests inside men’s Sunday hats and –”
Well we haven’t got it that bad yet Mr Mayor. So far they’re only “feeding on festering rubbish”, to quote the Echo. All I want is the address of that bloke who got rid of ’em for you.
“Oh him. Shoulda seen him. Called himself the Pied Piper. His queer long coat from heel to head was half of yellow and half of red, and he himself was tall and thin with sharp blue eyes each like a pin and –”
Well, shouldn’t miss him then, should we. But where can I find him?
“Boy, what an operator. You know Sinatra sings about the one-man band in lama land who’ll toot his flute for you? Got nothing on our guy. Played just a couple of notes and the rats were muttering then grumbling and the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling and out of the houses the rats came tumbling, great rats, small rats, lean rats…”
I finally stopped the flow and got the real story, and you read it here first.
This Pied Piper had a huge army of trained rats who’d follow him into a town. Then he’d charge the local council to take ’em away. And now, it seems, he’s picked Cardiff for his current con.
One other thing, these days he’s got a drink problem and calls himself the Pie-eyed Piper, funny guy, so you’ll probably find him knocking back the dark in one of our town’s taverns.
Can’t miss him. Wears a queer long coat from heel to head, half of yellow and half of red.
And Rodders, as council leader, he’ll be asking you for the cash so make sure he’s paid. His bill for the Hamelin job was a grand in guilders.
But the mayor simply winked and said “Our losses have made us thrifty. A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!”
At that the Pied Piper tooted his flute again and out came the little boys and girls with rosy cheeks and flaxen curls and danced away behind him, never to be seen again. Aw!
But come to think of it, the way some of the kids you see around Cardiff behave, maybe…
(And giving credit where credit is due, thanks to the poet Robert Browning for writing half today’s offering).
WELL, that’s the rat plague solved. So what about this seagull plague?
According to Peter Rock, an authority on these feathered fiends, Cardiff is the seagull capital of the world with more than 6,000 of ’em a-squawking and a-screeching over our town.
They make Hitchcock’s fearsome flock in The Birds look about as threatening as Tweetie Pie when they swoop down to pinch pies from plates, when they frighten the kids and leave their calling cards all over poor old John Batchelor’s head in The Hayes.
So what’s to be done?
Well, the day after tomorrow is August 12 and we all know what that means. It’s the Glorious Twelfth, the day the shootin’ starts, so the royals will be out on the moors giving grief to the grouse.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve invited Charles down to kick off the season from one of our rooftops instead of a miserable, monsoon-hammered moor.
These seagulls, I keep telling him, make much better targets and as Prince of Wales he’d be doing his bit for the country’s capital – and about time.
If it’s OK for the top people to pop away it should be OK for us real people.
So out with the air guns and see you Friday, roof of the old Post Office.