he or she is to survive and thrive in the harsh
world of the Deptford sewers, a young ratling
needs to know the fundamental rules of how to
be a proper rat. There is no formal schooling
for those wild tearaways but some vital life
lessons are to be found in the Big Book of Ratiquette
which is kept by Wormy Ned, the toadying lackey
of Morgan, who is himself the fawning lickspittle
of Jupiter - Lord of all rats.
Here then are some excerpts from the basic rules,
which were first set down by hench rats long
most important rule of all! A ratling must never
forget that Jupiter is their God and tyrant.
He has lived in the darkness for hundreds of
years and is to be obeyed at all times. Entry
to His altar chamber is strictly forbidden and
to trespass there will incur the severest penalties.
All praise Jupiter, Lord of All!
rat hole should be the muckiest and stinkiest
it can be. A few good dollops of grease dripping
down the walls in a black sludge always give the
place a cosy feeling. The odd flea jumping about
the floor is good for a cackle too. It not only
provides entertainment if you try and catch the
little beggar but it can be nice and crunchy in
the mouth. A ratling must take note and never
tidy up his or her nest.
messy bed is the mark of a true Deptford rat.
The worse it is, the more admired and popular
you will be. A clean nest will make you the
laughing stock of the sewers and you deserve
to have your head smacked and your ears pulled.
Cockroaches make excellent pets. They keep you
company at night, can learn basic tricks and
they make a handy snack if you get peckish.
visiting the rat holes of your nasty little pals,
never wipe your feet before entering and make
sure you insult their parents before crossing
the threshold or as soon as possible thereafter.
A common salutation is "Wotcha Grotface, you're
lookin' ugly - what you been thievin' then?" but
the ruder the insult the better. If you can't
think of anything in time, spitting is just as
This form of greeting is liable to bring you out
in bruises and a fat lip but it is expected and
you don't want to be jeered at for having "mousey
manners". Always outstay your welcome, the best
time to leave is when they get completely sick
of you and are forced to kick you out. On the
way try to filch as much of their stuff as you
can get away with and have a cracking parting
insult ready to throw at them, or failing that,
a nice heavy stone will do just as well. Never
leave another rat hole with fewer fleas than when
ratling never grooms his or her fur - the dirtier
and slimier the better. If you don't feel grimy
enough then go and jump in the black muds and
cover yourself from head to tail. The smell of
this alone is enough to make you famous for the
day! Hair should be unkempt and tatty at all times.
may experiment with various hair styles. Tangling
objects in it like spider's legs, twigs, old fish
bones and filthy feathers is a proud tradition.
The more outrageous the hair the better, but it
must never be combed and only be washed by accident.
The application of beetle juices on the cheeks
is a modern fashion but quite permissible, as
is the dabbing of chalk dust all over the face.
If it looks ridiculous then everyone is happy.
and fussiness are not only hilarious to see but
have led to injury and worse. A ratling must learn
from the errors of the past. Think of Wonky Sid
who used to parade up and down the main ledges
trying to impress Scabby Flo. She was so disgusted
she hacked off one of his legs. Then there was
Filthy Jack who slipped into a soapy drain and
when he climbed out no one knew him and he was
chopped to bits before we realised. How we all
ratling should slouch at every opportunity, examine
the contents of your snout at least once every
half hour and whatever you find up there pop it
straight into your mouth, never share - let them
greedy snot gobblers harvest their own juicy bogeys.
Big black gooey lumps are the best sort. When
traipsing through the sewers, never appear too
eager to reach your destination unless you're
running to save your own skin.
along grumbling to a pal or even to yourself
is highly recommended. Pause to scratch or pick
your feet as often as possible and draw insulting
pictures on the walls. There is a fine example
of such a drawing just off the main tunnel,
which shows Morgan doing something very funny
with a pickled onion.
great feast of Firstblood is when those young
ratlings who haven't yet proven themselves to
be as wicked and brutal as their elders are given
their final chance. If they fail to make the grade
at midnight then they're fair game for any villain
with an appetite, so don't be squeamish - get
ratlings begin their fighting careers quite early
on, but for those who don't and are dreading Firstblood,
these handy tips may be useful. When meeting an
enemy get your blow in first or you'll be the
main course for them and their lousy family that
night. Any dirty trick is advised and use whatever
weapons are handy. Better still, get someone to
do your fighting for you. Always stir up trouble
between others then stand back to watch the fun.
try to break up a really good scrap. There's bound
to be a wager on the outcome and if you spoil
someone else's sport you'll be next for the chop.
If you do have to fight, try and choose someone
weaker than yourself. Remember, sometimes the
shorties are the most vicious, so watch out. A
good quick method of sussing out your opponent
is by having a look at their ears.
ripped ears means the rat is an appalling fighter
who's lucky to still be breathing, so your chances
of finishing him off are excellent. Hairy ears
could mean he is mad, therefore be very careful
as he is liable to do anything. When approached
by a loony the best plan is to turn tail and hide
in the nearest hole. Perfect ears without so much
as a scratch or a scar are a puzzler. They could
prove that the rat is the best fighter in all
the tunnels and has never come off worst, or he
could be a bigger coward than you and has always
fled from trouble. Be very very careful.
ain't never been any down the sewers so that's
all right then. A ratling needs to be wary of
certain ratwives however. They can turn on you
in an instant. Learn when to stop insulting them
or you'll end up in their stews.
and bet on a sure thing. If it's a fight then
knobbling the one you want to lose is expected,
but don't get caught doing it. Avoid any sort
of work where possible. A ratling soon learns
that a game of dice is the best way to waste a
day. The most popular dice are made from the knuckle
bones of some tasty victim but always check them
before agreeing to play with older rats. You may
be gambling away your own sorry skin.
of a typical rat die
1 Go and catch a mouse
2 Jump into the sewer water
3 Singe your whiskers
4 Snatch the other player's swag
5 Forfeit a fang
6 Eat the other player
a young ratling is a hungry ratling. Always demand
to be fed and constantly complain about the grub,
no matter how tasty it is - never be grateful.
Slurp and make as much noise as possible and perfect
the art of talking with your mouth full but without
losing any of the contents. Don't even think about
washing your claws before guzzling.
a well known fact that last week's dirt makes
today's nosh taste better but clean claws will
earn you a much deserved slapping. Burping and
other loud eruptions are always necessary, the
smellier the better. The best place to find your
supper is in another rat hole. If there's no one
about, creep in and steal what you can carry.
for grub can be hard work and should be avoided.
A clever thing to do is to wait until some poor
sap comes back after a long day's slog going through
dustbins and mug him. Two young ratlings can easily
bring down one of the old fogeys who really should
have croaked it years before, anyway. Hunting
for live food is different and when you are older
you will understand why. This is a brilliant way
to spend the night, especially if you make a spree
of it with one or two cronies.
course the best scoff there is and what we bless
our bellies for, is fresh mouse. When you taste
one you'll wonder why you ever ate anything else.
These are delicious peeled while still wriggling
and making their funny squeaks. The ears fry up
lovely and crispy too and you can score big with
your mates by having your very own genuine mouse
coat, complete with tail, if you haven't chewed
that as well.
2016.Robin Jarvis. All rights reserved