There were rats under her chicken house. It was something about the way she said 'chicken' - as if she were referring to the Australian poison-skinned toad currently ravaging our former prison colony - that gave her away.
'Don't you like chickens?' I asked.
I love my chickens, often spending a happy hour sitting in the chicken house chatting fondly as they hop suspiciously on to my lap and try to remember if they have seen me somewhere before. There is something deeply endearing about a chicken, its very stupidity demanding affection. I really don't understand how anyone could dislike chickens.
But Mrs Townmouse comes from Glasgow, where chickens are only seen in batter, and she dislikes all living things.
Here in Suffolk, under duress, she detests her feathered friends, which she keeps to fulfil an image of rural utopia desired by her handsome young husband (who works away).
But it was the rats that filled her with horror, with images of pestilence and death, and the fear that once she slept they would creep upstairs and gnaw her struggling bones. No, Mrs Townmouse was not keen on rats.
My usual cheery country bumpkin approach (‘put pellets down the rat hole and leave a brick on top') was to no avail. She was spending her evenings fearfully shivering in the living room, while her husband, in London, cheered himself with visions of her jam-making.
'Look,' I said eventually, 'if you buy the pellets I'll pop round at lunch time and do it for you.'
She left gratefully, for this seemed a happy alternative for the sedative she had sought.
'She's wonderful,' I heard her say to the waiting room. 'She's getting rid of my rats.'
The next patient edged warily into the room and eyed the seat gingerly. 'I really don't want to catch what she's got,' she said.
- Dr Selby is a GP in Suffolk.
You can write to her at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com