The mice are back. When I say back, I’m presuming that this isn’t the same happy couple who caused such upheaval in our home last autumn. But it has occurred to me that these latest furry raiders might have been tipped off by the previous incumbents, presumably in some mousey conversation about how unseasonably cold it is, and how, if you’re stuck for a warm press and a feed, the people at No. 18 leave opened packets of dog treats in theirs and if they catch you, they won’t kill you.
And in this, at least, they are quite right. When the mouse problem first raised its admittedly cute head six months ago, it was I who put my foot down (gingerly — there were mice about) and ruled out those barbaric, cartoonish traps that make mince from mice. And although I was initially skeptical about the effectiveness of the so- called ‘humane’ traps, we did manage to catch a pair of mice that we released onto the green and watched scamper off to, we’d hoped, a better life in the wild. Now it seems that instead, they more or less set up a tiny lettings agency and simply passed on directions to our lily-livered, softon-law-and-order home.
As it happens, I haven’t actually seen any of these mice, either past or present — so my much parlayed boast that I am unafraid of, unimpressed by and generally not bothered by mice has gone untested. I can say, with absolute certainty, that I would not be adversely affected by any mouse introduced to me by, say, somebody saying, ‘I will be showing you a mouse in about 30 seconds; you might want to brace yourself.’ But if I opened the kitchen press and suddenly came upon a furry friend perched on a packet of pinto beans — as The Teenager did the other day — could I honestly say I wouldn’t even flinch? (Actually, I have no idea if the mouse was on the pinto beans; it could just as easily have been on the Nutella. This is just my way of letting you know that in my kitchen press, I have pinto beans.)
Anyway, that little fellow was quickly caught, a small piece of cooked ham proving more appetising than either pinto beans or Nutella. The whole palaver had passed by the
‘It was I who ruled out barbaric traps...
Now the mice have spread word of our soft-on-lawand-order home’
time I arrived home that evening, though The Youngest, witness to the liberation of the mouse on the green, did testify that he looked very happy and ‘like a hamster, only cuter’. His companion in squatting showed up the next morning in The Boy’s bedroom, forcing The Boy out of bed and into his school uniform uncharacteristically early. Do I need to mention that the previous interlopers were also caught in the kitchen press and The Boy’s bedroom? The press is more or less self-explanatory: the aforementioned Nutella, etc. The Boy’s bedroom, being an absolute tip, is the only other place where open food packaging is frequently found, and is therefore also the natural choice of the casual diner. You might have thought the previous mouse episode might have inspired The Boy to keep his room tidy from then on, but that is to reckon without The Boy. This, after all, is a child who had to get worms three times before he’d wash his hands before meals.
Anyway, The Boy’s latest uninvited guest has now been dispatched back to Mouse Central and the trap set once more in case this couple managed to, as they say, get it on. In the meantime, our ever expanding family has also been joined by an unusually fat bluebottle, which seems to have been flying through our kitchen in a half-hearted, almost slovenly manner, for more than a week now. I have no idea where he goes during the day, but just as soon as The Dog goes to sleep each evening, the bluebottle comes to lazy life and starts looping around the room, so that The Dog wakes up and goes mad trying to eat a bluebottle that is just a tiny fraction too fast for him. It’s a tedious business for all but the bluebottle and The Dog, who keeps crashing into things in his ungainly efforts to catch his prey mid-air, and then has to retire to the pitch-black garden every few minutes to bark urgently at a tree. Which means I have to get off the sofa, a dozen times a night, to open the door to let him out, and again to let him in again. And every time, just a few metres away, I swear I can hear nature, its mice and its bluebottles, laughing at us.