I lit­tle

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - WEEKEND -

have a new mouse. Quite of­ten in my life, I have a mouse, al­ways soli­tary lit­tle fel­lows, mind­ing their own busi­ness and harm­ing no one.

Only once has there been a mouse in the house (the gar­den flat I men­tioned re­cently) – the chap used to run over my feet when I was writ­ing. All the oth­ers have been gar­den mice. I don’t know if that makes them field mice. I guess I like to think so. Sweet lit­tle fel­las, at any rate.

In Skye, the house gets wood mice from time to time. They live in the for­est next door but come in­side when win­ter starts to bite. The house own­ers get a spe­cial­ist con­troller in for them, as ro­dents tend not to go down well with hol­i­day­ing vis­i­tors hir­ing the place.

Some­times, when we put food out on the deck­ing for the pine marten, a mouse nips in first and has a peerie nib­ble be­fore the car­niv­o­rous ga­loot am­bles forth. Fast as light­ning, that lit­tle fel­low.

I no­ticed the lat­est mouse in my sub­ur­ban gar­den when I was out the back do­ing my Chi­nese ex­er­cises, which con­sist largely of waft­ing my arms about.

This lit­tle tyke was dart­ing out from shrub­bery to pick up food dropped by the birds from the feeder over­head. I did my usual and started speak­ing at him in a pe­cu­liar di­alect, as I al­ways do on such oc­ca­sions for rea­sons I’ll never un­der­stand: “Come noo, du peerie wee moose! Whit’s du waantin’?”

Ev­ery time I said “peerie wee moose”, he seemed to come forth, leav­ing me hop­ing that I might be able soon to teach him to fetch sticks.

One time, he just sat still and stared at me for a long time. I like to think of my image im­printed on his brain, prob­a­bly be­side a back­ground cap­tion say­ing: “Beardie poltroon.”

He’s lucky he’s got the grub. I’d stopped feed­ing the birds as I got fed up of their in­grat­i­tude and the fact that they flew off when­ever I ap­peared: “Oh no, it’s the man who feeds us! Fly away!”

I felt as re­jected by them as I do by my own kind. But a new wee robin won me round again.

Oddly enough, he’s not that in­ter­ested in char­ity food, even though I bought him dried worms in suet (yum!). He prefers to grub around in the soil when I’m weed­ing.

Other birds – hav­ing done well else­where over the sum­mer – re­turned to their Un­cle Rab as au­tumn set in and seemed bewil­dered by the lack of co­mestibles.

So, I re­lented and must say the gar­den has sprung to life again. There’s still a wicked cat that gets in oc­ca­sion­ally, and sits malev­o­lently watch­ing the bird feeder, so I’m a lit­tle bit wor­ried about my mouse, par­tic­u­larly if I’m do­ing any­thing to make him trust the world. But he’s a nim­ble lit­tle scur­rier and I’m sure he knows the drill.

Even in win­ter, the gar­den mice have never come in­doors. One night, in the snow, when I’d for­got­ten my key and was locked out, a lit­tle fel­low kept me com­pany.

He chit­tered with cold a bit, but knew we had sep­a­rate do­mains. I was only grate­ful that he let me stay in his for a bit, as we waited for the lock­smith.

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