Wednesday 25 April 2007

The one about mice

The mice are back! Every winter we get this problem – the mice decide it’s too cold outside and wander in for a bit of squatting. We started off with humane traps and so on but they didn’t work. The terrier is hopeless and I don’t think I can face the idea of terrier v cat warfare so a feline isn’t an option. So we just go for the usual Little Nippers or whatever they’re called – your old-fashioned mouse traps. Usually they work a treat and after a week or so of mouse genocide (musicide?) we have wiped out the indoor population and peace reigns once more.

I don’t mind mice – in their proper place. In other words, scampering outside. It’s the same with spiders and other wildlife – outside good; indoors bad. Very bad. The major problem with our mice is that they all sound like squaddies on a bender – hob-nailed boots drunkenly staggering round the skirting boards and charging up and down the attic.

My mother is a kind-hearted soul. She thought our spring-charged traps were barbaric – tantamount to torture and against the Geneva Convention and sent off for a plug-in gizmo that is supposed to deter them from coming in in the first place. And you know what, it worked a treat for about a year. But now something has gone wrong. They’re back and by heck they sound bigger! How on earth can something so small and light make such a hell of a racket? Some nights they actually wake me up out of deep sleep – it sounds as if they are rolling some huge metal ball along the skirting board or tossing hand grenades at each other. Basically mouse wars are going on around our bedroom and it is a nightmare.

So Adrian got traps – super new traps. They have some kind of odd plastic foodstuff that is supposed to emit some tasty mouse heaven smell. Either our mice have blocked noses or they are far too smart. Not even a nibble. So he re-baited them with chocolate (I don’t know how he found my secret stash of Green & Blacks in the first place and, frankly, why couldn’t he have bought a common or garden bar of Milk Tray or something? But Mayan Gold? My Mayan Gold?

Of course we have to secrete these around the place as I have horrors of the agents doing a viewing and people finding mouse traps (especially with dead mouse in situ). Country people know that mice and old farmhouses go together like lamb and mint sauce but Londoners generally aren’t so understanding (and while we would love our place to go to good country people we’re realistic enough to accept that it will probably be some hedge-funder who wants to spend a little of his or her fat bonus on a pukka country pad).

But no. Our mice have got wise. They haven’t touched the darn things and it’s driving me potty. I half-wondered if it would be hygienic to pick off the chocolate (you can tell how desperate I am – this is what comes of living miles from the nearest shop – you get chocolate cravings and can’t realistically fulfil them).
I can hear them now, as I type this, scampering around in the loft – taunting me. We’ve got another viewing today and I just know they’ll decide to put on a tap-dancing practice session just as our viewers make their way into the bedroom.

I suppose it could be worse. I could be terrified of mice. But as a child, I used to keep them as pets so I am actually quite fond of the little blighters – just not when they’re tramping around my house.
To add insult to injury, last night James had a nightmare – the kind that makes him scream his head off. Which, in turn, set off the Jack Russell. He sleeps downstairs and we close every single door so we can’t hear him if something sets him off in the night, but unfortunately my hearing is too good and I can hear him barking through three thick doors. Maybe I need ear-plugs.

On my way back from Taunton I dropped in on Size Zero Mum.
‘Poor dear,’ said Mum. ‘You look so tired. Didn’t you sleep well?’
‘Not really. The mice are back.’
‘But I gave you that device. They can’t be back.’
Yup, they are.
‘You need a cat.’
‘Jack would eat a cat.’
‘Good point. I’ll make you a cup of tea. You don’t mind goat’s milk, do you? You won’t taste the difference.’
Oh yes, I will. So I trudged to the shop to get some cow’s milk. Mum is on a new diet it seems. She’s always avoiding something or other and this time it seems she’s got a very strange set of criteria.
‘Oh, I forgot to tell you I won’t be eating Christmas pudding this year, dear.’
What? Mum is the only one who ever eats Christmas pudding and I’d just bought one from the Marie Cure Fair on Saturday.
‘I’m not eating dried fruit or nuts. Remember?’ Honestly? No. Followed by sinking feeling, recalling the cake I bought about two hours earlier.
‘So does that mean no Christmas cake either?’
‘That’s right. Oh, and I don’t eat seeds anymore either. Or peppers. Or bananas or apples, or oranges.’
I ask her to remind me why and she says it was the allergy testing she had done at Holland & Barrett.
‘But I thought that was the one where they told you that you were intolerant of wheat?’ I said, staring beadily at her biscuit.
‘Oh yes. I am. But I can’t cut out wheat – I like bread too much.’
Aaghhh. What’s the point?

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