“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie…”
But enough about me. We are dealing here with matters of greater moment: nothing less than the perpetual battle for global domination between homo sapiens and the rest of the animal kingdom.
Well, alright then: me versus mice.
In retrospect, I’m amazed that I wasn’t traumatized for life by my first encounter with a mouse. I was about ten years old and one morning I was sent to the larder to get a bottle of milk out of the fridge. I was in my pajamas.
I opened the door to the larder, took two steps inside, then heard a small crunching sound. Looking down, I saw a little tail peeping out from under the ball of my bare – yes, bare – foot.
As I remember it, I was fairly taciturn about the whole thing, although that might just be wishful thinking. I might equally have had the screaming hab-dabs and have been living with the repressed memory ever since.
Fast forward to the present day. Here in the depths of the countryside, we are well used to the proliferation of fauna that surrounds us all year round. Among this abundance of all God’s creatures there is no shortage of mice. They scurry freely around the fields and flower beds, and as long as they stay outside there is no problem. Live and let live.
Now, though, as the nights draw in, the local fieldmice are looking for a warm home for the winter; and I wish them well, I really do.
But not in my house. Because the last thing you could say about mice is that they’re house-trained. Doubly incontinent is more like it. Although they are generally timid creatures who don’t seek confrontation, they do tend to leave incontrovertible evidence of their incursions. Put it this way: you know when you’ve got one – and getting rid of it is a very high priority.
Fortunately, mice aren’t the sharpest tools in the box, nor are they capable of resisting the allure of a bit of peanut butter on a piece of bread placed artfully on a trap. All I have to do is dump the body. It’s almost routine.
At least I now conduct myself in a rather more dignified manner than the time, back in the mid-seventies, when we were invaded by a family of mice, presumably from the fields at the bottom of the road we lived on. Somehow, these found their way up the chimney and into the loft space. This was clearly unacceptable and anti-social behaviour that was not to be tolerated.
We set traps, put down poison and had a fair degree of success in getting rid of the pesky rodents. However, there was one particularly stubborn – not to say downright cheeky – resistance fighter who just wouldn’t get the message that he wasn’t welcome.
The inevitable denouement took place one night, when the cheeky bugger found its way out of a crack in the chimney piece and started running around our bedroom.
Needless to say, Madame was deeply unimpressed, and I was left in no doubt that the time had come for me to man up and get rid of the beast once and for all. Desperate to impress, I resolved that I would stop at nothing.
Although in retrospect it might have been better if I had drawn the line some way short of chasing the thing around the skirting board trying to beat it to death with an upturned umbrella, while wearing only a pair of clogs.
Thankfully, there is no extant photographic evidence of this extraordinary scene.
But then who could forget? Not Madame, that’s for sure.