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Posts Tagged ‘mice’

mousemanIt’s going up for midnight now on a  wet Friday night and the house is quiet. In fact I have the house to myself, and I’m enjoying it. My wife has moved out. Again. And both my kids are away enjoying whatever passes for the night life these days. They won’t be back until late. I can wear my waistcoat and pocket-watch without incurring their mirthful banter. Hurray! So I’m a Victorian gent born a hundred years too late. Get over it.

I hasten to add my good lady has not gone permanently, at least I hope not, rather she is sleeping at her parents’ house not far away, and will be back tomorrow. The reason: she has a phobia of mice and refuses to sleep anywhere inhabited by even the thought of a mouse.

We’ve had a few this year, which is unusual. I’ve read it’s a climate-change thing, that mice are going hungry, or becoming more multitudinous, or at any rate more inclined to pop indoors than they once were. I was watching TV when I saw it, a fast moving blur in the corner of my eye. Being myopic I’m plagued by floaters anyway and wondered if it was one of those, hoped it was, but it wasn’t. The mouse put in another appearance shortly afterwards, slower this time, even pausing to have a look at me. Then it vanished behind a cabinet.

It was a work night and I didn’t want to be disturbed by mice, real or imagined, dancing the hokey-cokey around my bed. So I fetched all the traps out of the garage, where they have mouldered since the summer, and the last mouse incident. Eight traps, baited and set. I used the special mouse gunk they sell in B+Q. Overkill, perhaps, but by morning the mouse was dead.

On the one hand this was a positive result, but on the other, since I like mice, in the wild at least, it was not the ideal result. They are after all rather fascinating and evolutionary successful creatures, to say nothing of being quite cute. My actions therefore seemed somewhat utilitarian, hurried and precipitous, and I drove to work that morning in a rather thoughtful frame of mind, after dumping the mouse unceremoniously in the bin.

The mouse died because it had inconvenienced me, and I’m apt to ruminate upon the broader philosophical implications of such things. I was reminded of a scene from the otherwise dreadful movie: “The Next Karate Kid” where a delightfully young Hillary Swank is about to squish a cockroach at the dinner table in a monastery. The bug is swept to safety by one of the monks, and poor Hillary earns Mr Miyagi’s approbation, also a lecture on how the killing of anything sets up a chain of suffering, and that we should respect all life.

Apart from the performances of Hillary Swank and Pat Morita as Miyagi, this was rather a weak outing for the “Karate-Kid” genre. A  lot of the philosophising was by this time sounding as if it came from self help books, without sitting on much by way of intellectual or philosophical bedrock. But  it got me thinking about this business of killing.

Should Hillary have let the bug crawl all over her food? Okay, she could have picked it off the table before it got to her bowl, set it safely down outside, so I suppose Mr Miyagi had a point. There was no need to kill the bug. Within the monastery, there is no killing, he tells us. All life is respected, but that’s rather an insular and somewhat simplified view of reality.

“You mean you’ve never killed a cockroach, Mr Miyagi?”

“Miyagi don’t live in Monastery, Julie San, but still respect all living things.”

Woa, wait a minute! Has Miyagi ever killed a cockroach? Answer the damned question, man! Hmm, you ask me,  I think he fluffed his answer. I don’t think he treated Julie (Hillary) with the necessary intellectual respect there. He did not solve the central paradox at all. To kill or not to kill.

Cockroaches aren’t the sort of creatures you want skittering around your kitchen. Similarly, mice aren’t conducive to human health and well being.  At the bigger end of the scale man-eating tigers develop a taste for humans and thereby cause no end of suffering for their victims and their victims’ loved ones. So,… is there there no point at which killing becomes necessary, or in any way even spiritually acceptable? Or should we always be prepared to sacrifice our own lives, our own health, our own well being, rather than take the life of the simplest of creatures?

If we give the problem a little thought we can say well, maybe it’s acceptable to  take life only if it’s unavoidable. But to what lengths should we go to avoid taking it? It’ll be Daddy Long-Leg season soon, and my good lady has a phobia for those as well, but they’re fairly easy to catch and put outside – hint, go for the wings rather than the legs because Daddy Long Legs are perfectly happy to shed a leg and leave you holding it. But really, is this not mere sentimentality? Are we to show the same respectful awe to the Daddy-long-leg, or the mouse that we do to the man-eating tiger, or the great white shark? I admit I’m prone to such thinking, and I do regret killing that mouse, but is it reasonable of me to do so? In relative peace-time when there is room to manoeuvre, I suppose it is, but in a fight for survival, the mouse or any other enemy can be dispatched without a second thought, especially if we can persuade ourselves they deserve the label: Evil.

But all of that was a few days ago, the house is free of mice now and I’m confident the good lady Graeme will return to sleep, eventually. I would much rather the mouse had found it’s way out of my house. I do respect all life, really, and to the mouse, I apologise, but like Mr Miyagi, I fluff the answer to the paradox.

I shall leave the last word to Mister Miyagi: “It’s okay to lose to your opponent. It’s never okay to lose to fear.”

No, actually my favourite quote is: “Never trust a spiritual leader who cannot dance.”

 

 

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miceThe more literary kind of story has a habit of fluffing its conclusion, of building you up through a series of struggles, pointing to one final decisive conflict, but just as one is hopeful of a whizz-bang ending, it veers off the mark and cuts to the credits without having resolved anything at all. Critics do effusive somersaults over the subtlety of this sort of thing and provide a multitude of their own subjective interpretations based on impenetrable literary theory as espoused by someone you’ve never heard of. As for the rest of us, we can only trust the whole thing was not a deceit, that the author simply didn’t know how to finish things other than by saying it was all a dream, so he trails off instead, fades away like a ghost.

In similar vein I swear I did not dream of mice last week. I saw them, heard them, chased them, tried in vain to trap them. But I’ve not seen one since, nor been disturbed by one in the night. My house is now bristling with traps, baited with all manner of treats – currently pieces of KitKat stuck in tasty splodges of peanut butter. Yum!

Nothing. No bites. No dead mice.

I’ve been round the outside of the house looking for any means of mousy ingress – tiny holes in the corners of walls and where the drains poke out. I have applied cement here, there and everywhere, just to be sure. I know they’ve definitely been around and where they’ve lingered longest because there’s an eye watering smell of ammonia coming from behind the cupboards in the conservatory. For weeks we thought it was a pair of my son’s trainers, and grumbled for them to be stored elsewhere. But the more savvy visitors tell us this pungent signature scent is actually mouse-wee. The cupboards are fitted and it will take a week to dismantle them, remove them, check for ingress, clean up, put back. Understandably I’m resisting the trial, hoping instead the mice have gone and the smell will fade if we keep the windows open.

No firm conclusion, you see? We trail off into the literary never-land. No bang, no snap of the trap and a clear indication of the saga’s end. It goes on until memory fades, hopefully along with the smell, and some other slice of life takes centre stage. So for now the mice have become ghosts to manifest at every creak or sigh in the night, but without actually materialising in tangible reality at all. Only their smell remains.

I hope.

Goodnight all.

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The Mouseman Diaries

mouseman

Day one

There’s a mouse in my house, more than one, probably. They’re bad for your health. Mouse wee stinks, their faeces carry bacteria and parasites, and mice can be covered in ticks. Do you really want them anywhere near your food, or where you prepare food, or where you lay your head to sleep?

No, mice aren’t great house-guests, they keep you awake at night, listening to their scratchings and meanderings. You imagine them running over your face, nibbling your earlobes. It’s all very room 101. I like mice, really, I do – they’re quick, nimble, spookily intelligent creatures possessed of supernatural senses, but you don’t want them loose in your house.

I have a trap, of the humane tipper variety, because I’m a bit sensitive that way, but felt compelled to borrow more, three of them in all – just to be sure of catching it or them. These were of the regular snapper sort. I don’t like to kill creatures if I can help it, but once mice settle in they can cost a fortune in raided and ruined groceries, and they can make you ill, so I felt I couldn’t afford to be choosy. There’s a limit to what’s sensible in terms of compassion. So I set the traps, baited them with bits of Yorkie Bar and gave my guests a choice between the way of life and the way of death, all be it with the odds by way of fate stacked heavily in favour of death.

It took a day before we heard the first trap snap. It seemed the mouse had chosen death, but on closer inspection we found it had escaped, almost, the trap coming down on its tail, so it was flailing, dragging the trap with it. I don’t think it was after the bait. It was just wanting to clear the trap with a leap and hadn’t quite made it. Mice it seems are not partial to Yorkie Bar.

A dead mouse isn’t much of anything really, other than a relief when you’re plagued with them, but one desperate to escape while dragging a trap by the tail cannot help but garner some sympathy. It also slowed it down sufficiently to allow me to catch up with it. So I took it outside, took it up the street before releasing it. But I wonder now if I took it far enough because the little brown blur of a thing seemed to head straight back in the direction of my house.

Day two

There’s nothing in the traps first thing in the morning, so I’m hopeful the problem has gone, but then my good lady texts me at work to say she was startled by another mouse in the kitchen – she’s a mousophobe, or something. Did it have a crooked tail? I asked. There came no reply worth repeating. So, I don’t know if it’s the same mouse or not. I’d like to think not, because then I’ll feel stupid for not killing it. How does one kill a mouse, anyway? With a shoe? A hammer?

More traps ordered from Ebay. Of the humane variety.

Day three

We spent a troubled night last night, mice wearing clogs thumping across the bedroom floor. I switched the light on around 1:30 am in time to see one dropping from the curtain. It shot under the bed, then seemed to vanish into thin air. What with lying awake listening to the house and stiffening at the slightest sound, then snapping on the light and tearing about the bedroom in pursuit, I managed just a couple of hours sleep, then up at six thirty and out to work again.

I’ve felt wobbly tired all day.

I picked up several more traps from B+Q on the way home – they only had the regualar killer variety but by now I’m not so squeamish. We have eight traps, all armed and primed with a special bait that comes in a tube – you place a blob of it on the trap and the little rodents can’t resist, apparently. I hope we have a better night. It’s odd, in twenty years, we’ve never been troubled with mice at this house, but after last night it’s feeling like a plague. Worse, my good lady has now moved out, moved back to her parents, until they’re gone.

Evidence of mice? Yes, one was sitting on the pillow of my son’s bed, bold as brass, as if to say what are you looking at? Another one came skittering across the kitchen floor and disappeared behind the fridge – or it might have been the same one. I couldn’t get the fridge out because the numpties who fitted the kitchen have jammed it in tight which makes me wonder how we’ll get it out when it breaks down. Odd how these things come to light.

The longer term solution to all of this is a cat. My mother always kept one for this reason, but cats bring their own problems and anyway, I’m allergic. I just need more traps, and a good night’s sleep.

Day Four

Didn’t sleep much better. There were more scratching and fidgetings in the bedroom, going up for midnight. Putting the light on seemed to subdue this activity, so I slept with the light on low like a scaredicat until morning but I don’t think this is conducive to good sleep. You know you’re tired when you wake feeling hung over and you’ve not been drinking.

All eight traps were empty. So much for the special “irresistable” bait. The traps I ordered by post could not be delivered because no one was at home. Delivery will need to be rearranged, or more likely I’ll have to waste my Saturday morning queuing up at the sorting office to collect them. Sometimes I hate internet shopping!

By three pm I can feel myself shutting down, wanting to sleep. I’m tempted to succumb, even at the risk of being sacked, just for the sweet delirium of it – except I’d probably be dreaming of mice.

Researches online point me to Peanut butter, or chocolate as bait – Maltesers in particular. But I’m not so sure. I think these mice have come from outside and are used to feeding on birdseed, so I bait the traps accordingly and hope for the best.

I inspect our foodstores, a tightly sealed pull-out larder. All looks fairly secure – no tell tail holes nibbled through the cereal boxes. No mouse droppings. I remove the bird feeder from outside our back door, dispose of the seed – I imagine the birds look glum, and I’m sorry, but this is war and there is always collateral damage.

Traps set, off to bed.

Goodnight all.

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