Thursday, June 09, 2011

Of Mice and Me

On Monday I did a silly thing. Just before going to bed, I opened the front door to see if our cat, Ulysses, wanted to come in. I found him lounged against the threshold with an eye on the hinges side. As he seemed unusually alert, there had to be something there to interest him, and lo, there was a little black furry blob lodged into the corner.

As it was quite late and rational thought processes being long departed, I closed the door again, then opened it in the erroneous belief that I should save the little black mouse from the vicious jaws of my kitty poo. Mistake number 1. The mouse scuttled in through the gap and cowered in a dark corner.

I picked up the cat and put him outside the back door. Mistake number 2.

I opened the door again to encourage the mouse to go out by the way it'd come in but it had other ideas. Instead of taking action, I flapped about a bit with the result that the mouse ran into the utility room and found a safe hiding behind the washing machine. My son let Ulysses back in but it was of course, too late because he couldn't squeeze into the same spaces as a creature the size of his paw.

Damn, I now have a mouse in the house and it's all my fault! As my son observed, let's hope it isn't pregnant!

I was sorely reminded of my failure today in an article in the Times (££) about rats. It's commonly believed that the rat population keeps growing and we'll eventually succumb to the sheer numbers to be over-run and gnawed to the bone alive. According to the article, this is a rat myth kept alive and well by commercial pest-control companies who like to use fear rather than scientific data to drum up business.

In fact, rat numbers are dwindling. Clean streets and heavy rains which drown rats in sewers keep the numbers down - there is never more than 0.4% of UK homes that has a rat in residence.

One UK home that did have rats was my mother's. She opened the fridge one day and came nose to nose with a big fat rat. She screamed and went rushing to call my dad who was no help at all as he has severe Alzheimer's.

Then she pulled herself together and went to investigate the fridge. Moving aside the items in permanent residence, she found that the rats had gnawed a hole right through the back of the fridge and could come and go as they pleased. They had an open buffet on tap and could help themselves to cheese and leftovers whenever the fancy took them.

My mother found a metal plate and jammed it up against the back of the fridge, then called the council. This was just before the cuts cut pest-control, but seeing how successful the rat man was in dealing with rats, it's not surprising that the service was determined to be expendable.

Pest Control came three times. They might have killed off the weakest babies, but they certainly had no effect on the toughie adults who continued to run about and steal Celebrations chocolates in the dark hours of the night. Eventually my mother used her network of buddies and was put in contact with a retired rat man. He came over and examined what had been done, then took the matter in hand.

The council had been using mouse poison which obviously is strong enough to kill a mouse but probably just gives a tough rat a cheap thrill. New rat man stuffed some really strong stuff into the hole in the garage wall where the rats stepped out to take the air, then blocked it and the fridge wall hole up and waited a week.

Unfortunately there were no sounds of wailing, no last gasps of breath, no evidence of mass death, but the mission was considered successful.

Until my mother came downstairs one night and nearly stepped on the furry body of another damned rat! The one that got away!

Back came the rat man. He investigated the living room as thoroughly as any CSI agent. On opening the sofa-bed, he found a very cosy nest, full of Celebrations chocolate wrappers (it wasn't my dad nicking them after all!). My mother was semi-hysterical by this time, quite understandably.

No poison this time, but a sticky board and a mallet. During the night, the rat stepped on the sticky board and got stuck. Next morning, the rat man came with the mallet and, behind closed doors - my mother chose not to watch - beat the little bugger to death. It was carried off unceremoniously in a sack and dumped in the dustbin.

The house is no longer one of the 0.4%.

I wonder what the percentage is of French homes with mice...

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