Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mouse Tails

There are mice in the walls of our house. I woke up in the middle of the night and heard them scampering about. I guess the cold weather has brought them in. M considers them vermin, a kind-of shrunken rat, and favours mass annihilation as an appropriate response. I have a fondness for them and think we should use a form of humane removal such as the sonic putter-offer which Paul at our local feed mill advocates to keep his sacks of feed un-nibbled.

Our reaction to rodents is a question of perspective and history, as my wise friend Mark who lives halfway up a Welsh Mountain says. In the orient (he said) rats are held in high esteem and it is deemed lucky to have them in your garden. Here we see a rat and think "unclean" and then fairly quickly afterwards  "plague" or "Weils disease." The former may be an over-reaction but the latter is not: rodent pee is a cause of this deadly infection. But then so is pig pee and cattle pee. (No I didn't know either).

But mice are not rats anymore than guinea pigs are, and we embrace those plump cheerful talkative souls into our daily lives happily enough. I'm a sucker for small things I think that's probably what it is. M likes to tell the story of how, having discovered caterpillars devouring his broccoli, he removed them and was about to chuck them over the hedge when I saw what he was doing, scooped the caterpillars up, put them in an empty fish tank and then rushed out to Waitrose to get some organic cabbage to feed them on. He found this utterly hilarious but I couldn't have bought non-organic because the pesticides would have killed them. 
The caterpillars duly rewarded this attention by turning themselves into chrysalises and hanging themselves from the side of the tank with very fine silk-like threads. The children and I watched fascinated as they went through the process of becoming caterpillar mush inside the chrysalises before finally emerging reconstructed as beautiful cabbage white butterflies. The first one dried her wings on my finger before flying off into the garden. We called her Lucy. 

Anyway we were discussing mice and what to do about them. I do come into contact with mice fairly frequently here. Usually it's because Cleo has brought me one as a present. She drops them in her utility room, they scamper behind the washing machine and it takes ages of moving the entire room around before you can finally get to the mouse and return him to the garden. I find them very endearing little creatures, particularly when they sit on your hand for a few seconds before jumping off and disappearing into the undergrowth. I think it's something to do with the over-sized ears.

Years ago I had a rabbit called Bella, who was actually a boy but by the time we realised the name had stuck. Anyway, Bella lived in a converted calving pen lined with breeze blocks to a height of about three foot. I used to go and feed him every morning before school and after a while noticed movement on the top of the breeze blocks. It was three mice. I tipped some of the maize on top of the wall and went to school and when I came back the maize had gone. The next morning the mice were back and by the end of the week weren't scattering when I tipped food onto their wall. A few more days and one of them began taking a piece of flaked maize out of my hand, sitting back on his haunches and enjoying a companionable breakfast with the rabbit.

Years later I was staying in a farmhouse on the Hereford/ Wales border, it had no central heating so everyone huddled around the fire in the sitting room as long as possible before bed. Watching the tv one evening I became aware of movement on the back of the sofa behind me and turning round praying it wasn't a spider realised it was a mouse! They were so used to people they would scamper about the floor or warm themselves by the fire entirely unperturbed by the presence of several people watching them.

Probably mice used to play a far bigger role in the daily lives of humans than they do now. A more urban environment has I suppose, shut them out of people's homes more effectively than country dwelling does. That's maybe why so many people are afraid of/ don't much like them.

None of this resolves our current dilemma, but as M hasn't mentioned it for a few days I'm secretly hoping he's forgotten.


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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x