Yesterday I was in Greenwich, talking to someone who lives in a wonderful home up an alleyway with its own open back yard. In reasonable weather, she leaves the door from the living room to the courtyard. This is fine, except mice can wander in. Once, a rat came in.
Her dog, a Jack Russell terrier, went mad running round and yapping. The rat took refuge behind a kitchen cupboard. The Jack Russell refused to leave the kitchen for two days and two nights, occasionally barking through the night.
Eventually, the two humans could stand it no more. They bought some sticky paper specially designed to catch rats. (Yes, there is such a thing. It is like fly paper but for mice and rats.) They hung it down the back of the cupboard overnight and, sure enough, in the morning, when they pulled the paper up, the rat was stuck to it, squealing.
But this provided a quandary. How to get rid of the rat.
I think I would have thrown it in an outside rubbish bin, still alive. Instead, the husband attached a sharp knife to the end of a broom handle and stabbed the rat to death.
The couple still have traumas at the thought.
I have never encountered an indoor rat, only mice.
Apparently, when I was a small child in Campbeltown, living in a makeshift flat above the storage room of a shop, there were mice around.
As an adult, I have only encountered a mouse once.
I was walking to the kitchen about five years ago. As I turned from my living room to the hall, I saw a mouse in the doorway of the kitchen. It looked at me, surprised. I looked at it, surprised. It then literally leapt up the stairs.
It paused; half-climbed, half-leapt up the vertical of the first step. Stopped momentarily. Ran the few horizontal inches to the next vertical; half-climbed, half-leapt up it. Stopped momentarily. Ran the few horizontal inches to the next vertical. And so on.
I was mesmerised by the speed and agility of the small creature. By the time I moved towards the stairs, the mouse was halfway up and beat me to the top, running into the spare bedroom.
I ran in, shutting the door behind me, but I could not find the mouse.
Eventually, I decided to lift everything off the floor. I still couldn’t see any mouse.
I left the room, carefully shutting the door. The next day, I bought a humane mouse trap cage and put some cheese in it.
A week later, the mouse had still not taken the cheese. Two weeks later, the mouse had still not taken the cheese. I cleared the room of furniture, piece by piece. When I lifted a box of books off the bed and lifted the sheets, there was a flattened mouse underneath the bedclothes, a little leg sticking out at each corner.
How it got up the smooth wooden legs, round the bed base under the mattress, up onto the bed and under the bedclothes, I do not know. But I remembered lifting a heavy box of books off the floor and dropping it heavily onto the bed when I had cleared the floor. It had flashed though my mind What if the mouse were in the bed? but I dismissed it out of hand as being impossible.
I was talking to my eternally-un-named friend about this today.
“You’ve freaked out and never opened your doors since,” she said. “Considering you’re a man whose great grandmother came down from the hills speaking Gaelic and hunting haggis, you’re not a man at one with Nature, are you? Nature is not allowed to poke its head in. It was a mouse. It wasn’t a rat. Get over it.”
“I just think bubonic plague,” I said.
“As I did,” she replied, “with the two pigeons who were busy dying on my balcony in a hysterical manner. I came home and they were just huddled-up; they looked really mangy and grey and black and moth-eaten and were flapping madly if I went near them. I wasn’t going to pick them up with my hands and there was no way to get them out of my balcony.
“Whether they’d been attacked by a fox or were just old and on the way out or even were very young… It was ghastly.
“I actually ask wasps to leave and they do. But you can’t do that with pigeons or mice.”
“You can’t?” I asked.
“You can’t,” she said. “I had to put a plastic bucket over the top of the pigeons and shove cardboard underneath it, so that I could turn the bucket over.”
“What did you do with them?” I asked.
“I don’t like to say,” she replied. “It was pretty adrenaline-rushing. Oh, alright. I put them – and the bucket – the whole lot – into the communal bin at the bottom of the rubbish chute and shut the door. I figured they were not my problem after that. They had come onto my territory. I didn’t invite them. It was all very frightening and probably negative karma.”
“Can you rid us of the French?” I asked.
“I like the French,” my friend said. “They admire the older woman in France. They dress well. Older women are still seen as sexual there. I would have studied French a lot harder at school if I’d realised all this. Now it turns out that was the one subject I should have really concentrated on. And, of course, they have nice food.”