Free to good home – small mouse, will need catching

FUNNY week. Nothing but Olympics on the telly and so I find myself nodding sagely while watching the white water events although I know nothing about them.

This is my quadrennial lurch into the sporting arena. Every four years, I tune in and watch anything, even if GB isn’t in it. Even judo. I deserve a medal.

The hockey has been a revelation. As the designated goalkeeper in the inter-form hockey tournament (c1966) I was used to putting on the protective kickers, pads and gloves. The procedure allowed me to stay in the comparative warmth of the hockey store for five minutes more than my classmates.

But the GB women’s goalkeeper appeared to be wearing vast foam-backed tea trays on her hands. There is something of the Spongebob Squarepants about the look. Is there a size limit or could you actually wear gloves the size of the goal-mouth?

It was while I had half an eye on the killer sudoku and half an eye on the boxing that I first spotted the small mouse with my free eye.


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She scampered across the patio, picked up a shred of discarded bird food and whizzed away.

“Did you see that?”

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“Yep, great punch, wasn’t it?” (my husband is now following in the distinguished footsteps of the late Harry Carpenter).

“No. Did you see that, out there?”

“See what?”

“Didn’t you see that mouse?”

“What mouse?”

“The one that was outside the patio door, looking in. Surely you saw it?”

“I didn’t. Are you sure it wasn’t a rat?”

I could already tell this was going to be one of those conversations when we simply ask each other a string of questions and the conversation disappears into a whirling maelstrom of question marks.

Hopefully it would culminate in him asking: “Would you like a cup of tea?”

Oh, and by the way, I was sure it wasn’t a rat. Our son Mark used to keep rats and I can tell the difference. Moreover rats are, as we all know from Dick Whittington and the Black Death, are evil, whereas mice (ref. Tom & Jerry, An American Tail, Babe, Bagpuss) are cute.

Unless there’s a nest of them in your garden, that is. Now I am scared to look under the stack of flowerpots in the north-east corner in case I find a pulsating mass of naked, pink baby mice.

I suppose we could humanely trap them with cheese. I couldn’t kill a mammal.

I can be pretty ruthless with snails – I put them out in the open where the blackbirds can get them – but I couldn’t murder a mouse.

But having humanely caught them, what then? You can’t throw them over the wall into the neighbour’s garden as you might with a univalve mollusc, and the officials in the parks department would definitely be very annoyed with me if I sneaked into their woodland area and set them free (the mice, not the council workers).

I’m not calling out the pest control people again. That’s what I did when I spotted a rat in the garden of our previous home. Having been reassured their man would be in an unmarked van and wearing civvies – I was concerned he might be branded up “Rats R Us” and be wearing a Ghostbusters-type suit – it was a bit unnerving to see him walk up the front garden path in an innocuous business suit and pair of giant gauntlets.

“It’s a rat,” I yelled to the neighbours.

There is a feline option and we’ve considered it. We used to have a cat, Artemis, and she devised very inventive methods for disposing of mice.

We found one hanged in a dangling length of garden string and another drowned in Arty’s outdoor drinking bowl. But after she was involved in the nasty road accident we vowed never to have another cat, and so we must come up with our own way of getting rid of the small rodent(s).

My husband has volunteered to play the recorder and lead them down to the river.

There is a precedent, apparently.

The whole mouse thing had exhausted me and it was only Tuesday. As I left work that day, remembering to switch off my computer and screen in order to save energy, it looked as if it might rain so I rummaged wearily through my bag to find my constant companion this summer – a tiny foldaway brolly and found… a pair of my knickers.

My big, black, comfy knickers.

Stuffing them quickly back to the bottom of my bag, I tried to remember if I had put them in there for a reason. Was it kismet? Was something about to happen that might require a reserve pair of pants?

A sudden fit of sneezing for example. Or someone jumping out at me and shouting “boo”. A really good joke that makes me laugh until I wet myself...?

In fact, this pair looked as if they had been worn and I’m sorry to have to tell you this but it was my lazy approach to housekeeping that caught me out. I have a tendency to throw armfuls of dirty linen over the balustrade from the landing to the hall below and then go downstairs, pick them up and put them in the washing machine.

I presume my aim had been off and this pair had strayed into my bag.

I concealed them under a copy of this newspaper (Please, Lynne, no! Ed) and scurried off home.

On Wednesday, Dave at work sent me an e-mail he’d received from the ECA (something to do with electrical contractors) about some of the weird and wonderful things people are expecting to happen within the next 50 years.

According to their survey, more than half of us believe we will be regularly travelling in space, while 35% of people thought there would be holidays on the moon.

The same percentage thought we would have robots to do the housework, and most people reckoned cash would be obsolete by 2062.

Finally, one in four of those surveyed felt that pens and paper would be obsolete in 50 years.

None of the above leads me to suppose the pressing problems of mice in the back garden or unexpected knickers will have been solved.

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