DERNIER MOT - MICE
It all started shortly after we moved in. We were sitting in front of a cosy log fire in the sitting room when I noticed a pair of grey-brown country mice tip-toeing across the carpet. Little pink paws, beady eyes and cascades of silver whiskers, they settled themselves on the hearthstone gossiping in whispers as they watched the leaping flames.
I was enchanted. They were so beautiful and so fearless that in spite of dire warnings from our new French neighbours about rodent overrun, I couldn’t bring myself to set traps or lay poison for them.
Which was of course a mistake: we were instantly marked down as suckers by every mouse in the district. Within weeks we could hear mice giggling behind the skirting boards, munching lentils in the pantry, and nesting in the attic. They were scampering upstairs and down all night long. We could smell them everywhere. I even found one calmly eating crumbs inside the toaster, and had to dismantle the whole machine in order to get it out, and when I got back from the meadow with the toaster in pieces, I found little paw-prints in the frying pan where a mouse had been paddling in the bacon grease. It was the last straw.
We got a cat. Puss, a large ginger tom, stalked the house majestically. Then he sat in front of the fire and licked his bottom. Within hours, the mice had phoned Pickfords and moved out.
Puss was not at all pleased. He’d been promised mice, and mice he wanted. Taking matters into his own paws, he decided to import his own sporting livestock, and night after night came padding through the catflap with an outraged mouse in his mouth. He particularly enjoyed mice that ran up the curtains.
I became expert at rescue operations. Using a feather duster to chase a mouse into a wellington boot, I can get anything - mice, shrews, voles, baby rats, lizards, anything - you name it, I can get it out of the cat’s paws and back into the garden within minutes of a first squeal for help.
Disgusted, Puss gave up bringing live mice into the house. Hooray. At last a mouse-free house.
Bad Boy Tombo however, when he arrived last year, took a different view of the matter. He doesn’t mind in the slightest if I rescue a mouse and release it into the garden. To him that’s all part of the fun. He just trots out though the cat flap, re-captures it and brings it back in again. I swear, some mice have been in and out of this house so many times they jump into the wellington boot before I even manage to find the feather duster.
But the worst of it is that the neighbours have noticed, and M. Moisson caught me red-handed last week.
I confessed, and showed him the latest escapee, a large Grandpa Mouse.
“Ce n’est pas une souris, c’est un rat!” he exclaimed. “Il faut le tuer!”
I looked at it again: ropey tail, yellow eyes, large teeth, cunning look in the eyes. Yes, it was a rat all right. Yikes. With a sheepish smile, I tipped it quickly out of the boot and it disappeared into the undergrowth.
Scandalised, M. Moisson went off to spread the news. Just as they’d suspected all along, the “L’Anglaise” is mad. She has a pair of decent, hard-working French hunting cats in her house, and she takes the very rats out of their mouths! Worse, she lets them loose in the garden!
Oh dear. And I thought we were fitting in so well.
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