Having recently returned home from an island hopping holiday to Greece there was inevitably a lot of dirty clothes to deal with so I loaded the washing machine and sat and waited for the cycle to complete while Kim went shopping. After about twenty minutes I started to hear a different sound and as the drum revolved there was a regular squeak with every turn and I thought that it sounded serious, possibly the bearings, and was likely to involve some unwelcome expense.
I examined the machine from the outside and tried to identify the source of the noise but as the examination proceeded it seemed to me that the noise was coming from the general area of the appliance but not from it directly. It was coming from the side and as I peered into the vertical gap between the machine and the kitchen unit I saw a mouse firmly stuck by its paws to a glue trap and squeaking away at its predicament.
This shocked me because we hadn’t had a mouse inside the house for some time, not since I had installed one of those electronic mouse deterrents which had seemed to keep us rodent free for some time. Some people say these aren’t really terribly effective, my friend Micky for example who says that if he had an elephant deterrent in his house and he didn’t see any elephants this doesn’t prove that it is working! A good point. Anyway, this one wasn’t working this morning because someone had inadvertently switched it off before they went out shopping!
The first mouse to take up residence with us was in about 2004 when I became aware of tiny footsteps in the ceiling but as we never saw it didn’t concern us greatly and I didn’t think a great deal about it. Then one evening I was sitting in the garden enjoying a beer and when I had finished it went inside to get a second and I saw a blurring movement across the work surface and behind the microwave but I couldn’t see anything so I convinced myself that a combination of beer and sun had made me hallucinate. I drank the second bottle of beer and went inside for a third and the same thing happened again and there was no mistaking this time that the mouse had left the roof space and was now sharing the kitchen.
I deduced that the thing was in the microwave so I took it outside and left it there overnight but when I got up in the morning something had eaten most of a bread roll that I had left out so it was obvious that I hadn’t dealt with it as effectively as I had imagined. Mice are pesky creatures and if they have a mind to live in the house it is practically impossible to keep them out because they can squeeze through an opening just ten millimetres wide which effectively means that they can roam at will throughout, under doors, along pipe runs and through tiny holes in the walls meant for cables for example. There is no way you can stop them!
This one would have to go because once inside they breed prodigiously, contaminate food and generally do lots of damage. They also spread disease and have been associated with occurrences of salmonellosis, leptospirosis, tularaemia, plague, hepititus, Q fever and murine typhus. So there are a lot of good reasons why you don’t really want mice in the house.
To take on the intruder I put down some poison and bought a little nipper mouse trap. The little nipper was invented in 1897 by an ironmonger from Leeds named James Atkinson and his invention worked so perfectly that it is still being used today to exactly the same design. Tens of millions of them have been sold and it continues to dispatch mice with brisk and brutal efficiency. The spring-loaded bar swings down rapidly and with such speed and force when a mouse touches the trip and the design is such that the mouse’s neck or spinal cord will be broken painlessly in an instant. I say painlessly here but never having been caught in a mouse trap myself there is no way I can be absolutely sure of that of course.
One night before going to bed we loaded the trap and left it in the kitchen and sure enough, sometime in the early hours, we were woken by the dreadful snap of what we confident would be a terminal event and we went down to investigate. Well, unfortunately, things hadn’t gone exactly to plan, the trap had gone off sure enough but the killing deed had not been done because the mouse sat there looking completely stunned with a large part of its arse missing where the trap had sliced a portion off. He was quick witted enough to recognise the danger of his situation however and he half hopped, half limped and despite his injury made his getaway into the living room.
Kim was screaming and my heart was racing as I chased after it. I don’t know how big game hunters feel when they are stalking prey but there was nothing heroic or noble about this I can tell you. I’m not sure why we are frightened of mice especially when you put things into perspective and consider that the average mouse weighs about 20 grams and I am about 75 kilograms so if I was in the unfortunate position of the mouse and confronted with something to the same larger proportion I’d be looking up at something about 17.5 thousand kilograms which is the equivalent of three fully grown elephants.
I chased it into the bathroom but even with its significant injury I still couldn’t catch the thing and then it darted for the door and because I didn’t want it back in the main part of the house I slammed the door and quite by chance caught it’s head between door and frame and that as they say that was that and the mouse was finally gone. Sadly however there were more so we put down more poison and laid more traps and eventually caught one in the traditional way with instant death in the little nipper and it was then that I understood why so many mouse traps are sold because just like lots of other people I was so squeamish about the corpse that I simply through the whole thing away and bought a new one.
Over the next few months we had to deal with a few more mice that made their way into the house and on one occasion a rat but that is a different story that I will tell later.