Our house was overrun with mice when I was a child. It was my fault. Even though I learned at a tender age how to tell males from females, I never anticipated the onset of puberty in my pet mice early enough. So at one time I had 49 mice in a variety of different cages and at interval loose in the house when they escaped.
My favourite poem was one from my mother’s WI magazine. Its first two verses were:
I live in sober Suffolk
In a dim and sober house,
And I share this dim sobriety
With a noble sober mouse.
On an eager April morning
I discovered that the mouse
Had minced a first edition
To lend comfort to its house.
Of course what appealed to me was her capitulation. She caught the mouse, looked into its eyes of ‘velvet brown’ and (after several verses) let it go:
But all who gaze in velvet eyes
Must pay a settled price
For now my first edition warms
Some newly-published mice.
Well, I’ve changed. I now have mice, and maybe rats, and they are demolishing my house bit by bit while I look on helplessly.
Each morning I visit each room in trepidation. So far the tally is:
Two gnawed holes in the ceiling
Two disappeared loaves of bread (yes, my fault leaving them out).
An enormous, rat-sized hole in the bathroom floor
An Everest-sized pile of carpet nibblings and a non-fitted sitting room carpet.
But no first editions – yet – so perhaps I’m lucky. Or these rodents aren’t guide-book readers.
Mouse traps are ignored, they tap-dance to the sonic mouse repeller, and I’m at my wits end.