Friday, July 20, 2012


How to best your pests

A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam
A windmill with a mouse in and he wasn't grousin'
He sang every morning, "How lucky I am,
Living in a windmill in old Amsterdam!"

I saw a mouse! (Where?)
There on the stair!
(Where on the stair?)
Right there!
A little mouse with clogs on
(Well I declare!)
Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair


I was on duty Friday and Monday, the caretaking gig. The building is a former halls of residence. I also happen to live there. When the usual guy's away, I merely have to be out of bed by nine o'clock, let anyone relevant in and make sure the place doesn't get worked over. My previous stint on the clock included asbestos removal, giant rodents and a police manhunt. There are many ways to make a living, this is one.

Things promised to be much quieter this time round, although Dave (the usual guy) told me he'd been having some mouse problems in his kitchen. With little else to do (other than watch Wimbledon being rained off on the telly) I resolved to see if I couldn't lighten his load a little by catching one or two of the blighters.

To this end, I erected a comedy 'propped up box' trap in the kitchen, with a succession of shoelaces tied together to pull the prop out as I couldn't find a long enough piece of string. I settled down and played the waiting game. Occasionally, I'd hear promising scuffling noises, which I took to come from the kitchen skirting board, a renowned hotspot of mouse activity, but nothing emerged. After about 45 minutes of false alarms, I decided the mouse (or mice) was just messing me about. I was also getting peckish and quite fancied eating the piece of toast that I'd been using as bait.

Turning around (chewing on my piece of floor toast), what should I see in the corridor but a mouse, gaily running in circles? Well I declare, I thought, he was out there all the while. I swiftly threw a towel over him and grabbed a box to stuff him into. I picked up the balled-up towel and shook it out into the box.

No dice. Or, rather, no mice.

The only place he could have gone from under the towel was under the door of the communal room and I found this tough to believe as the gap under the door didn't look as if it would have given an ant easy passage. However, I opened the door just in time to see the mouse vanish under the sofa. I pulled out the sofa and he ran under the armchair. I pulled this out and he squeezed back out under the door, which I'd had the partial foresight to close.

I dashed back into the kitchen and watched as the mouse vanished under the refrigerator. This time, I was determined there would be no errors. I cleared away all the furniture around the fridge for ease of movement and armed myself with a mop, with which to obstruct the errant mouse's escape or, as a last resort, to bash his head in.

Just as I was about to pull the fridge out from the wall, something caught my eye: it was a mouse in the garden, scurrying away from the glass kitchen door, having apparently got out from behind the fridge via some unknown crack in the wall. Son of a gun, I thought. It was a bit like the dream I had where I was holding Paul Daniels prisoner and he ended up making a complete arse of me.

I pulled out the fridge to have a look at the crack in the wall. There wasn't one but the mouse, sensing his opportunity, bolted out from behind the fridge and made the safety of the gap in the skitchen skirting board while it was still dawning on me that the mouse in the garden had, in fact, been a different mouse.

At this point, I threw in the towel. The mouse had made me look like a complete oaf and it was nearly five o'clock. I spent the weekend away, camping in the Lake District and getting drunk, leaving the cocky rodent free to enjoy the run of the halls.

Then, on Monday, the mouse got over confident: he decided to run right past me in the corridor while I was just standing there composing a text message. Either that or he thought I was such an easy mark he could tie my shoelaces together or some other such cartoonish rodent villainy. Having despaired of the 'kid gloves' approach, I unceremoniously kicked him against the wall. The mouse tried to get away, so I gave him another boot. He rolled on his back and made piteous squeaks of protest but I was implacable: I grabbed a plastic packing crate that was lying in the corridor and forced him into it. Having achieved all this, I relented a little and gave him some peanut butter on toast and a couple of bogroll tubes to keep him entertained while I saw out the clock on the rest of the working day.

Despite my best efforts to make Irvine* feel at home, he wasn't at all happy. He kept trying to jump out of his plastic prison, with about as much success as I might expect if I tried to leap out of Warwick Castle from the courtyard.

I couldn't help but feel a bit depressed that this feeble-minded rodent had been outwitting me with such ease on Friday. I was evidently having a bad day.

Come five o'clock I was off duty so I punched a couple of holes in the lid of a jar and went to scoop up my mouse. He fled inside one of the toilet roll holders. Conveniently enough, this fit perfectly into the mouth of the jar, so I stuck it in and did my best cocktail shake until the mouse was dislodged and fell in. I then screwed the lid on and rode off to Wormwood Scrubs with jar, mouse and all.

I released Irvine by the stables, into which he scurried without a backwards glance, leaving me feeling strangely bereft. All that effort on one mouse. Not that he appreciated it, the ungrateful vermin.


A note on the name I chose for my temporary pet:

A few years ago, around the time the first Hulk film came out, I saw a programme about how the character had been treated in the comics and on the TV show. Stan Lee, the character's creator, was very critical of the TV show changing the name of the Hulk's alter-ego from Bruce Banner to David Banner.

"That's like calling Mickey Mouse, Irvine Mouse," said Lee, a man with an admirable talent for explaining What The Problem Is.

Or he may have said Irving. I can't remember.

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