Last week, I waxed lyrical about the pesky greenery that takes over the garden the moment I turn my back. Not only does the flora keeps me scratching my head, so does the fauna .
There are some less than welcome little people inhabiting the place and humans do not always tolerate living side by side with them. I must have been a Buddhist in a past life because I find it impossible to kill anything (except perhaps those giant cockroaches in Australia and I had no problem whacking them with a boot so that their legs parted company with their body – uuuggghhhh!).
The French attitude to insects and other creatures that aren’t in the right place is to choke, trap, electrocute or shoot them (OK, not the insects perhaps). There are at least two aisles in the local supermarket devoted to sprays, electronic bug zappers and poison. The poison is particularly nasty and I categorically refuse to let John buy any since it works by chemically melting the insides of the animal.
But he has a thing about mice which I do understand since they are decidedly untidy little beasts who are never bother to housetrain themselves. Doing a quick Google search, I find that their droppings are responsible for everything from salmonella to the hanta virus. They also have the annoying habit of chewing up upholstery to make their nests.
While on Army manoeuvres in Canada, John learned the importance of hanging up food to prevent it being eaten by bears and he decided that if it worked with bears, it would work with mice. Soon, carrier bags of food were festooned from rusty old nails in the beams of the kitchen ceiling – very practical until something smelly started to drip out of the bottom and onto our heads.
The tipping point came when I stupidly left out a bowl of walnuts and we returned two months later to find them scattered around the kitchen with a tiny hole bored into each shell by sharp teeth. The corpse of a solitary mouse was sprawled on the floor among the debris and I don’t think I was being fanciful in thinking there was a contented little rodent smile on its face.
John was revolted and insisted on getting some kind of trap so I relented, but made it very clear that he would be on the fast track to divorce if the trap involved any kind of snapping. He returned with a contraption that described itself as “humane”, a little plastic box that closes on the mouse so it can be released outside unharmed.
For several mornings, Johnny rushed to see if the trap had worked, was disappointed at finding it empty and then apoplectic at spotting mouse pooh deposited at various locations in the kitchen.
It was time to bring out the big guns. I watched as John spooned Nutella into the trap and tossed in a walnut for good measure. The words “little sod” were mentioned several times. If he’d had a moustache, he would have twirled it.
The next day was cleaning day and John was busying himself with the hoover, sucking up as many spiders as possible while I had my back turned (he thinks I don’t know about this arachnicide). I noticed the trap on the floor – closed. When I pointed this out, John said, “I know, there’s one in there.” And I went mad again because the poor little thing had been stuck in there, quaking in his little mouse boots while John hoovered around him. Rather than listen to me bleating on, John took the trap away.
Fifteen minutes later, he returned. The mouse, he said, hadn’t wanted to come out, whether through fright or the pure practicality that it was now too fat to back out after eating all the Nutella and walnut. He’d released it at the bottom of the field and said grudgingly, “If it finds its way back from there, it will deserve to live in the house.”
Thankfully, we haven’t seen Mickey since and now have electronic alarms which emit high pitched frequencies that both mice and spiders don’t like. If only they’d work on whatever is now scratching about in the roof…