Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A mouse in the house... Part II

The little mousey adventure I blogged earlier in the week wasn't my first encounter with the little creatures.

Perhaps the most memorable was when I was a postgraduate student, sharing a house in South Birmingham with two friends. One evening, I found that a packet of biscuits had mysteriously been nibbled at one end. I thought nothing of it - perhaps I'd bought a damaged packet? But later that night, when doing some work lying on my bed (I was a student, don't forget...), I noticed out of the corner of my eye an object flash past on the floor. I lay down and looked into the grate under the gas fire, and there watched a little mouse, hopping in and out through an air-brick to nibble on a bit of biscuit.

The next day, we found a trail of destruction in the kitchen, with bread, biscuits and fruit all nibbled, with tell-tale signs of mouse droppings. We were infested.

That night, I put all my food in a large cardboard box on my table, and sealed it up. I was awoken early next morning by a scratching sound, and as I walked over to the table, half asleep, a mouse peered out from the hole it had made. I grabbed the nearest object - a large screwdriver (there's a theme here: what was I thinking?) - but the mouse leapt off the table and under the fire in two rapid bounds. On investigating the box, I found it had nibbled its way through a whole packet of chocolate hobnobs.

This was war.

First, I bought a huge airtight storage box for the hobnobs. (Student priorities, OK?) Then, off to the University's Zoology department, I picked up a dozen catch-and-release traps (think: ice-cream tub with a one-way door built in) as well as some good old-fashioned break-back traps. I was advised that mice liked products with flour in, and preferred their cheese toasted as they could smell it from further away. That evening, my flatmates prepared a veritable murine banquet for the traps, with toasted cheese, bits of pizza, cake, bread, biscuits and fruit. The mice were better fed than we were...

Needless to say, they managed to partake of this banquet without suffering any casualties. We, on the other hand, were nursing bruised fingers, broken nails (have you ever tried to set a modern mouse trap?) and felt constantly hungry, with all that food lying around. To add insult to injury, one of the mice started coming out from under the floorboards to watch Dallas with us: it would emerge right on cue when the theme music started, and take up a safe position in front of the telly, a short hop from its getaway hole. We were sort of getting fond of it, all the while conscious that they were breeding rapidly.

The crunch came when one went into the bathroom when one of my flatmates was in the bath. That was just too much. The Pest Control people were called in, and they laid little dishes of poison (blue poison in a red bowl, I recall) at key points. One of these was under the gas fire in my bedroom, and I watched fascinated one night as a mouse kept popping up to feed on it.

Within a week, they were no more.

We were relieved, of course: our hobnobs were once again safe. But the house seemed much quieter after that, and Dallas in particular was never the same again. I still think of mice whenever I hear the theme music...

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