Magazine article The Spectator

If the Mice Have to Face My Wife, They'll Only Have Themselves to Blame

Magazine article The Spectator

If the Mice Have to Face My Wife, They'll Only Have Themselves to Blame

Article excerpt

I was in bed by one o clock on New Year's Day. We did the countdown thing, for the kids, and then hung around for a while looking tired; it was only later, when my wife and I were upstairs in bed, that the real fun began. A long and corrosive argument about the mice, probably the 15th we've had on this subject since we moved in back in August. We could both hear the mice downstairs, whooping it up, holding some sort of shindig of their own; the relentless skittering across the stone floor tiles or the parquet wood blocks in the living room. I was tempted, at one point, just to shout downstairs: 'Keep it down a bit will you, we're trying to get some sleep up here.' My wife, listening to the sounds of revelry - just wait until they work out how to use the CD player - turned over and said, full of contempt:

'So much for your bloody entente cordiale.'

She has a point. I thought I'd struck some sort of deal with the mice but it now looks like I was as deluded as Chamberlain.

You cannot deal honestly with these sorts of creatures. The deal was that they were allowed in and out of the house, especially in very cold weather, and were entitled to crumbs and stuff they found down the backs of things. But they had to keep out of sight and not gnaw at any of our food; in return, the doveish clique in our marital coalition, i. e. me, would hold sway - and so poison and those horrible traps which snap the creatures in two would not be deployed. Only humane traps have been used so far, the ones in which a mouse enters a tilted black tunnel at the end of which I have deposited some Green & Black's organic fair-trade cocoa powder; when it reaches this bourgeois manna, the trap snaps shut. The captive mice can then be released a couple of miles away, near where the gypsies live.

This deal sort of held for a while; we stopped seeing the mice, our food remained untouched and every so often one mouse would give itself up to the trap and be released to a new life with a static travelling family, as the census describes gypsies who tend to stay in one place. My wife held her peace, but I know was unconvinced.

She would have the mice first held in some sort of Guantanamo isolation unit, perhaps wearing orange boiler suits, before being executed, one after the other, with a shovel.

But for as long as the mice kept their part of the bargain, I was able to demonstrate that such callousness was not necessary. However, just recently, the mice have started taking the piss. They are breaching both the spirit and the letter of the agreement, flagrantly. …

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