Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

The younger grandson, Klynton, four, has got in the habit recently of thrusting his hands in my trouser pockets and tearing up and throwing away whatever he finds there. He goes about it with energy and application, snarling and growling like a lion, and it's bloody annoying. Because he is impervious to physical pain, a smart cuff around the cranium only makes him press his attack more violently, like a brave bull 'insisting' against a picador's lance. If there is a sofa handy, I pick him up, throw him across the room into it, and he comes back at me as if rebounding on a length of elastic. Most often he robs me of cash, but the other day his assault was rewarded with an hour-old MOT certificate that was ripped apart in the ensuing tug-of-war.

We've got mice in the house again at the moment. Headquarters is somewhere under the floorboards with an exit hole in an upstairs cupboard. Judging by the mess, it is cosily and attractively lined with shredded pink lavatory paper and navy-blue rucksack material. I set a conventional mousetrap baited with superior peanut butter and caught one the first night it was laid. The mouse had entered between the trap's jaws in a straight line, as the instructions showed it would, and was cleanly killed. He was a big and sleek adult and his eyes were nearly popping out of his head with astonishment. I released the spring, removed the still-floppy corpse by the tail and dropped him into my trouser pocket. Then I went around to my son's house and let myself in. Immediately, Klynton came running at me like a wasp to the attack.

The assault was perpetrated with the usual ecstatically violent élan. I made a show of fighting him off, then allowed him to delve his little hand into my pocket. I could feel his fingers encountering and tentatively exploring the furry softness within, and their reluctance to grasp fully whatever it was and take it out. ''S'at?' he said. 'It's Little Tommy Tittlemouse,' I said. 'Who lived in a little house and caught fishes in other men's ditches. Take him out and say hallo.'

He dragged the dead mouse out of my pocket by the head. When it was fully out, and he found himself in full possession of it, to do with as he pleased, and with no further objections from the owner, his feelings about it were transparently mixed. …

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