Magazine article The Spectator

See How They Fly . .

Magazine article The Spectator

See How They Fly . .

Article excerpt

My Mum thinks nothing of poisoning animals. 'How can you, as a bornagain Christian, justify poisoning God's creatures?' I ask her, sanctimoniously, as she unpicks the braiding on another kilogram bag of rodent poison. But she just laughs gaily at me. To suggest to my Mum that her moral universe should admit rats and mice is, to her, absurd. Especially if the suggestion is made by someone whose morals, in her estimation, are a mixture of Aleister Crowley's and Coco the Clown's. I slink away, discomfited by her derision and by the self-knowledge that any moral stance I take, on anything, is probably founded on guilt.

So far this year she has poisoned two ants' nests and a mole. (I saw the mole rolling and tumbling around the lawn, frantic with agony.) This time it's mice in the cupboard under the stairs who are going to cop it. She's seen droppings. Having made my moral position clear, I'm refusing to have any part of the business. If she wants to poison small mammals, she can lay the stuff and monitor it herself. Of course I could offer to buy and set traps, or put a ferret in for her, but I'm sulking. I get daily reports, however, whether I like it or not.

The mice consume a cupful of the blue crystals on the first night, two on the second, and two more on the third. She can't understand why the mice don't conveniently die where she can see and count them. 'They've probably crawled away to die of thirst,' I say bitterly. She laughs at me. Then she phones the pest-control officer. He says he's got stuff that'll kill the little bleeders in no time. That afternoon he comes and leaves three little plastic saucers of poison under the stairs and a kilogram bag from which to top them up.

By the end of the week, saucers and kilogram bag are empty and still no corpses. On Sunday she gets a man from the church, an ex-Guardsman, to come and set six mousetraps. The next day he comes back to check them and finds a mouse pinned to a trap by its flattened and bloody nose. He shows it to me. The mouse is a beautiful sandy colour, with a distinct yellow collar and large translucent ears. 'What sort of mouse is it?' I say. 'Vermin,' says the ex-Guardsman. …

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