Sunday, December 6, 2009
How To Kill A Mouse
Fearless jungle survivor Gino D’Acampo, winner of I’m A Celebrity, is to face animal cruelty charges after killing and cooking a rat on the ITV show. The chef decapitated the creature with his kitchen knife before running up a tasty little ratatouille for his junglemates. Now the Australian RSPCA is to take action: it turns out the rat was tame, and, like the other crawly things in the programme, put into the scenery for effect.
Mind you, if it had been wild, he wouldn’t have got near it. Rodents are elusive little critters. We had our share of them last week. After one night of heavy frost, every fieldmouse in the neighbourhood made straight for our Aga-warmed farmhouse. You can see little scratchmarks near the door where they queued to register at mouse reception.
At the hardware store I shunned the humane traps. A friend’s father had bought one and released six mice back into the wild on successive nights. Until he realised that each had a torn ear: it was the same mouse who couldn’t believe his luck that he could get a free meal and a courtesy limousine back home. I needed a killer device.
The man in the store recommended The Big Cheese. Lightweight and powerful, it certainly did its stuff. Three nights running we sat bolt upright, woken by the loud “snap” in the bathroom. In the morning Jo would order me in to retrieve the body. Three nights, three ex-mice. But on the fourth, things didn’t go so smoothly. At 3am the familiar “snap” forced us into consciousness. Then we heard “clunkety-clunkety-clunk”. “It’s alive”, screamed Jo, turning on the light. “Do something”.
This is every towny’s nightmare. I can cope with corpses, but a live mouse in a trap: where could I find a celebrity chef to deal with it at this time of night?
I pulled on my slippers and trudged sleepily to the bathroom. “Shut the door behind you” she warned. There was no going back. This was real country living – man versus mouse.
I saw him straightaway, cowering beneath the stool, The Big Cheese attached firmly to his front foot. That’ll teach you to put your foot in it, I said wryly, trying to make light of the situation. As I approached, he backed away, the trap clunkety-clunking behind him. Apart from this unfortunate encumbrance, the little chap seemed rather chipper. I pondered ways of dispatching him: frying pan (too bloody), meat cleaver (too wriggly), flushing him down the loo (too cruel).
I knelt down, and pulled the trap towards me. Immediately the mouse tugged it back. You’re a plucky little chap, I said, staring into his big brown eyes. After tugging to and fro a few times, I began to feel respect for his resilience. So I decided to release him.
I popped him in a plastic bag with the trap still attached. By now he was not only wild, he was furious. Outside it was pouring with rain as I crossed the drive to the edge of our wood and emptied the bag on the ground. But before I could bend down to set him free, he shot off into a pile of dead leaves.
What followed was like a scene from a cartoon as the mouse tore through the leaves, trap clunking behind him, with me in my pyjamas chasing after him into the darkness. Eventually it was too dark to see, so I ran indoors for a torch. When I returned, there was no sign of mouse or trap.
Words can’t express my guilt at that moment, or the absurdity of the situation: standing in slippers and pyjamas in the pouring rain in the middle of a dark wood at 4am, mourning a mouse I’d been trying to kill. I’d be so useless in the celebrity jungle.