Monday, 13 December 2010

Nature. It gets everywhere.

I have mice in my garden. No problem, they can stay there. It's fun to watch them trying to raid the bird feeders and they aren't scared of me at all. If they get in the house, they are dead. I have explained this to them and so far, they have listened. It's simple. In the garden, I won't kill them. In the house, mousetraps and poison.

It's not just a territorial thing. Mice are naturally incontinent. Everywhere they go they lay a trail of urine and they aren't too careful about where they take a dump either. In the garden, that's fertiliser. In the house it's a disease risk. They also chew through anything they come across. In the lab, which is in a very rural spot, they've invaded and ripped the stuffing out of a laptop bag. Poison and traps again although to be fair, I haven't previously met these mice so haven't explained things to them. Nonetheless, I have donned the black cap, banged the gavel and passed sentence. Ignorance of Leg-iron's law is no excuse. I liked that bag.

If you live somewhere near a natural mouse habitat, they will try to get inside when the weather turns cold. Fine mesh over vents solves most of the problems but those little buggers can climb - so mesh the high vents and those along the eaves too. Yes, they can climb that high. They can also get through spaces much smaller than themselves. Chicken wire is not sufficient.

That's all right for a house, you can get most of the holes covered but you'll never make it mouseproof. Just difficult enough to make them try next door, which is good enough for me. I wouldn't want to be responsible for making an entire supermarket mouseproof. I don't think it can be done.

Liz Wray does. As a mother, she hates the children of another living creature sufficiently to accuse them of things they can't do. She claims these baby mice came out of numerous holes in a crisp multipack, although as the picture shows, these are very young baby mice who can't move around much yet and might actually be dead. They didn't make holes in the pack. Their mother did that.

'They were repulsive and made me feel revolting,' said the health visitor.

I've seen your photo, Liz. You don't just feel revolting. You look it too. Your expression is pure Righteous, as is your demand that the store ignore health policy and do things your way.

Okay, if I found a nest of mice in my house I would kill them. This idea of 'catch them alive and put them outside' is a) stupid and b) appallingly cruel. It's freezing out there. Mice put outside will either a) get back in or b) die horribly of hypothermia. I prefer to dispatch them quickly rather than leave them homeless, to die in the snow. But then I'm not a Greenie.

If health law stated that the store must close, the store would have closed. This is Tesco. They can afford to close one store rather than risk massive fines. What they did was contain an isolated incident and deal with it. Exactly the right course of action. The damage to those crisp packets was very likely done by one mouse trying to feed her cheeeldren for whom Health Visitor Liz has no sympathy.

One mouse can cause a lot of damage because they don't go for just the Smoky Bacon crisps. Presented with endless food they'll sample it all. There'll be a hole in the muesli, in the rice, in the pasta and especially in the chocolate. They love chocolate. Bread, too. If you're baiting a trap don't bother with cheese. Get some of that French chocolate bread. They can't resist. Especially the chocolate croissant. Fat, salt, chocolate and bread. Mouse heaven, until the steel bar comes down and then... mouse heaven. Come on, they die happy, don't they?

Okay, I know there are townies out there who have never seen a wild mouse. I've been on trains where I've heard kids ask their parents what 'those things' are and been told they are cows, when in fact they are sheep. I'm not criticising - I couldn't tell Armani from George of Asda, nor could I tell Audi from Mercedes. It's all to do with where you've lived and the environment you grew up in.

I would not, however, be revolted by the sight of baby mice. I have occasionally been revolted by human offspring but I can honestly say no other species has produced infants that made me curl my lip. Yes, I would kill those baby mice if I found them in my house but not in a hysterical frenzy. In a cold and callous evil smoker manner. Quick and painless. I would not enjoy doing it but the alternative would be to cast them out onto the ice and let them die slowly.

She [Liz] said: 'When I told the store manager, he said "We can't do much about it because we are near a canal and railway track and the mice tend to come through the floor."

The manager is right. The fact that this is a rare event is testimony to his store's vigilance in keeping the little buggers out. When the weather gets cold, they'll try to get in and Tesco is open and therefore heated 24 hours a day. It's also full of more food than any mouse can imagine. Mice have meetings about Tesco in the same way that socialists have meetings about the private sector. Free stuff from someone else's efforts can feed their children forever. They found one litter, not an infestation. Their response was proportionate.

'I couldn't believe he was saying that to me. The whole situation was horrible.'

You can't believe it, Liz? Why? Are railways and canals places of myth and legend? Are they surrounded with butterflies and puppies and kittens and pretty, pretty flowers? Go and have a look. They are surrounded with weeds and rats and stoats and weasels and spiders and mice and all that crawls in the earth and feeds on it. A few butterflies, the occasional feral kitten, but wild puppies are rare in this country. Rats and mice are not. Compared to them, we humans are an endangered species. The fact that incidences of mice getting into supermarkets is very rare is actually pretty amazing, when you think about it.

What do they teach health visitors now? Certainly nothing about mice, even though they are most likely to be asked for advice on mice problems in homes they might visit. I suspect they are more versed in finding ways to steal children than in anything health related.

Nature. It's out there. There is no place to hide, it's coming for us all. Pretending that it's revolting won't help. Pretending we can stop it changing whenever it feels like it won't help. I have a house with heating that burns fossil fuels, I am surrounded by computers and assorted gadgetry, I smoke and drink and have access to refined sugar and salt, meat from animals I could not possibly bring down alone and fruit and vegetables that could not be grown within several hundred miles of here. I can travel at speeds no natural creature can match just by paying my fare. I can talk to someone on the other side of the planet by picking up a phone or tapping a keyboard. None of it is natural but we all do it anyway.

One day, nature is going to tap me on the shoulder and say 'Game over' and there is nothing I can do about it. No Government directive or health fad will save me. No EU ban on enjoyment will prevent it. One day I will die. Like those mice whose last meal was chocolate croissant, I would prefer to die happy rather than shivering in the cold, my last cigarette frozen to my fingers. Which is how the Dreadful Arnott wants me to die.

Those baby mice are part of nature too. Mice are just trying to live, just like us. I will stop them doing it in my house because they will damage my house and spread infection but I recognise they are not doing it to annoy me. Just like those mice in the Mail story. They are not terrorists, they are doing what we all do. Staying alive. The mice in that story are not scary.

Liz Wray and her 'You vill do as you are commanded!' attitude is scary. I have one life and I do not want to be told how to live it. Mice in one mulitpack of crisps is a nuisance but not scary at all. If it was an infestation then all those bags would be ripped. The chocolate aisle and the bread aisle would look like someone went through waving a barbed-wire flail. Closing off the single incident is an appropriate response and if she was in any way trained in 'health' she would know that.

We are part of nature and one day nature will take us back. I battle nature on the patio every year. Nature wants to grow stuff between the slabs and I don't. I dig them out, nature puts them back. I know that ultimately I can't win. I fight silverfish and slugs and all manner of miniature beasts knowing that in the end, I'll be dead and they'll eat me.

It seems there are now few who recognise this. We are all going to die. There is no other outcome. We have elbowed our way up to the ranks of top predator (but forgot to tell the sharks) and are horrified to discover that other animals might want to kill us. We eat a lot of cows. If it were the other way around, what would we try to do? We are, after all, made of meat. Sirloin, topside, rump, all apply to us as well as to cattle. We eat nature, nature eats us. That's how the game is played. The winner is the one who doesn't get eaten.

Back in the mists of time, even before Druids, the UK was peopled by Iberians. Yes, the Wops, Spics and Dagos had this country even before the Celts. Historians are delighted to describe their 'death cult' of ancestor worship but miss the point. They knew, all their lives, that they were mortal. They would never have pissed around with X factor or celebrity or Botox or silicone tits. Getting old was an honour because not many made it. When the average death age is 30, if you get to 60 you have done bloody well and have earned respect just for getting there. In the Middle Ages, I would have been the 'wise old man who is nonetheless a bit of a miserable git and if you want answers, take him some mead because if you take small beer he'll smack you with it and call you 'Co-op''.

These people would not have been bothered about mice in the grain other than to do what sensible people do and try to kill them. They would not have shrieked in faux outrage, hoping for compo, at the sight of a few baby mice. Mice wandering around the house are a nuisance to be dealt with. Like dust or muddy wellies.

We might live among concrete and radiators and plasterboard and tarmac now, but if you look back it's not really so far to outside toilets (I remember those) and coal fires (ditto) and single glazed sash windows (yup) and mice and rats getting in every single winter and having to be dealt with.

When I was a kid, there were no colour televisions. Seriously. VCR had not been invented. You miss a program, you missed it. I was 20 before I got hold of my first computer, a Sinclair ZX-81 and still no VCR. I had to type in programs in BASIC and hope the tape player saved them. I wrote my PhD thesis on an Amstrad PCW with CP/M which could go as far as a head-spinning 64K of memory. My cheap PAYG phone now has 2 Gb. It can't do what that Amstrad did. Less than 30 years later I bought a computer that could run a small country.

The human departure from nature has accelerated in the last few decades. I recall my parents' house with its long garden full of veg and fruit. The stuff mostly grew itself. Now, houses have a little patch at the back if they are lucky, and many of those that used to have decent gardens have sold the gardens to grow new houses. Where do the mice go? Don't worry about the mice, they know what to do.

They go to Tesco.

Where they throw their children at heath visitors because they regard annoying a health visitor as more important than their offspring's well-being. If you've ever had pet mice you'll know that's nonsense.

If you want to live in this world, sometimes this world is going to show itself in your life. If you don't like that, live somewhere else.

Like Mars. No mice on Mars.

Not yet, anyway.

Not until the supermarkets arrive. Mice aren't stupid.


TheFatBigot said...

I wondered about the veracity of the "mice in crisps" story, but am (just) prepared to accept it as true rather than a sham with a view to a bit of compo.

In the early 1980s a harsh winter in Washington DC led to the White House suffering a serious infestation of mice. The little buggers are always running up and down long terraces of London town houses, one of which is blessed to be FatBigot Towers. It's what cavity walls were designed for.

They scamper about in the roof space above my main bathroom and have visited the body of the house occasionally until such time as I detected the hole and filled it with wire wool topped by something very solid. (Wire wool is their absolutely least favourite substance)

Urbanites scream "eek" and stand on chair. Country folk sigh "little bastards" and hunt the fuckers.

In addition to the foodstuffs you mentioned, they seem to love flour in the winter and fruit in the summer. Rats, but seemingly not mice, take pleasure in consuming soap and candlewax. No doubt there are scientific papers from greenies to prove they couldn't possibly eat soap and candlewax but in the real world the proof is in the toothmarks.

It only takes one look at a supermarket storage area to know it is a rodent's delight. That the matter you featured is the only one reported this year tells us how seriously commercial organisations take the need to keep their products safe so that they can be sold.

Rodent infections in NHS hospitals are, of course, manifold it's just a larger variety of those nasty little bugs that kill people. Private hospitals not only have no problem with MRSA and c-whatsit they also have very low levels of rodenture. I wonder why that might be?

JuliaM said...

She was 'horrified and revolted', but not so revolted that she forgot how to work the camera on her mobile phone, the better to interest the tabloids, eh..?

Anonymous said...

I used to have a mouse problem. 2 cats and a very high frequency noisy thingy, result; no more mouse problems.

Ed P said...

Please put a warning on these links - her picture, with the Medusa hair, made me feel unwell. Tesco could employ her to frighten the mice away (or turn them to stone).

PT Barnum said...

@ Anon 06:30

That works until the time comes when your cats are elderly pensioners who are too dignified to chase anything. The last mouse our geriatric cat brought in got loose and she forgot all about it. I found it one morning drinking out of her water bowl. It had set up home in the larder for months and had had a fine old time, sampling everything. Fattest, healthiest mouse I've ever seen.

Are there really adults who can't tell a cow from a sheep? I find that profoundly disturbing, especially as only one of those is likely to turn on you and kill you. And it ain't Shaun.

Anonymous said...

Are there really adults who can't tell a cow from a sheep? I find that profoundly disturbing, especially as only one of those is likely to turn on you and kill you.

They only do that if you dump them for a better looking young sheep!

Dioclese said...

On my recent romp, I went to Ducie Island in the Pitcairns. It was bird heaven until the sailors brought the rats with them. The rats decimated the place. They are very partial to bird eggs and young birds.

Ducie is now rat free. The experts in this are apparently the New Zealanders who are now being roped in to do the same on the next island, Henderson. I hope they succeed because the result in Ducie has been to return the place to bird heaven which is, of course, how it was before men cam along and brought their little friends with them.

The visitting boats are now paranoid about bringing them ashore with them again. It seems not just nature that buggers things up occassionally - but people as well. But al least in this case we are trying to put things right again...and thats unusual for a species as despicable as us.

Chuckles said...

Best we don't tell her that her 'safe' urban environment is never more than 3-4 meals away from a very unpleasant 'back to nature' instant mediaeval adventure.
During which mice will be the least of the problems. Or more probably, 'lunch.'

Furor Teutonicus said...

'They were repulsive and made me feel revolting,'

Because that is EXACTLY what you are lass, REVOLTING.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Replys to....

I am Stan said...

I like mice Leggy,but not rats!....cats? I put netting over my onions,now they crap on the netting BAH!...the cats, not the rats,no rats just cats.

Dick Puddlecote said...

We live in a lily-livered world now, LI, for sure.

Anonymous said...

We are, after all, made of meat.

Reminds me of the famous short story by Terry Bisson which some enterprising team has turned into a short film .

Of course, as a writer yourself, you may already be familiar with the tale.

bobby said...


" Best we don't tell her that her 'safe' urban environment is never more than 3-4 meals away from a very unpleasant 'back to nature' instant mediaeval adventure."

Karl Marx said we were never more than 2 meals away from anarchy. A day without food does tend to make you re assess your life. The weird chef Blumensteil was cooking mice and dormice last night on his Christmas Feast programme. Covered in white chocolate or on the bone. A medieval favourite apparently. Looked better 'on the bone' and tasted like pork.
When I was in Peru we got skewered guinea pig and they tasted ok. Like pork aswell. Why does everything creepy taste like pork ( inc humans apparently)

Anonymous said...

I worked part time in a supermarket during my student days 30 years ago.
What we were asked to do when stacking the egg cage was to check the boxes for broken eggs, bring the broken ones back, then rearange in complete boxes again.
In the summer some of the boxes had maggots in them ,so we used to clean those too, remove the maggots and the broken eggs then rearange into the new boxes.

I hope this is a bit of an eye opener for you.

Amusing Bunni said...

HI Leg Iron. I hope your house stays mouse free. I hate those meeces to pieces if they get in the house. Outside, they will do what they want. I hope they visit the neighbors, if they want to warm up.

I think that creepy lady is looking to cash in on finding the mice in the Tesco. She probably brought them from her house and put them there!

The mice will be revolting, if they don't get their chips.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder what a Righteous Health Visitor is doing buying, not a single pack of fat-and-salt-laden carb-packed potato crisps, but a huge multi-pack of the things. You'd think she'd know better after all the lectures she and her ilk have handed out to the rest of us ........

Anonymous said...

Is she casting the evil eye in that photo - she oozes poison


Anonymous said...

And on a different note.
Reading today about a favourite author of mine (James Lee Burke) he had 'his early novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication by Louisiana State University press was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. At least eight of his novels have been New York Times bestsellers'. (quote from Amazon)

Just goes to show you to never give up. BTW, do you plan to release your gem as a Ebook?

Slamlander said...

Get a cat and when they get older, get another one. Just the scent of cat keeps away mice, rats, and ferrets.

We have a nice large tabby tom named Zhinn Lao Tzu. Yes, he is a mouser.

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