Saturday, 19 March 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the internet - Killer Mice II

"Dear Flatmate, We won't be around for a while, we've not been feeling too well. Must be something we've eaten or a bug or something. Anyway hopefully see you soon. Warm regards, The Mice"

Mice don't write letters (generally preferring e-mails) but if they did then this might be the note they would have left me yesterday. After posting my blog last week, my rodent situation escalated to Ratcon 1, the highest level of Vermin related panic possible. Activity moved from the occasional sighting during the day, accompanied by constant scratching around at night, to outright brazen behaviour that tested and then finally broke my patience and compassion.

Chewing holes in the fabric underneath my sofa was annoying. Skitting across the kitchen work surfaces was concerning but eating fruit and then shitting in the bowl was a step too far. I mean how am I supposed to get my five a day when there is a reasonable chance that any fruit I eat is contaminated by the contents of a mouses arse ?

Mel's cartoon-like leap up to the top of the sofa, to signal the sighting of the latest rascal was becoming a twice hourly event and we were forced to rethink our humane approach. We had tried to do the right thing, but  the capture of two mice over a five week period was little more than an inconvenience to the rodent army that were evidently barracked in our loft.

Mel went to stay at her sisters for a few days while I sought professional help. The apartment we live in is rented and we are therefore at the mercy of contractors mandated by our letting agents. We had mentioned our problem on a number of occasions without response, so on Monday I adopted my grumpiest demeanour and demanded action. Within hours, there was a knock on the door. Little could have prepared me for the sight that greeted me outside our house.....

There is a well known theory about people looking like their dogs and I have certainly seen evidence that backs this theory up. However, this man was evidence of a new phenomena, that some people actually look like their jobs. If you gave a small child a box of felt tips and some paper and asked them to draw a 'rat catcher' I'm pretty sure the result would come somewhere close to this man.

Of course, the above is not a real photo of the aforementioned pest control man. For one, taking a photo of him would have been rude and secondly a bit like a vampire, I'm not sure he would have actually appeared in any photo taken.

He was a brooding hulk of a man who communicated through the medium of sucking his teeth, grunting, sniffing and giggling at the mention of any mouse related activity. He wanted every detail, where had we seen them? What were they doing? What time had we seen them? How long had we been hearing them in the loft?

Each answer was met by a little whistle, a brief suck of his teeth and maniacal giggle. To call it unsettling would be a gross understatement. Once he was satisfied he had all of the data he needed, he returned back to his van. Out of morbid curiosity, I followed him down. His van was ancient and poorly maintained. It had no writing on the side but this was a rat-catchers van alright. You could just tell. Propped up in the passenger seat was an old woman so hideously ugly that my mind forbids me from describing her further. I'm pretty sure she was alive, but in truth it was hard to be sure.

He emerged from his van with the kind of shopping bag that I have not seen since my grandma died twenty years ago. The zip was broken and inside you could see all manner of contraptions, potions and pills. I moved closer to get a better look and was immediately overcome with a foul stench that I realised was coming from him. Recalling that smell now triggers my gag reflex and raises the distinct possibility I may see my breakfast again. It was as if his toilet routine involved little more than leaning slightly to one side and doing it in his pants.  If Satan made an aftershave, it would smell exactly like him.

As he entered our apartment, he put on a little blue bag-like shoe on each foot. I wondered, almost aloud whether this was for his protection or mine. Once inside, he scurried from room to room becoming more animated and agog with excitement. He repeated some of his earlier questions just so that he could enjoy the sound of the rodent related responses. He closed his eyes as if he was literally drinking in the thought of every mouse. You may think I am exaggerating, I am not.

He moved around the apartment, strategically placing a plastic trap laced with poison in each room. In my bedroom, (which he confirmed as Mouse HQ) he placed a tray of poisonous pellets under my bed. He then went outside to the garage and laid further traps. He made plans to return on Monday to check on our progress and offered his hand to shake which I rudely declined -  No. Chance.

Since then, I have slept a couple of nights at our place and a couple at my sister-in-laws. The sounds have subsided and  I haven't seen a single critter in three days but have just begun to detect the faint aroma of mouse corpse seeping from some dark orifice or other. I am assured (by the smelliest man in Britain) that the smell will go after a couple of days but we'll have to see.

I mischievously and purposefully knocked on each door in the mews in which we live and regaled our experiences as some of the properties adjoin ours and there is no point exterminating our guests if they simply move into their properties. Most of our neighbours are ancient old and I was keen to offer help if they were experiencing problems too. My next door neighbour categorically assured me they had no such problems and if he did, he would let me know. As he spoke, a solitary mouse ran across the carpet behind him evading the foggy glare of his hovering wife behind him. I thought about mentioning it and then thought better of it. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

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