Along with the geometrical progression of neighbourliness from Oxford through Witney to Eynsham, it seems that small villages also have a much greater class of verminous interloper. The bane of our previous house was the spider, and although I’d happily co-exist with one or two in every alternate corner of the room, K. would always have one beady eye on them in case they started moving towards her. And so there were a lot of glasses and sheets of paper employed, and a lot of chucking out of windows, and reassurances of “he’s fine; he’s waving his little leg to say goodbye.”
Yesterday evening, however, I came eye to beady eye with my first mouse.
I couldn’t tell you precisely what breed it was. It was what I’d call hamster-coloured—honeys, browns and blacks—and when reared up on its hind legs in surprise as at the sudden appearance of broad, 60-watt daylight it was only about the size and shape of a pingpong ball. As it stretched itself out to try to disappear down the thin ventilation slats at the back of the hobs it became perhaps two inches long, with a tail perhaps twice that length. Essentially, it was dormouse-shaped but with a thin, bootlace tail.
It nearly made it behind the oven, but its wee head wasn’t quite small enough. That did mean, though, that I was on a hiding to nothing trying to cup it in my hands, which panicked it anyway. Eventually I was able to put a bowl over it and slip paper underneath—if it’s good enough for eight legs it’s good enough for four—and forewarned K. before inviting her over to see it. At the last minute she squicked like nobody’s business and ran off. I was able to release the mouse outside and it was gone almost before I saw it move.
I think it popped in earlier, when I went out with the composting and left the patio door open. Time was you could do that in the countryside, of course, without them coming along and stealing your crumbs. And leaving a tiny, rod-shaped poo in a bowl.