Friday, April 29, 2011


‘One of the ornamental trees fell on the front pews. Prince Philip is quite badly scratched and he’s blaming members of the Tongan entourage for bringing about the accident by shimmying up the tree for a better view. I did catch a glimpse of the queen’s knickers in the pell mell, but looked away like the good subject I am.’

Maude had taken Aurora up to the loo. The excitement of the vows and the struggle to get the ring on had all been too much for both of them: a toilet break was needed. I had been asked to watch Jocasta and provide commentary, but nothing of note was actually happening.

‘Oh, and Harry has just emerged from behind an arras. His hair is even more tousled than it was. Pretty sure he just winked at one of the security men. The cameraman has gone in close now and Huw Edwards is trying not to mention the vivid smear of lipstick on the lad’s cheek. Harry's examining his outfit for a working pocket. He has a small piece of paper in his hand – possibly a phone number.... 

I could hear a tap running.

‘Wash wash wash dear and don’t, whatever you do, listen to Daddy.’

Friday, April 15, 2011

Neophobes United

This morning I awoke and went downstairs to check for signs of rodent activity. All seemed in order, so I lifted a roasting tin from the drainer to put it away. A mouse fell out of it, landed on my foot and then shot under the nearby washing machine. I pulled the washing machine out to find its bed.

The mouse was clearly quite settled and had been for some time by the looks of it. It was then that I remembered a key part of the Pest Control man’s monologue:

‘They’re neophobes, you know. Hate anything new, any change. It drives them crazy if you block up any holes or move anything. Sometimes just doing that is enough to make them go’

I decided to radically upset chez mouse in the hope that he would feel so discombobulated he would flounce off.

A small part of me (a part of which I am not proud) hoped the mouse would simply cross the road and take up residence at Erics. Eric would be unlikely to hear any rodent noise above the sound of his television and his grumbling. Eric would also be unlikely to put any energy into getting rid of the mouse if he did detect it – as this would leave less energy to emerge from his house like a demented weather clock character every time one of his neighbours misparked.

I thought about breaking up the bed, but then decided I could do something far more disturbing. I added some members of Aurora’s Sylvanian Family to the scene:

I mentioned the rodent neophobe theory in the office. Morag admitted to classic neophobic traits – having joined and quit Facebook within the space of a single afternoon.

Morag then left the office to attend the leaving drinks for Clive at The National Clay Pipe Centre. I seized my chance and:

mixed up all the tops on her flipchart markers
changed the order of her desk drawers
adjusted the height of her chair

Worth a try.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The Pest Control man had a comprehensive knowledge of the behaviour of rodents and a strong desire to share it.

‘It’ll know your routine inside out. It’ll know when you’ve been to the supermarket. It’ll know when you go to bed.’

He continued in the same vein and built a picture of rodents as miniature Stasi operatives. He also seemed pleased that our home had been penetrated by one of the little beasts. He scouted around the building, pointing out glaring gaps in our defences.

‘That’ll be it, there,’ he said with not a little triumph, as he pointed at the gap under our garage door.

‘They could walk right through that gap man – not even have to duck.’

He had an apprentice with him – an enthralled young note-taker. The pair crossed the road. I stood in the bay window and watched as the senior of the two pointed over the hedge at the river and guffawed. He then traced the route he imagined our visitor took straight up the drive and straight through the irresistible large gap under the garage door.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ben, the two of us need look no more....

Aurora is often in the habit of pinching an apple from the fruit bowl and losing interest halfway through eating it. She is not, though, in the habit of hiding half eaten apples in a neatly ordered cache behind the fridge.

I got up on Sunday morning, looking forward to sharing a banana with Jocasta. I went to the kitchen fruit bowl and noticed the absence of the banana that I clearly remembered seeing there the night before.

Maude and I had been out for dinner with Harriet and Morten. I drove, so Maude drank. As Maude dozed loudly on the sofa at around midnight, I took the opportunity to have a look at the prize crossword. The paper rustled a little, Maude breathed heavily and something made a scratching noise in the kitchen. I investigated, but saw nothing and presumed that our elderly fridge had developed a new rumble.

I thought no more of it until the following morning. It was then that I saw lack of banana in the fruit bowl and presence of protruding banana next to fridge. This banana had been half-consumed by a small animal other than one of my daughters.

At first we thought that the visitor must be nothing short of a rat to be able to move items of fruit. Maude and I agreed to speak in code to avoid any Aurora panic. We dubbed the visitor ‘Ben’ – a reference to Michael Jackson’s lovely ballad.