While cleaning in the kitchen at work this morning I moved the large kitchen bin to mop the floor underneath and saw what I thought was a small bit of paper down in the corner. I was just about to bend down and pick it up when it moved – it wasn’t a bit of paper at all, it was a tiny baby frog not much more than in inch long and so pale that it almost blended in with its surroundings. How it managed to get there is a mystery as the kitchen is quite a distance from the works entrance and it was so small it could easily have been trodden on by someone’s big work boot. I couldn’t leave it where it was though so I caught it and took it outside.
The works building is surrounded on three sides by woodland and on the right there’s a bank sloping down to a stream, so I thought that would be an ideal place to release my little friend. Walking halfway down the bank I placed him gently on the ground near the base of a tree then waited and watched – sod work, I wanted to make sure he was safe. He stayed still for a minute then with a couple of hops he was gone, disappearing under some damp leaves a few feet from the tree. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of him as I didn’t have my camera with me, which was a shame as he really was the sweetest little thing – fingers crossed he stays safe, finds some friends and lives a long and happy life somewhere in the woodland.
A comment on my previous post about the mice reminded me of something which happened maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago. For some reason only known to himself Michael had bought me a hamster for Mother’s Day one year. We’d had a succession of hamsters years before when he was younger and I’d even had one since he left home; there was still a redundant hamster cage stored in the cupboard under the stairs so as he knew I like mice he maybe thought I might like the old cage to have a new occupant, hence the Mother’s Day present.
The hamster was a cute little thing, a brown and white male with a faint black mark on his back, and I called him Weeble. He lived happily in his cage here in the spare bedroom and he would often be running in his wheel while I was working on the pc in the evenings. Then one evening, when he’d been here for just about twelve months, I suddenly realised that he was being exceptionally quiet – maybe he was asleep in his little house, or worse still maybe he’d died. When I took the top off the house to check though I found he wasn’t in there, in fact he wasn’t in the cage at all – somehow he’d escaped, but as the door was still tightly fastened I couldn’t see how he’d got out. All was revealed however when I looked at the back of the cage more closely – two of the bars were bent as if they’d been forced apart by the Incredible Hulk, and the resulting gap was big enough for a determined hamster to get through. Heaven only knows how he’d managed to do that but he had, and I now had a hamster on the loose somewhere in the room.
I dreaded the thought of having to move everything to find him so I set a trap – some food in the bottom of a bucket and a ramp with a trail of food on it from the floor to the top. In theory Weeble should follow the trail up the ramp and fall into the bucket, from where he could be returned to his cage with the now-straightened bars, but in practise it didn’t work and he remained at large. Then one evening while watching tv in the living room with my partner I heard a pitter-patter sound above my head, a sound which seemed to move from one side of the room to the other – and we realised that the little devil had somehow got under the bedroom floor and was running up and down between two of the joists in the space between there and the downstairs ceiling. The question was, which two joists was he between? So Plan B came into force – with the landing carpet taken up my partner stayed upstairs and I armed myself with a broom handle and returned to the living room, then once I’d figured out exactly where above my head Weeble was I knocked on the ceiling, enabling my partner to determine which floorboards to take up.
As hamsters are nocturnal and sleep during the day I put Weeble’s house down between the joists and put some food round it – hopefully when daylight came he would go to sleep in there and he could safely be removed back to his cage. Unfortunately Plan B didn’t work and though I checked his house frequently over a couple of days he stayed on the loose – it was if he was determined he wasn’t going to be caught no matter what I did. Now while I could live with a couple of floorboards missing from the landing (after a while we got used to stepping over the gap) there was one major problem – we were going camping for five days at Easter and meeting up with friends, it had been arranged for ages and we didn’t want to cancel but I didn’t like the thought of going away and leaving Weeble where he was. Reluctantly however, that’s what I did, having put plenty of food down for him first – he had two chances so I just hoped that he would survive.
As soon as we got back from our Easter break I checked for any sign of Weeble; some of the food had gone but his house hadn’t been disturbed and even after another couple of days there was no patter of hamster feet above my head while I was in the living room so reluctantly I came to the sad conclusion that he had finally died. Although the thought of a hamster corpse somewhere under the upstairs floor didn’t exactly fill me with joy there was no way we could take up the whole floor to find it so the two floorboards that had been pulled up were put back, the carpet was relaid and life returned to normal. Then several nights later, while lying in bed, I heard some rustling noises coming from the narrow space between the side of the wardrobe and the wall; at first I thought I was hearing things but eventually I got up to investigate – and sitting among the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper which I kept there was Weeble.
He was too far back in the narrow space for me to just reach in and get him so I came up with the idea of using the small fishing net which I kept for the fish tank, but as I moved it closer to him he backed even further away until he was completely out of reach. Moving the wardrobe was out of the question so I went back to bed happy that Weeble was still alive and determined that come hell or high water he would be caught the next day. By the following morning he had transferred himself from the side of the wardrobe to the small space behind the chest of drawers and that proved to be his undoing. Armed with the small bedside waste bin my partner crouched at one end of the cabinet while I gingerly moved it a couple of inches away from the wall, then with the broom handle I gently poked and pushed Weeble along towards my partner and finally success – he scuttled into the bin and after almost a month on the loose he was well and truly caught.
Weeble lived for another eighteen months after his great escape and when he finally died of old age his cage was donated to a local animal charity. I haven’t had another hamster since then and to be honest I wouldn’t want one, but if I ever did get another one it would have to have an escape-proof cage – I certainly wouldn’t want to go through all that again!
A couple of years ago, while sitting here at my pc one evening, I heard a faint rustling sound from deep in the corner behind the computer unit. It was so faint that I wasn’t really sure if it was real or if I’d imagined it, but even though the dogs were downstairs I had the vague feeling that I wasn’t alone in the room. However, I didn’t hear the noise again so I put it out of my mind, but a few evenings later as I entered the room there was a distinct scuffling sound and the very real impression that something had darted across the floor and disappeared into the corner; it seemed that somehow I may have gained an uninvited house guest – a mouse.
Just before going to bed that night I left half a dozen small squares of bread and marmalade on a plate on the floor. I didn’t know if mice like bread and marmalade but I figured that if there was a mouse in residence it might be attracted by a late night snack, and if the bread disappeared at least it would prove that I was neither imagining things nor losing my marbles – and sure enough, when I checked the following morning all but one of the pieces had gone.
Now as much as I like mice, and having one in residence didn’t particularly bother me, it wasn’t an ideal situation – where there’s one there could be twenty one so the mouse had to go, and the sooner the better. But I also had to find out where it had got in, and as it seemed to be frequenting the corner behind the computer unit that was the obvious place to start; not an easy task though in view of everything which had to be moved, and one which would be better waiting until the weekend when I had plenty of time.
So the Sunday morning saw me moving all the books and various boxes of computer accessories, paper, envelopes, laminating sheets, files and plastic pockets from the shelves in the unit, disconnecting and moving two computers, two printers, two monitors and a scanner, and finally moving the unit well away from the wall. It took quite a while but eventually I could see where my little visitor was coming and going; right in the corner the carpet had been nibbled at the edges and when I peeled it back I found a gap between the floorboards and skirting board – not a particularly big gap, but certainly enough for a mouse to get through from the cavity wall space.
After a walk down to the local DIY store I returned with a can of expanding foam which I sprayed liberally into the gap to fill it and seal it, then once the foam had hardened I cut off the excess and put back the pc unit and all its contents. I wasn’t sure if the mouse might have actually been hiding somewhere else in the room though; if it was I would need to get a humane trap, but before going to the expense of buying one if I didn’t need to I decided to leave some more bread and marmalade down just to be sure. I did that twice and on neither occasion was it touched, so the mouse must have evicted itself before I sealed up the hole. Since then there have been no more strange noises or any other evidence of rodent activity so my efforts on that Sunday two years ago, although time-consuming, were obviously a success and my uninvited guest must have gone to live elsewhere.
This evening however I’d not been home from work long when Michael said he thought we had another mouse in residence as he’d heard a scratching noise coming from behind his wardrobe. So I went in his room and we sat quietly and listened; all was quiet for several minutes then we heard it – a scratching noise which was definitely coming from behind the wardrobe. It went on for a couple of minutes during which it got a bit louder, so we came to the conclusion that it must have been a rat rather than a mouse; that was something we definitely didn’t want but I dreaded the thought of us having to move all the furniture to find where it was getting in. Then something made me listen more closely and I realised what it could be – it sounded like someone was using a scraper on the wall in the adjoining room of the house next door.
Just to confirm that theory I went next door and asked, and sure enough it was just as I thought – they were in the process of decorating their bedroom and were scraping the paper from the wall which was back-to-back with Michael’s room. Thank goodness that’s all it was – we can live with the temporary noise of the next-door neighbours decorating but a rat or another mouse in the house? No way!