And talking of mice….

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!

The mouse that wasn’t

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!

An unusual present and a nice afternoon

I don’t suppose there are many mums who can say that they got two packets of hot dog rolls, two packets of teacakes and a packet of sandwich rolls as a present on Mother’s Day but that’s just what Michael gave me yesterday morning. Yes, my son definitely has a daft sense of humour! He actually works where these things are made so he often brings stuff home for me and it’s not the first time he’s given me things as ‘presents’ – a couple of years ago I got three packets of crumpets and a toastie loaf for my birthday!
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Fortunately those weren’t the proper present(s). Along with a lovely card he’d actually got me chocolates, a dvd, a book, and a lovely pot of pink chrysanthemums in a pink basket which looks nice on the unit in my pink bedroom, and he also took me out for a meal – well I took us out as he can’t drive but he paid for the fuel to get there. We took the dogs and went to St. Annes on the coast, had a nice walk along the beach followed by a lovely meal in the Beach Terrace Cafe (one of my favourite eateries for many years) then another walk along the beach before returning home.
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The weather was glorious and although there was a cool breeze blowing along the beach the sun was fairly warm so it was a very pleasant afternoon, and all in all I had a really nice day. We don’t really make a fuss about Easter so the next special occasion is my birthday in June – maybe I’ll get lucky and get a packet of bagels or some spiced fruit bread for that one!

If ever there was a time to feel bad….

It was this morning. Why? Because I stood on Mouse. Yes, it probably sounds funny, and it looks funny now I’ve written it down, but it wasn’t at the time and I felt awful.
Now there are many ways to describe Mouse – peculiar, odd, a one-off, affectionate, funny, totally mad but also totally adorable, she’s all of those things and more, and she’s very much the favourite out of all three cats. This morning when I was getting ready to go out she was lying on the landing floor in a patch of sunlight near the bedroom door, but by the time I came out of the bedroom again I’d completely forgotten she was there and I stood right on her. Of course her natural reaction, along with the howl of pain, was to retaliate with her claws and they swiftly connected with my left ankle, but within seconds she had forgiven me and lay there purring away while I stroked her to say sorry.
It must have been ten minutes later when I noticed a couple of small streaks of fresh blood on the carpet where Mouse was lying – I must have injured her in some way and I was mortified. It seemed like I may be making a trip to the vet’s but a thorough inspection found the cause of the blood – a small nick about halfway along her tail. Other than that she was okay so the wound was given a quick clean up with a damp cotton wool ball and the problem was sorted. I’ve checked her tail a couple of times since then and thankfully it’s absolutely fine, showing no more signs of having been trodden on.
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As I type this Mouse is sitting in one of her favourite places, on the rail at the top of the stairs; she’s probably already forgotten that I stood on her this morning but she’ll be getting an extra treat with her supper tonight to make up for it.

After eight years of faithful service….

My bedroom tv recently died. It was towards the end of last week that I noticed when I turned it on there was a pale red haze on the picture, although it had cleared in less than a minute. Everything was fine when I watched it on Sunday night but on Monday morning when I turned it on it had sound but no picture. Well that was okay, I didn’t need to actually watch the quiz programme, I could listen to the questions and answers, however a couple of hours later the sound disappeared too – my faithful little tv had finally died.
I bought the set back in March 2009 – with built-in Freeview and dvd player it was great for in the bedroom but being only a small size -15.6ins – and very light it was ideal for taking camping too. It was a Technika, Tesco’s own brand, and I ordered it online from Tesco Direct, to be collected two days later from my local store. On the day of collection I got an email to say I could collect it any time after 4pm so I went over to the store after I finished work at 6.45pm – and that’s when things didn’t exactly run smoothly. The assistant on the collection desk told me it closed at 7pm, and although it was only 7.05 I was told I would have to go back the following day – and the conversation went like this :
Assistant – “Sorry, the desk is closed and the store room is locked, you’ll have to come back tomorrow”
Me – “There was no mention of a closing time on the email, it just said ‘after 4pm’. I’ve just come five and a half miles from the other side of town to get this”
Assistant – “That’s nothing to do with me, all I can say is come back tomorrow”
Me – “And all I can say is I can’t come back tomorrow so I’d like my tv now please”
Assistant – “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do”
Me – “Well I’m sorry too, but I’m not leaving here without my tv”
This same conversation went on for a couple of minutes and I was beginning to get mildly irritated at the assistant’s obvious refusal to help so –
Me – “Okay then, get me a supervisor”
So a supervisor was duly summoned and was slightly more helpful in that she went to see if there was a tv on the shelf in the store but there wasn’t so again I was told to go back the following day. Now many people may have given up at that point but I’m not many people so –
Me (leaning over the counter with arms folded) – “Now we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way. You’re open 24 hours aren’t you?”
Supervisor – Yes, we are”
Me – “Well I’ve nothing to go home for and I’ve got all night, so I’m quite prepared to stay here for however long it takes, but I’m not leaving this store until I get my tv”
Supervisor to assistant – “Radio security”
I’m now thinking I’m going to be escorted off the premises, however when the security guy arrived the supervisor explained the position and he immediately went round behind the collection desk, unlocked the store room door and came back out with my tv, which had been sitting just inside the door – it really was that simple. So I’d stood my ground and without ever raising my voice I got what I wanted – and that’s the only trouble my tv has given me until now. And I have to say it’s been a brilliant little set – it’s even survived being dropped onto hard ground twice.
The first time it hit the deck was back in June 2010 while I was camping in Norfolk. A teenage lad playing football slipped and fell into the side of my tent, knocking over the table with the tv on it – I feared the worst but luckily the tv was fine. The second mishap came when I was camping again later that same year. The tv was on top of my larder unit which is about three and a half feet tall, and I returned to the tent after a day out to find the set face down on the floor – a wind had blown up while I was out and the tent side had bowed inwards, catching the back of the larder unit and rocking it enough to send the tv crashing to the floor. I fully expected the screen to be smashed but surprisingly it was still in one piece, and even more surprisingly the tv still worked, so even though it wasn’t an expensive set I was impressed with the quality as it certainly turned out to be drop-proof – and it’s given me almost eight years of trouble-free viewing.
So with this in mind, when it finally died a death on Monday I had no hesitation in sourcing another one from Tesco. Unfortunately smaller ‘portable’ tv sets seem to be hard to come by now and the smallest available was a 24ins but the price was right – only £20 more than my original set – it has the built-in dvd player and Freeview and a host of features the other one didn’t. Okay, so it’s pink – or rather it’s PINK!!! – but that doesn’t matter as my bedroom is pink so it doesn’t look out of place. It was ordered on Monday evening and I collected it yesterday with no problems, and twenty minutes after I arrived home it was in place and working – and if it lasts as long as it’s predecessor I’ll be more than happy.