Need to know: The mission

Sometimes it can take a camcorder to trap a mouse in your kitchen. Matthew Sweet presses paws
ome missions you formulate yourself just for the sheer gut-twisting challenge of it all. Others are suggested to you by the editor, and you say, "Yeah, great idea!" just to humour him and hope he'll forget he asked. But the most difficult sort are the kind that get thrust upon you. Especially the ones that begin with a scuffling under the floorboards that means you've been forced to discover whether you're a man or a mouse-killer.

The first step was to ascertain whether the strange presence I'd half- detected in the kitchen was a bona fide rodent in residence or just a delusion brought on by eating too much unpasteurised cheese late at night. "We need video evidence," I decided.

"We want to get rid of him, not get him his own series," countered my partner, Nicola. But I laid out some cheddar on the lino, set up our primitive black-and-white camcorder and went to bed. The bait was gone the next morning, and I merely had to fast-forward through six hours of the kitchen floor to observe the intruder in action.

The picture was Crimewatch-perfect. At about 4am, a small figure in a dark coat and big round ears came lolloping from behind the washing machine.

I've watched this minute-or-so of footage a hundred times. He scutters towards the cheese, picks it up in his jaws, and then leaps like a gazelle back to his bolt-hole beside the Phillips Whirlpool 948. It's pure ballet. Now it was time to consider our options. Could we co-exist with him? Possibly, but he might eat through the wiring and electrocute us all. In that case, could we kill him and claim self-defence? "Let's exhaust the humane options first," advised Nicola.

So it was over the road to PetsMart to browse in the rodent-trap section. Rather perplexingly, this is not located in the mice and rat department, but in the middle of the horse and pony section. (For those who've never visited a branch of PetsMart, all you need to know is that it's like KwikSave, but with animals.) After a few moments deliberation, we plumped for a non-splatter device that could ensnare up to three mice without harming a hair on their heads.

Three completely stupid mice, possibly. After this item had spent several weeks on our kitchen floor without a bite, it became time to consult our landlord, Les. He has a cottage in France that has so many rodenty interlopers that, he says, you can hear the traps snapping away all night. His answer was a bag filled with noxious-looking cubes of green poison and a vicious little trap of the Tom and Jerry variety. "Put some of the poison down as well," he advised, "then they'll eat it and come over all drowsy and just wander into the trap ... "

That night, I followed his instructions. But next morning the cheese had been extracted from the trap without setting it off. "That's a good sign," breezed Les. "It means that soon he'll get overconfident and - snap!"

He was right, of course. But the stiff little corpse I found in the morning didn't fill me with a sense of victory. Quite the opposite, really. And I remembered how, about 40 years ago, my gran accidentally buried alive Mr and Mrs Tumpy, her neighbour's hibernating hamsters. She still feels guilty about that - and, unlike me, she hadn't drugged them and broken their necks.

And what happened to Mousey? He went straight into a Tesco's Bag for Life, and then the wheelie bin. Mission accomplished