Bred in Britain: the recycled mouse

Related Topics
EARLIER this spring, as the outbreak of slash attacks on horses and ponies in southern England reached its peak, I was contacted by a prominent Australian journalist who was over here writing on the state of Britain.

He was amazed that these incidents were attracting such enormous national coverage, especially in papers such as the Independent and Daily Mail. They would not merit a line in a serious Australian paper, he advanced. Did I not find it strange?

It was my turn to be surprised. I told him that to understand the horror these attacks provoked you had to understand our national psyche. The majority of Britons are soppy about dogs, cats and horses. They like pets. It starts early on and flickers like a recurrent leitmotiv through many a person's life: a child starts with a hamster and by old age is lavishing love on a cat.

Reporting such brutal behaviour against horses and ponies was not strange, in this context, but absolutely to be expected.

I advised him to read Margaret Forster's excellent biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which contains one of the classic accounts of a human-canine love affair. She doted on her cocker spaniel, Flush, tried to teach him to talk and was convinced she could turn him into a partner at dominoes.

If I ran into this journalist now I would freely own up to having greatly enjoyed last weekend's adaptation of Jilly Cooper's equine bonking novel, Riders, simply because of its truly luscious depiction of top-quality horse flesh. I'm amazed that the critics failed to comment on this.

These thoughts surfaced as I set out to tackle the household mouse problem.

Mice are invading the larder every night. During past infestations the local council saw them off with its own poison. But these modern-day rat- catchers are no longer a free service: they have been privatised. Rather than pay, I visited the local hardware shop with children in tow and asked for mouse poison, only to be told that there was a much better and more humane solution. They sold, believe it or not, friendly mousetraps.

These small, smoky Perspex, rectangular boxes are quite unlike crude mousetraps that spring and kill the mouse. Instead, they bring down a little door once the mouse has ventured inside, rather like the shutter on an automatic garage.

The instructions on the friendly mousetrap, which I bought, reminded me to check it frequently, so as not to harm the mouse. Once you have caught it, you are supposed to set it free.

The first night we scored an immediate hit. A large mouse threw caution to the wind when sniffing out a piece of a Penguin biscuit.

However, my children, classic small Britons and deeply in love with all animals, got up before me and thought it would make a wonderful pet. So they tried to decant this wild mouse from its friendly mousetrap into an unused aquarium. The mouse seized the moment, staged a tremendous jump and ran to freedom under the cooker.

Night two passed with no catch at all. Then on night three, we caught our second mouse. But where to let it go? It didn't seem right to put it over the fence into our neighbour's garden, so we made a special trip to the park and watched as it happily scampered away. There is a certain pleasure in recycling a mouse.

All of this was watched with amazement by the New Zealand girl who is acting as a mother's help. Like the Australian journalist, she said she found the British attitude towards animals peculiar. It wasn't just that we were soppy about mice. She confessed to finding the habit of keeping dogs inside the house, rather than in pens or kennels outside, simply disgusting. In her first English job her employer had kept eight cats: each had a separate bowl with its name on, arranged around the kitchen.

I recall all of this simply because at a time when the rest of the world appears to be inflicting ghastly atrocities on one other, I find it rather refreshing to think that we in Britain are too squeamish to finish off a mouse.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Hourly Paid Teachers

£20 - £25 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curren...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A homeless person sleeps in the streets  

This is why I am sleeping rough outside the party conferences

Max J Freeman
Strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft (File photo)  

Syria air strikes: President Assad now has the enemy he always wanted – Islamist terrorism

Kim Sengupta
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits