For now, we’re leaving it to the experts. Covid cases are going down as vaccination numbers rise. We’re still trapped but hopefully not for much longer. The sun is shining, my mood is lifting, and spring-cleaning can wait as I venture outside to admire the snowdrops.
I am not the only one.
The kittens from next door are outside, frolicking in our overgrown grass. They’ve even enticed Grunting Teen from his pizza-strewn cave. ‘Why can’t we have a pet?’ he moans, ‘Everyone else’s got one in lockdown. You’re so mean.’
To prove this point, the Nearly-Beloved, self-confessed cat-hater, bats the inquisitive creatures away with his newspaper, muttering about ‘mess on the lawn’ and ‘finding the hosepipe.’
But a few days later, the cold snap returns, the media announces a South American virus mutation and my mood falls as we’re confined indoors once more. I’ve still got no work but neither have I got the motivation to shift the dusty clutter-mountains piling up in every room.
Instead, I’m watching repeats of Modern Family whilst the Nearly-Beloved reads the latest scare-mongering headlines and Grunting Teen stuffs his face.
‘What was that?’ he asks, spitting out a mouthful of popcorn as something streaks across the carpet.
My heart longs for it to be a gold-medallist spider but the tail that flashes by reveals the awful truth. I scream. The Nearly-Beloved lowers his paper. ‘That’s what happens when you let standards of hygiene slip,’ he tuts.
‘It moves well fast’ remarks Grunting Teen, displaying a sudden David Attenborough interest in wildlife.
But despite running my way through this pandemic, I am a mere Mo Farrah’s granny compared to this Usain Bolt of the mouse world. My efforts to catch it are as effective as the government’s track and trace system. I know it’s out there but I can’t pin it down.
‘Ah mum, it’s peeping out from under the fire grate. It’s really cute. But it’s trembling. All your screaming’s frightened it.’
The Nearly-Beloved, however, has remained calm. ‘We need a strategy,’ he announces.
Oh yes? A road map for the removal of rodents? But first we have to identify where it’s come from. Because the last thing we want is for the situation to escalate. Pandemic experience has shown that any delay could be fatal. We need to shut down the borders immediately.
Old terraces and gaping floorboards attract these unwelcome visitors with the promise of warmth and a ready supply of food, courtesy of Grunting Teen. In fact, we’ve had this issue before. We dealt with it. But we knew we’d never eradicate it completely.
‘I’ll get that mouse-trap then, shall I?’ I ask.
Grunting Teen is horrified until I reassure him this isn’t China or Burma. No force will be necessary.
Rifling through the chaos of the kitchen cupboards, I come across cans of wasp spray from ‘Covid: The Prequel’ when everyone was panic-buying and that was the nearest I could get to antibac gel. I console myself with the fact that at least we’ll have insect-free barbecues in ‘Covid:The Return of the Burnt Sausage.’
I finally find the humane trap I’m looking for and walk gingerly back into the living room to find the mouse on its hind legs, snuffling the as yet unused Christmas ‘candle in a jar’. This critter’s getting cocky now and its flamboyant salsa around the rug suggests it’s a Brazilian variant.
For a moment we’re all spell-bound. Has life in lockdown really become so tedious that watching vermin snacking is the height of entertainment? But whilst little Micky is ‘eating out to help out’ – and it has to be said, he is doing an excellent job of hoovering up after Grunting Teen – I load the trap with some Cheddar.
Mais, zut alors! Could this be a continental cousin? The mouse sniffs our 76% effective British offering disdainfully. It obviously wants to hold out for the 95% proof Swiss version. In the meantime, it jumps into the unlit candle for a relaxing spa roll-around, occasionally twitching its whiskers in ecstasy. And part of me understands its contentment as the scent of cranberry and cinnamon takes me too back to happier times.
But, before we can all be reunited, order has to be restored. So, the next day, with no sign of any captured enemy, deep-cleaning and blocking-up-of-holes are top of the agenda. On the plus side, the house is now sparkling and I’ve found three months’ worth of teenage socks. Then, feeling high from inhaling so many chemicals, I go outside for some fresh air.
The Nearly Beloved is there with the kittens. All three look remarkably self-satisfied.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask.
‘Oh, the problem’s definitely been sorted now,’ replies my husband, bending down and uncharacteristically patting the felines.
Ah well, sometimes you do have to leave it to the experts…