· life ·

I woke up to a loud scrabbling sound this morning. "Gotcha!", I thought. Reel back a couple of weeks, and Mr. Bsag is showing me a cherry tomato which has a ragged hole in it. He thought that it had burst, but it had a suspiciously nibbled quality to my eyes. Sure enough, when I got a torch out and looked down the little gaps by the side of the kitchen cabinets, I found the tell-tale signs of a mouse. I'm extremely sceptical about the concept of a singular mouse, so let's say mice.

How could this have happened? We keep a clean house, and we don't leave food lying around (the tomatoes were in a vegetable basket, and were the only items of food not in a box or container). Still, the biologist in me knows that the little critters can get in anywhere and take advantage of whatever they find, and when winter starts biting, even field mice sometimes take shelter in houses. I cleaned even more obsessively, and vowed to "Get those meeces!"

Regular readers will know that I don't like killing anything unnecessarily, so I went to the local garden centre to buy a live trap (it's like my biology field trip all over again, but without the garlic). As I was standing in the queue, the guy behind me told me that the traps are very effective, but that you have to release the mice some distance away. "I'm sure I've been catching the same little bugger for a couple of weeks." But I know all about homing mice, and I've even tracked them. They're going to need a taxi to get back from my release location.

The instructions suggest peanut butter as a bait. I don't have any peanut butter, but I find a jar of mincemeat from the dawn of time in the back of the cupboard, and try that. Well, it's fruit and fat — the mice will love it. Wrong. Mice will keep away from anything smelling that strongly of poisonous alcohol — I really should have known that. I go to the shops and buy some peanut butter, grumbling about spending good money to feed the mice. After a couple of nights of no-shows, and one spectacularly cheeky mouse who ate all the peanut butter and breezed out of the trap without triggering it, finally I had a bite!

I picked the trap up gently, and it felt warm. I could feel the mouse's high tension heart thrumming against the plastic. Such a tiny creature, but so much life in it. I was keen to try to release it in the dark so that it would have a couple of hours to find somewhere to hide, and traipsed out to the local recreation ground (plenty of thick shrubs, undergrowth and trees), trying to not look suspicious.

I laid the trap on the ground and opened the lid. Nothing. I tipped it up a bit, and heard needle-like claws scrabbling for purchase on the smooth plastic. It seems that little mouse rather likes his warm, dark, peanut butter-equipped home. Sorry, mate — you have to go in to the big, wide world. Finally, he shot out like a furry bullet, and disappeared into the shrubbery. Be safe, but don't you dare come back — no-one messes with my cherry tomatoes.