Friday, 6 January 2012

The little mouse

I was sitting in the cafe this morning, headphones plugged into my ears, listening to a particularly tricky bar of string music, when, from the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny animal making its way across the floor. The creature was the sweetest mouse I’ve ever seen; no bigger than a large acorn, with the cutest little dumbo ears. He was wandering around, not at all frightened by the enormity of the world, staring like a new born child at a chair leg in front of him. I called out to the cafe owner, who was understandably a little concerned by the sight. “There are traps everywhere” he said, “where the hell do they come from?” “That’s not a normal mouse” I said, thinking it might even be a shrew. The cafe owner was about to stamp on it; “please don’t!” I shouted, “let me take him to Highgate Woods...” Fortunately, another customer was in favour of the Greenpeace solution, so we trapped the little critter in a pint glass. It wasn’t a difficult task – he was too friendly and inquisitive to run anywhere – and seemed to sit, perfectly happily on a piece of cardboard within his glass prison as everyone took photographs.
We carefully transferred him into a paper bag, and I took him home to Nathan, who I thought would be the best companion when it came to liberating the animal. In our time, we’ve looked after a number of sick animals. We cared for a dying pigeon in our kitchen and once saved a little frog from a guaranteed messy death on the Archway Road by taking it to a pond on Hampstead Heath. Neither of us can bear to see animals suffering and we’ll both go to great lengths to protect a creature who can’t protect itself.

When Nathan saw the mouse, he instantly fell in love. We looked online and decided that it must be some kind of field mouse, a very young one, and one that was growing increasingly frightened. It wasn’t eating or drinking, it was probably looking for its Mum, and if we’d turned it out in the woods, it plainly wouldn’t have lasted five seconds. So we stuck him in a little cage with lots of sawdust and soft bedding, in the hope that we could feed him up a bit and get him stronger before releasing him.

It’s a bit of a mess, really. I don’t think he’s going to last. He’s still not eating, and by the early evening had got so cold that he’d stopped moving and we thought he was dead. A little stint on Nathan’s hand warmed him up a bit, and he got a little chirpier, but part of me wonders if it wouldn’t have been better simply to allow the cafe owner to stamp on him, or for him to die in one of the traps, or of some terrible poison. Sitting in a cage is certainly no life for him, particularly if he’s so young that he’s not yet been weaned from him mother. He seems to be simply withering away.

Twelfth night – and the decorations have gone away for another year and everything feels a bit grey and miserable again.
Twelfth night in the 17th Century was a much more important occasion. Pepys took his lute to Mr Savill the painter’s, and watched as the man made a proper hash-up of painting it. In the afternoon he went to see Sir William Pen, who was celebrating his eighteenth wedding anniversary with eighteen mince pies. Pepys returned home to find his young clerk, Will Hewer, in bed. The servants reported that he’d vomited before retiring, and was complaining of a bad head. Pepys immediately summonsed the lad, and royally told him off for being drunk, although Hewer protested that he’d been ill before drinking “a quart of sack” at The Dolphin. Hmm.

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