When the leaves started disappearing from my indoor pepper plants I looked for caterpillars. After the whole top section was chewed off my dragon palm, I guessed huge nocturnal caterpillars were to blame. Who was I kidding?
Then there were other clues, caterpillars don't invade a spice cabinet and chew up all the stock cubes or leave large black droppings on a window sill. They don't nibble holes in apples left in a fruit dish. We had mice.
The Garden Tiger often brings mice home but, being dead, they aren't difficult to catch. This super mouse was very much alive. I hadn't seen it but it was definitely around in the house somewhere. When my man, nodding in front of the 10 o'clock news, was shaken awake as it thundered over his shoulder and down his leg, serious action was called for and off he went on an urgent trip to the hardware store.
He returned with a whole bagful of humane mouse traps. Once baited with peanut butter and apple, an allegedly winning combination, we went to bed and waited. In the morning the traps were wrecked, bait gone, hinges chewed, mouse nowhere to be seen. I trembled.
'This is no super mouse. We've got a young rat in the house,' I sobbed.
Another trip to the hardware store, this time he returned with several inches of cruel steel trap in a plain brown wrapper. We meant business. More peanut butter, more apple, more guile...but this time we would be the winners.
The next morning I catch my man leafing through the pages of, ‘The Complete British Wildlife’ a field guide to the mammals of Britain, a slight pallor on his rugged cheek. No common brown rat was in the trap, we’d flattened a yellow-necked mouse. (Apodemus flavicollis) At nearly 12cm one of the largest of our British mice. A competent tree climber and frequenter of woodlands, formerly common and widespread now, comparatively scarce, but not yet endangered, unless of course it happens to end up in my kitchen.