We always joke that the mice seem to know when the clocks are changing, and while we’re all downstairs we’re like, “Sure, it’s really six o’clock. Or is it eight. Or new? they pack their little suitcases of mice and head for the farm attic.
But this year has been remarkable. The distinctive crackle of the little feet began the next night.
I can pretty much sleep, turn up the radio a bit, knowing that a few weeks of heavy trapping will do the trick. And after cleaning up some nice old skeletons and doing a mass reset using a new chew bar, I thought I was winning.
One night, however, the pitter-patter was replaced with a thump-thump, as something pushed its way through my ceiling.
At 3 a.m., the mental list of potential animals up there can be dramatic, magnified by hard-to-digest post-pub peanuts. Rat? Squirrel? Aardvark? Thorny anteater?
The next morning, in an attic room, there was a mouse in a trap, eyes bulging in comical but terminal shock.
I had forgotten about the fluffy bar, so I decided to appear later and reset everything. When I returned, it was gone. Not just the mouse – the trap.
As if that weren’t enough to scare anyone’s living bejeesus off, I was sure I could hear, deep within the jumble of life that fills these spooky rooms, something moving.
I retreated cautiously, tiptoeing back, ready to repel any attack, with only half a Krunchy Krisp bar as my weapon.
The time had come (I decided, once I got down safely) to empty the attic. It’s time to stop sheltering any dreadful beast that has taken up residence up there.
This is, of course, easier said than done. What are you cleaning and what are you leaving behind?
My collection of car and tractor brochures – accumulated for over 35 years – cannot go away. They will be worth something someday.
Mind you, Dad has thought about his wonderful collection of first day envelopes, which you can buy for real money on eBay.
My college and A-level exam papers? They are reminiscent of a more academic era, but the intricacies of thermodynamics and hydrology seem to escape me now.
There’s aging hi-fi – Garrard turntables and Sansui amps – and a few LPs. still eBay?
Go back further in time, and there is a file on my big sister’s Mini Clubman; JOT 166L. There are hockey sticks, cricket kit and lacrosse sticks, Victorian samplers, pictures of the London Rifle Brigade (including my grandfather) ending their march from London to Brighton in April 1914.
That’s what mom said it was, anyway; Notice, she said, King Alfred burned his cakes in our attic. My brother repeated this in a history lesson, and still has the flying duster hump.
After you’ve cleaned a room, you need to pause and think. Several servants lived there during the days of farmer John Spencer, descending to the kitchen (and outhouse, of course) via a now lost staircase.
Mom was happy to show us how the men’s sleeping area could be locked from the outside. Hard but fair. It’s a bit sad about this old house, once occupied but used for nothing but storage nowadays.
The ceiling is calm now. The attic is bare. The beast has evolved. But if wheat prices continue as they are, we will again employ domestic staff by the dozen, and we will fill the granary.
And if the mouse / monster comes back – well, we’ve kept the hockey sticks.