In an uncertain world, the few things we can be sure of are a comfort.
London housing will always be riddled with vermin, the pubs will charge a morning’s wages for a main and August in the city is an oven.
I remember now why I try to escape to Edinburgh for the month. I tell people it’s because I’ve written a comedy show, but really it’s because I enjoy rain more than I care to admit.
I split up with my partner earlier this year and moved into a small flat round the corner. Because this is London, there are mice.
After a week attempting to deal with the situation myself, I got professional help.
The mouse man arrived, looking confident. His teeth were too white.
“These your bait boxes?” he asked, incredulous.
“Yeah, I got them off the internet. They don’t work.”
“Course they don’t,” he sniffed, looking like my hairdresser as I walked in post-lockdown. “They won’t eat that stuff.”
He slung a gym bag to the floor full of plumbers’ syringes. “What you want,” he explained, triumphantly holding up an old tub of peanut butter, “Is this.”
Finely honed patter is part of the gig for this guy.
He explained that the contents of the peanut butter tub are illegal in 47 countries (I’m not surprised, it’s bright blue and looks like it could take out a moose.)
“They banned it here a couple of years ago,” he said, “but I squirrelled away a few bottles. And that’s paid my mortgage, that has.”
He began enthusiastically loading neon peanut butter into a syringe.
When he said ‘a few bottles,’ I imagined a lock-up full of the stuff.
“Course, they won’t eat this in Wimbledon.”
I looked at him closely. (How can you trust a man who looks like a ’70’s disc jockey?) “How do you mean?”
“It’s a bit of the old Darwin, y’see love,” he explained. “The ones that don’t like it survive to breed. Eventually, none of the mice will eat it and we’ll have to find something else. And that always starts in Wimbledon.” I was baffled.
Are posh mice more discerning? Do they make podcasts for each other about what colour peanut butter to eat? Has this got something to do with the Wombles?
He iced some peanut butter into cardboard boxes with mouse-sized holes in the ends, then shook a tub of what looked like birdseed into his gloved hand.
“This, is canary seed,” he explained, hoofing the kickboard out from under the sink. “Now, I’m not allowed to put this down without a tray. But I’m very clumsy I am,” he chucked a handful under the sink. “Ooops, I’ve spilt some,” he turned to grin at me, radiantly.
It seems the mice of South Wimbledon won’t eat their dinner off a tray.
£47 later, he’s spilt some more behind the sofa, some in a cupboard the estate agent boldly described as ‘roomy’, and more in the bathroom. There are tiny boxes of peanut butter everywhere.
Turning to step out into the sweltering heat, he handed me his card. “You’re very nice but I hope I never see you again.”
And with that, he was gone.