Monday morning I woke up at 06.00, 50 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I was unusually alert and focused ……… on the sound of a mouse in the roofspace above the bedroom. It wasn’t moving about much but sounded very much like it was chewing through the coating on the cables to the light in the middle of the ceiling. I stood on the bed and banged on the ceiling with the edge of my fist but to little avail. An ‘Artex’ ceiling, all the rage when we moved into the house, makes pounding with a fist quite painful. The mouse paused for a moment and then ignored me and carried on. So I donned my rat catcher’s T-shirt, a present from Dai and the family, got out the step ladder, opened the hatch into the roofspace and went up to confront it.
The first thing we did when we moved into the house in 1975 was to put a floor in the roofspace, the ‘roof’, ‘attic’ or ‘loft’ as we variously called it. The reason for this was to have somewhere to store our boxes of stuff temporarily. The previous house had been bigger and we had planned major redecorating in the new house so everything went up into the attic including large numbers of boxes of books. Much of that stuff is still up there and is now part of the sedimentary process, added to by the vast amounts of stuff we have been pushing up there ever since on a regular basis. The floor has long since disappeared.
I clomped around sufficiently to deter the mouse which was doubtless moving around silently under the floor and through fibreglass insulation. I guessed it had moved inside for the winter and the insulation provided a very welcome habitat. It would have to be caught, no question about it. But how? I couldn’t even see the floor never mind place a trap.
We had been saying for years that we needed to get to grips with sorting the attic and have a major clear-out. Having cleared houses after both our parents we knew how onerous it is and didn’t want the attic to be part of our bequest to our kids. Enfys had made a start and got rid of a lot of stuff but I kept adding to it. A particular problem was the accumulating cardboard boxes which stuff like computers, printers, microwave ovens, lawn mowers and so on came in. They were put in the roof in case they needed to be returned during the 12 months warranty period. They never were and the boxes were never thrown out.
Somehow we never really had the incentive to do anything about it. It is a pretty unpleasant task and it is amazing how many other things distracted us from the task in hand. Cleaning the loo with a toothbrush held between the teeth (not that we ever did!!!) would have been a good enough reason to abandon attic-clearance after even a few minutes.
Now, suddenly, at 06.00 on a wet, cold morning November morning the incentive was there. Get rid of the stuff ASAP or risk have the mice eat the sheathing off every electric cable in the loft.
Rarely have I been so galvanised by such a daunting and unpleasant task. When I went downstairs to have breakfast and opened the kitchen blinds it was obvious that the day was not going to be one for tackling the jungle which the garden now is. It was dripping with water, there apparently having been such heavy rain in the night that it woke the neighbours up. Why is it I hear a mouse chewing in the roof and yet sleep through storms? Once when we were in Greece, I went down to breakfast in the hotel and people were talking about the thunderstorm in the night, the worst any of them had ever known. I never heard a thing. Pausing only to eat breakfast and take a couple of photos of the dripping landscape, I headed straight for the roof.
Knowing where to begin was a problem. I cleared a small space next to the hatch as a manoeuvring area and then set-to to clear the detritus from above the bedroom where I had heard the mouse. Under a chair I found a cat which had been keeping one eye on things but to no effect.
The next few hours are blanked from my mind as too unpleasant to want to recall. I collected the decent quality boxes, stuffed smaller ones inside larger ones and made two floor-to-ceiling piles of them behind the door in the hall ready for Ruth and Tim to take back to pack their possessions to put in storage. I loaded rubbish straight into the car and by the end of the afternoon had enough to take to the tip. The result was a metre square section of floor strewn with mouse droppings and chewings but otherwise clear of rubbish. And here I placed the mouse trap in the hope that baiting it with a few sunflower seeds would do the trick. I may have to increase the tastiness of the morsel on offer. Time will tell.
But the roof clearance must continue.