Chitra Ramaswamy: A toast to vermin

MONDAY mornings are never the easiest. What should feel as fresh and full of possibilities as a newly washed sheet can instead, after you’ve seen more than 1,000 of them, feel as sad and tired as an old pair of pants.

Picture: Neil Hanna

Then there are the Monday mornings that really take the biscuit, the kind where you get out of bed, stub your toe and then realise you’ve run out of coffee. The kind of Monday that, if it were a person, would be a member of Ukip.

Like last Monday. It started badly when the alarm failed to go off. This, as we all know, is an omen, the universal sign for ‘you are about to have a bad day’ that comes second only to running for a bus and missing it. C rushed into the kitchen swearing before returning with an ashen expression, the kind that to well-adjusted people suggests catastrophe along the lines of the kitchen is flooded or the dog is dead but to me simply says SPIDER.

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“What is it?” I yelped. “A spider?”

“No,” said C. “In the toaster... a mouse.”

I digested this information quickly. Processed it into an image. A mouse, as thick as a Poptart, but more, well, mouse-shaped, pinging out of our toaster with a pawful of crumbs and a cocky expression. C, meanwhile, continued to whimper and point in the direction of the scene of the crime. The tables, I now realised, had turned. Without consulting our little book of relationship responsibilities, I knew what I had to do. C deals with spiders, DIY and washing floors. I’m on cooking, mortgage matters and holidays. Oh, and mice.

“Be cool,” I instructed in my best Harvey Keitel fixer voice. “I’ll deal with this.” I strode into the kitchen high on power and headed for the toaster. The mouse had been having something of a party inside this stainless steel pleasure dome. The crumb tray was full of droppings and an end-of-a-big-night vibe. The mouse himself had bounded off along the worktop, scaled the fridge and gone into hiding behind the bin. By the time I checked – with nothing more than a measuring jug and a cavalier attitude at my disposal – he had gone.

Further investigations, all completed before 9am and in one’s mousestalker uniform of

dressing gown and bed hair, revealed approximately 67 more droppings and a very small party hat. We eventually got to work cleaning out cupboards, spraying surfaces, and apportioning blame.

Exhibit A. A box of Cheerios. For weeks C has been on at me to move this potential mouse magnet from the worktop. For weeks I have been on at C to close the cereal packet once the Cheerios are poured. It’s a tricky one but I’m clear. It’s C’s fault. This is compounded when we pour out two bowls of Cheerios and little wheat hoops cascade out of the box like breakfast confetti. Aha! This would not happen if the packet was properly sealed each time. We watch as our dog gets to work, hunting Cheerios from under the table. If only she applied the same commitment to mice.

On the way to work I call Tiny-but-Deadly, who is to mice what the Pied Piper is to rats. Except more sinister, and with white goods instead of a pipe. Seriously, she once brained a mouse with a washing machine. “I shake my toaster every day,” she informed me sagely. “You should be doing the same.” So on top of never backing up my computer or watering my window boxes, I can now add not shaking my toaster to my list of daily failures. At work I tell my colleague about the incident. She tells me that she once had a mouse in her toaster – and, upon shaking it, two live baby mice fell out.

Aha! So there you have it. Someone’s mouse story is always going to be worse than yours. Think of this column as a public service. Unless you like your mice toasted with butter and Marmite, I suggest you go home and upend your toaster.

• Click here to read more of Chitra’s columns, and follow her on Twitter @Chitgrrl