Working With The Animal Totems
Lord Walt is elusive and extremely fast.
He is camera shy but doesn't mind popping into a room to say hello to the dog and can often be seen shooting past me as I walk from one room of the house to another.
His Lordship was already resident in my home when I moved in but kept his presence secret.
With hindsight, I should've known that he lived in my cottage but, at the time, I hadn't a clue.
It was only when I saw scattered birdseed in a kitchen cupboard that I realised he was there.
You see, Walt isn't timid - except when it comes to having his photograph taken. And he believes in pay-back.
It was only after I moved the birdseed from the cupboard that my inflatable temporary bed began to deflate itself every night.
Then it deflated itself even faster as I blocked up Walt's little entrances to the cupboards.
By the time I'd blocked up what I believed to be the last mouse-sized hole at the space for the washing machine, my bed was going down faster than the Titanic every night.
And as I blocked yet another mouse-sized entrance next to the cooker with a piece of signboard, Walt fought me by pushing the signboard away. I pushed it back. He pushed it away.
Of course, I couldn't see him but that damn signboard just kept on moving back each time I pushed it into place.
After six or seven shoves backwards and forwards, Walt gave up. I won.
At least I thought I'd won till my bed exploded later that night.
It was uninflatable. A foot long raggedy edge had been nibbled right across the top of it and any air I pumped in just came straight back out again.
So I slept on duvets on the floor till my own bed arrived out of storage.
At least I didn't have to get up every hour after reading a few pages of a book just to reinflate the mattress.
But Walt then began to play chase with the dog.
So I got rudely awakened around 4 in the morning to find a glass dish shattered on the floor from a little table and the dog running around the room, coming to an abrupt halt over my head as Walt ran behind my head somewhere.
I felt quite flattered that a little mouse would trust me enough to run and hide so close.
His getaway exit was a space between the skirting boards where my inflatable mattress had been.
I boarded the space up with tape.
Later that day I stepped in a boggy part of the bracken above the forest and my foot got wet.
Walt had taken a little slice out of my wellies.
I have spent hours crawling round the skirting boards, stopping up the mouse-sized gaps.
Walt has put a similar amount of effort into getting revenge.
My wellies are useless. My new walking boots have had the heels nibbled. He drags nibbled bits of dog biscuit around the cupboards he still gets access to. He has made friends with the dog who always just wagged his tail at the sight of Walt anyway.
Given that my cottage is 300 years old, I'm sure there are 300 or more mouse-sized doorways around it and I'm equally sure that I'll be spending a fair bit of my time blocking these up as I find them.
I tried giving Walt one kitchen cupboard. But he wanted to build an empire and took over all the bottom cupboards.
He nibble one of the dog's Boneos and left it on a plate. I wondered at the time if I should've given him a serviette!
He often sleeps in the Brillo pad container in the cupboard under the sink.
He has mad moments with the dog when they chase one another through the house.
I'm sure Walt has lived here longer than I have and his ancestors probably go way, way back. So I call him Lord Walt although I'm sure there is probably a Lady Walt and a baby Walt or two or three or four and an auntie and uncle Walt and great grandmother and great, great, great grandfather Walt running around too.
I accept this is his home too although I have to curtain his activities somewhat for health reasons.
I have never lived with a mouse before. I had no idea they were so clever. But Walt is ingenious and there is no doubting that he exacts pay back whenever I make a move to thwart his freedom to roam around my home.
The strange thing about Walt is that I wonder if I was pre-warned about him.
After I had been to view the cottage, I stopped at services on my 400-mile journey back to my previous home and a little mouse sat up just inches away from my foot. I was entranced.
I was so entranced that I went back into the service cafe and bought a biscuit so I could give it some crumbs.
That little mouse made me feel quite special and I knew that to be attended by a tiny little mouse while sitting out drinking a coffee at motorway services was extremely unusual.
I wondered then what the message was - if there was one.
Looking back I now wonder - was it Lord Walt telling me I'd just been to see my new home and saying welcome?