Express & Star

Toby Neal: Hot and cross at my unwelcome nibblers

The hot cross bun went into the oven. The hot cross bun came out of the oven, hot. The hot cross bun was about to be buttered.


And then I saw that somebody had taken a bite out of my hot cross bun before me.

So this was it. Man v Mouse: The Sequel.

It has been a long-running battle in the kitchen, which I thought I had decisively won a few weeks ago with a score of 3-0.

There have been so many twists and turns that Hollywood will probably be seeking to buy the rights to the story.

It was earlier this year that I noticed definite signs of a mouse in the house. The visitor had already been leaving clues, with teeth marks overnight on food left on the kitchen countertops, as I have now learned to call them after watching the property brothers on one of those home makeover shows on an obscure channel.

Then one night I went in to the kitchen and surprised our guest, who scampered across the countertop and disappeared somewhere in the vicinity of the washing machine.

Now I am quite relaxed about this sort of thing but there is that tired and sexist stereotype which has it that if a woman sees a mouse she will scream and jump on the table. Let me nail that lie at once. My wife screams, but does not actually jump on a table.

Anyway, I thought it best to keep quiet about it, but looking on the internet there was wisdom that you never have a mouse in the house. It's always mice. I decided to invest in a mouse trap, a humane sort. Peanut butter works well, it said, but having none of that in the house I tried unsalted peanuts.

The first deployment yielded no results. But the next three deployments all scored. I was actually up late one night and heard the trap being triggered. It seems mice like unsalted peanuts as well.

There is a slight problem with humane traps as if they are to be truly humane you don't want your mouse trapped inside too long because then they'll get stressed, so you're supposed to check them every so often in the night, which I did.

The other problem with catching living mice is that if you simply put them outside the kitchen door they'll simply come back in again when you're not looking. In fact it is said they will return to your house unless you release them some distance away.

This meant that I had to wander into our local woodland in my dressing gown in the dead of night to find a suitably distant location to release them. I chose a spot behind some nice houses where mousey would be able to enjoy a better standard of living than at our place.

After scoring that hat-trick, it was in my mind Mission Accomplished. And so it seemed, until that hot cross bun incident.

There has been a development since. We've taken the nuclear option and stripped out the kitchen, although admittedly not because of the mouse.

In a quiet moment, when my wife couldn't hear, I sidled up to Roger, who is doing the work for us, and asked him a question.

"When you removed all the cabinets you didn't by any chance come across a mouse did you?"

"No," replied Roger, "no droppings, nothing."

We shall see. But I have a fear that mousey is just lying low until the work's done.


The Ukraine crisis has brought out the inner statesman in Boris Johnson.

There was all that stuff that Britain would become a minor player on the world stage, but according to the Kremlin he is the most anti-Russian of all world leaders – although at least Biden appears to be awake this time, unlike in Afghanistan.

As far as I know they haven't given Boris a nickname, as they did memorably for Mrs Thatcher, the Iron Lady. My memory is that initially they called her the Iron Maiden, which is in any event probably the pejorative sense they had in mind (it's an instrument of torture).

I'd ask for readers to suggest a nickname for Boris, but somehow I don't think it's a good idea.

In the Ukraine its soldiers are reported to say "God Save The Queen" when they fire off the British-supplied weaponry.

Boris has broadcast direct to the Russians telling them that people deserve the truth from their leaders.

You see? Boris is a changed man.