Archive for October, 2010

Some lessons in brief and a run in with a mouse

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

After a slight hiatus, it’s time to resume blogging – apologies! Today’s entry is a mixed bag, a bit like London itself, really. Without further ado, let’s begin.

Three Mini Lessons

London has been an interesting place over the past month. We’ve had the Sky Ride, a city-wide cycling fest with over 80,000 riders enjoying the capital’s most famous sights and streets, all with the comfort of knowing road traffic was banned for the duration. I headed down with Maddy and although we didn’t catch sight of Boris Johnson or Kelly Brook (who were leading the event), it was pretty awesome being part of London’s cycling community (a community bigger than the population of other cities). In this mini-lesson, I can only implore you to literally get on yer bike. Being part of stuff like this is great fun and experiencing the city above ground, in the open air, is the only way to really see it. Cramming yourself into sweaty tube carriages and crowded buses is an ugly alternative – get cycling.

We also had the Thames Festival a week later. This was a weekend-long party lining the banks of the river, with hundreds of world food stalls, little craft shops, performers, dancers, etc. The highlight for us was the closed-off Southwark Bridge with a ‘feast’ laid out – tables lined the entire bridge and people were wandering around offering packets of seeds for your garden, free fruit originally destined for landfill sites, and bales of hay scattered around. The atmosphere was amazing and it was thrilling to feel the sense of culture and creativity going on. Mini-lesson here: ignore the haters who tell you London is full of grumpy people and mean, nasty locals.

One thing that did bring out the grumps was the recent tube strikes, though. These are a fairly irregular occurrence but are enough to prompt crisis-laden headlines in the press suggesting the capital will “grind to a halt” without the public transport. The first one a few weeks back was worse than the more recent one just yesterday, which only managed to shut down around 60% of the lines. The previous one forced many Londoners to work out new routes to work, so pavements were packed with reluctant walkers and bike lanes with nervous new cyclists. Traffic was gridlocked which made weaving in and out of cars on my bike a little more challenging, but overall it simply served to reiterate my first lesson once more: get on yer bike.

Lessons with Rodents

It was with mild horror a week ago that I heard the sound of Maddy, my girlfriend, screaming “ohmygod ohmygod OHMYGOD” from the kitchen. I ran inside, half expecting to find her with my surprisingly-sharp cleaver knife wedged into her wrist. “I JUST SAW A MOUSE!” she shrieked, pointing towards the microwave in the corner of the kitchen. I immediately closed the kitchen door and approached the corner gingerly, arming myself with a plastic container to trap the unwanted rodent in.

After poking around in the corner it became apparent the mouse wasn’t there. “Are you sure you saw a mouse?” I asked Maddy for the fifth time, pacing the room. I ended up on my hands and knees, exploring a gap in the boards under the kitchen cupboards with my bike light for illumination. None the wiser, I decided to construct a humane trap for our unwanted visitor.

The trap I came up with, dubbed “The Greasy Bowl”, was a thing of genius. Grab a large glass kitchen bowl. Grease the sides with butter, oil, or anything suitably slippery. Place a tasty morsel of food inside the bowl (we went with ham). Place the bowl somewhere easily-accessible (kitchen floor for us) and place a strategically-positioned cardboard ramp on the floor leading up the bowl. The result? Mouse walks up the ramp to eat the tasty meat; falls inside the bowl; eats the meat; belatedly discovers it is unable to climb out of the concave, slippery bowl. Problem solved!

I went to bed giddy like a child, straining my ears for the inevitable greasy squeak I soon expected from the kitchen. I woke up like a kid at Christmas, running into the kitchen to unwrap my present: a mouse in a greased bowl. Sadly, the little creature had outwitted me: the bowl was rodentless. I took some consolation from the fact that the ham was still there – either the trap was too insultingly simple for even a mouse and he chose not to risk it, or the mouse was scared away by Maddy’s screams (her theory), never to return.

Either way, the lesson here is obvious: keep an eye on bits of food that didn’t quite make it into the bin (we’ve all thought “screw it, I’ll pick it up later”) or crumbs and packaging left lying around. These things add up and soon you can end up with a serious vermin problem. Luckily for us, we’ve seen no more signs of our whiskered nemesis, but it may only be a matter of time before he and I are forced to battle intellectually once more in a very literal game of cat and mouse. You have been warned.