If you remember there’s a cute little kids song entitled A Windmill in Old Amsterdam which goes like this:
I saw a mouse!
There on the stair!
Where on the stair?
A little mouse with clogs on
Well I declare!
Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair
I am up early as usual. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours a night in weeks. Today the alarm call is A shouting from her bedroom that she’s scared. It’s 6.15 am. This is becoming a daily occurence and also wakes up her brother so it’s a perfect start to a dark winter weekend. I’ve given up on decent parenting decisions at this hour of the morning so I’m letting them watch Charlie and Lola while shoveling in the rice crispies and I’m nodding off with my nose dipped in a cold cup of tea. I keep hearing a sort of rustling noise coming from the corner of the room. I ignore it for a very long time and just keep my eyes shut. It’s probably one of the various drawings and bits of paper falling off the wall.
We’re down on the floor now killing time doing puzzles until the day begins for the rest of the world. Eventually I decide I better go and investigate. In the corner I remove a hobby-horse and a toy pram to reveal a bag with books in it. Under the bag I find some mouse droppings and something wet, which from it’s smell must be wee. A small plastic dinosaur and some magnetic letters are lying in the pool of wee. I consider throwing them out and then chuck them in the sink with some detergent. I don’t know what specific kind of detergent it is, just the nearest thing I find in a yellow bottle. I then use the same stuff on a load of kitchen paper and wipe the floor. Weird. There also seems to be some red blodges on the floor. Maybe the cat has killed a mouse and it’s wet itself in fright?
Ok, back to the puzzles, but I can still hear something. I pull A’s toy oven away from the wall but there’s just some pen lids and a cherry tomato under there. Then I pull a cupboard from the wall and a tiny grey streak zooms between my legs and out the living room door.
“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH” I am shrieking.
“CALL DADDY!!!! I NEED HIS HELP!”
“DAAAAAAAAADDY” calls A up the stairs.
He comes in half asleep looking bewildered “What? What is it? What’s happening in here?”
“A MOUSE” I shout
“God, do you need to be so melodramatic! I thought someone had been murdered!” says P
“Sorry, it’s just a mouse, I didn’t mean to scare you” I’m saying to A who looks worried.
“It’s just because it ran so fast under my feet, it made me jump.”
“Ok, can we all just calm down in here” says P
P closes the door to the living room and chases the mouse around the hallway with a pink bucket until it seeks refuge in the toilet.
“Can you get me a box?.. quick” he asks
I root through the recycling and find a bent bit of cardboard that once was a box. P has barricaded the toilet doorway with some magazines and an air freshener.
He is poised at the door with the bucket. It looks like he has come up with a mouse trapping system, so I leave him to it.
“Pixie” A runs at the cat and closes the door. “I don’t want her to get the mouse.”
I babble on about nature and hunting and predators for a while.
A climbs up on the coffee table.
“I’m a hunter” she’s saying “I’m not scared of anything”
Outside the door I can hear some movement and P calls me to open the front door.
“I’ve got it” he says
He carries the pink bucket and the cardboard outside to the pavement. He opens the bucket.
“What? There’s nothing in here! I really thought I had it.”
I find the mouse burrowing down next to the drain pipe in the toilet. I can see it’s furry back writhing about trying to wriggle under the linoleum.
We put the cardboard barricade back in place and watch, but there’s no way to get at it now.
“Forget it, I’m going to have a lie down” I say
An hour later I come back downstairs. P is in the living room. Kids are still in their pyjamas having a great time making whizz, boink, klaxon comedy noises on daddy’s computerised piano. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the mouse invader.
After a lie down and a renewed sense of purpose I’m on task, ready for the hunt. The mouse is still there in the toilet. There’s a lot of tiny black pellets on the floor. It’s nasty long tail is flipping about from the hole under the drain pipe.
I pick up the pink bucket and freeze.
He pokes his nose out.
I lose sight of him for a second, then suddenly he’s there under the radiator.
I put the bucket down.
I poke at him with an empty toilet roll tube.
He scuttles into the bucket to hide.
I grab the cardboard and try to place it over the opening on the bucket, but he darts out before I make it and the barrier is down so he runs out the doorway of the toilet and towards the coats.
“AAAAHHH! NO!” I shout and I’m clenching my fists and looking around for him everywhere.
“NO!!!!!!! I’ve messed up the system!”
P is at the living room door. “What’s wrong? what’s wrong?” he’s asking.
But I’m beyond help.
“I HAVE TO GET THIS MOUSE!” I’m shouting “I CAN’T FIND HIM!”
I’ve croached down on the floor and I’m starting to cry. I throw a walking boot in the direction of the shoe rack. The mouse runs between the shoes. He’s under a welly. I close the sliding door in the porch and open the front door. I pull the shoe rack away from the wall and find a mass of cobwebs. The mouse isn’t there! He’s already shot across to the other side, under the kids coats. I’m getting hysterical, groaning and flapping at him with the cardboard trying to usher him out the front door.
P opens the living room door and looks at me.
“Can you just be normal?”
“NO!” I snap back
The mouse runs back the other way under my legs and squeezes himself through a 2cm gap in the sliding door and back into the house.
“AAAAAHHHHHHH……He’s on the stairs! Help! He’s going upstairs!!!!!!”
I run at the staircase with the pink bucket and somehow I manage to interrupt one of his mouse hops. I fling the bucket down onto his head.
He runs in the other direction, jumps over the 2 potties and the toilet brush and he’s back in the porch between the walking boot and the umbrellas. I lunge at him with the bucket in one hand and the cardboard in the other and suddenly I seem to have scooped him up and he’s made a dash for it out the open front door. I see him running over the flower bed and through a gap in the wall.
I stand there holding the cardboard like a shield for a moment and then slam the door shut.
When I go back into the living room I am triumphant, but I feel a bit strange.
“I got him out!” I announce and I’m kind of laughing with a weird squeaky wheezing noise.
The cat is asleep on a chair.
“Well done” says P.
“Are you Ok? It sounded like you were having a nervous breakdown.”
Why do certain men have this urge to take up precious and valuable time with pointlessness? As I have mentioned to P several times of late I consider hobbies a luxury that I don’t expect to have time for until I’m at least 65. There will be plenty of time for leisure activities when we’re retired and the kids have left home. I’ll join a choir, grow potatoes, make wonky pottery mugs with the best of them, but for now, there are bums to be washed, sandwiches to be made, washing up to be done, tax returns, greasy fingers to wipe, sweetcorn to be swept from the floor etc etc. The list goes on…. By the way these domestic chores are not my idea of a pastime, if there are any men reading this I would like to point out that we women have not invented the concept of laundry, it is just there spoiling our fun too.
As far as having hobbies goes, P doesn’t agree. He has a new one to add to his list.
He is building himself the ultimate fan-daby-dozy racing bike. Apparently it has a rare Japanese frame that someone once won the ‘Tour de France’ using in about 1980….I have definitely got these facts wrong, but I am not a geek so I don’t care.
It is not enough for P that he already has a racing bike in the garden, plus a folding bike, a mountain bike, a city bike and a bakfiets (container bike). This might sound like an affluent collection of transport but showing them off would make a laughable episode of ‘cribs’. They are an assortment of rust and various states of disrepair, so they make up a scene fairly typical in a dutch family’s front garden. And handy for visitors of course.
His new hobby is like the super-duper optimum hobby since it combines other hobbies into one streamlined obsession. One is racing of course, another is spending an inordinate amount of time searching marktplaats (the dutch ebay) for parts, another is general tinkering and the final hobby is photography. Flicking through his camera recently wanting to see his snaps of the kids I found one picture of the chain rings laid out next to the crank set (yes I now know what it’s called) and several shots of the frame without wheels taken from different angles. It’s reminds me of a lover who can’t stop snapping pictures of their sweetheart.
Whether it will ever satisfy him I have no idea, I’m sure that once the bike is finished, he’ll use it of course but the thrill of the challenge will fade and be replaced by the next obsession. No doubt, the flush of new love will lose some of it’s luster, those photos won’t be saved but discarded as the next project begins. I know from experience that there will be a next project.
Meanwhile the laundry. Today I was upstairs with little S just after his nap. We’ve just been on holiday and the suitcases are lying around the hallway not being dealt with so I thought I better get on with it. There are also huge piles of unsorted clothes all wedged in the doorway of our bedroom so I start chucking them vaguely in the direction of the laundry basket. S keeps pointing up to the attic and saying “dada”.
“No dada’s not up there” I say
“Dada” he says again and starts trying to climb the stairs.
“OK I’ll show you” I say and pick him up under the arms and go up.
When I get up there I find the racing bike suspended from the middle of the ceiling, like a sacred centrepiece. The metal parts are gleaming silver and there are several scary looking cleaning products and blackened toothbrushes on the floor.
Apart from that the attic is clear, it has exposed bare wooden walls and no floorboards. P has been up there a fair bit recently. ‘Renovating’. Basically for the last year we’ve been trying to get around to getting it finished and habitable so that it can be our new bedroom.
I go back down the stairs and continue sorting through the heaps of clothing but S keeps on pointing and I have to show him the bike several more times before he’s satisfied.
This evening after dinner I see P is outside talking to the neighbour over the fence. Initially he’s thanking him for watering the plants while we were away and politely listening to him talk about his new job. The conversation quickly moves along and his pet subject comes up, his bike. The neighbour turns out to be a racebike enthusiast as well. P is showing him pictures on his phone. They’re out there a long time and P comes in clutching some brake cables that the neighbour had left over in his shed.
“That’s the chattiest he’s ever been” he says smiling.