Friday, 17 October 2014

Of Mice and Men

Mice have featured more than usual in our lives this week. Mice in the wrong place, that is: house mice (Mus musculus) in one of the cupboards in the kitchen in which we keep food to be specific. I have a very soft spot for mice but I am not entirely sure they would have been very welcome even if they had been field or wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus to remove any confusion) which I find much more attractive.

Years ago, when we lived about a thousand foot above sea level on the cliffs to the south of Boscastle (on the North Cornish coast) we were having a new five bar gate put in. The holes for the posts had been dug by a chap from the village – the usual three foot deep and about six inches in diameter but he did this by hand using only a crowbar and a spade with a very narrow blade shaped a bit like a hand trowel. Nowadays the usual tool is a power auger on the back of a tractor.

These holes were covered with bits of slate held down with stones to keep small animals out but the next morning we found two dead dormice in the bottom of one of them. The problem with these little creatures is that they have to eat a great deal to keep going as the smaller you are the more body heat you lose and so the more calories you have to take on board to keep going. It is probable that these two died of hypothermia.

Anyway, since I hate killing things unless there is a very good reason, I use live traps and then let the little critters go some place away from houses.

This is the live trap I use. There were two mice in it and I am about to let them out on our way from Dartington to Dartmouth where Marcia was to sign books in the community bookshop (more on this below). Also below is a short video I took this morning showing the one we caught last night eventually trotting odff into the blue yonder.

Just before we left I received an email from Naomi Bates who lives in Australia. Attached to that was this picture of a lizard - a blue-tongued lizard or Tiliqua scincoides scincoides to be precise. 

Then, to our great surprise, as we walked from the car park in Dartmouth there, on the path, was a slow worm, Anguis fragilis, which is also a lizard even though it looks like a snake. We have one in the garden at Dartington but I don't see it very often and have never been able to take a photograph.

Years ago - and many more than I care to think about, we lived quite near to Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A A Milne and the muse for the books that featured Pooh, Piglest and the other inhabitants of the forest. At that time he owned the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth. In due course he sold the shop to Rowland Abram and one of his assistants was Andrea Saunders. 

Then, as happens, the bookshop closed down and Dartmouth became yet another town in which there was no place to go and browse the shelves and chat to the staff about books.

Andrea Saunders with Marcia in the Dartmouth Community Bookshop'
Not for long. It was decided that the answer was to create a bookshop that was run by the community on a not-for-profit basis and that the right person to run it was none other than Andrea with over twenty-five years of experience of the reading habits of locals and tourists alike. I am delighted to say that this project is a great success - in part due to the fact that there are so many people willing to work there on a voluntary basis. What is especially encouraging is that, while other bookshops are closing, this one is planning to expand into a small courtyard at the rear of the shop.

This is a wonderful model - and you can read all about it on their website - and I do hope that other communities take note and see whether or not they can create something similar.

Obviously this chap has a nautical owner. Two leads: a red one to attach him to port (as above) and a green one to starboard.