Since I last wrote, there have been all sorts of excitements and fun things - the highlight of course being the multi-part visit of Sandra, Sam, and Steven, which kept me on my toes with the ever-changing configuration of guests and sleeping and parking and train-riding arrangements :-) Oh, and which was also awesome, awesome fun though it did make me a bit wistful...Repeated trips to NYC firmly cemented my love for the city (you should have seen me bask in happines on top of the Rockefeller Center) and I am beginning to worry I will have withdrawal symptoms next year.
I also managed to fit in a quick trip to the Lake District with Nick, which was lovely - very relaxing and pretty and mostly cooperative weather and a very large number of small lambs which I never ceased to find adorable and photo-worthy (much to everyone's annoyment, I suspect) . But they are just too cute, how can you resist?!
I managed to successfully avoid any ash clouds; actually one of the highlights of the trip was the fact that I also avoided flying in or out of Heathrow, using Bristol and Manchester instead. I cannot express just how much nicer it is to use regional airports - being the only transatlantic flight coming in, everything being close together, hardly a queue at passport control, short waits for the luggage, quick ride home (well, ok, the drive from Ambleside to Manchester wasn't exactly short, but that's beside the point). I think Heathrow lost its sheen with me the Christmas before last when I had an eight hour layover (by choice) and it's never quite regained it. Of course, soon the issue of translatlantic flights will become less pressing, but in the meantime I am more than happy to give regional airports good press.
Except, of course, that you end up on much smaller planes - both times it was, I think, a 757, which has just two sets of three seats and a very, very narrow aisle in between - and there is something that just feels wrong about a plane that small doing transatlantic flying. And people feel they can take much longer asking you questions at check in/security - as well as being body scanned (no, you can't see what you look like, and neither can the staff actually standing next to the screen - apparently it's on a screen in some other control room. Bah.), the standard "did you pack these bags yourself did anyone give you anything" line became a third degree on the life story of the suitcase and its recent holiday, and was accompanied by the request to see a higher-than-average number of documents.
And then...we come to the even that the post title refers to, which occurred on my return: I was greeted by the discovery that a mouse (or more than one) had been partying in my kitchen in my absence, making its presence known, shall we say, in far too many places. To say that I freaked out is putting it mildly (and certainly the jet lag didn't help). I love my kitchen, and the idea that a mouse had invaded it with its germiness was just too offensive. Also, ever the good daugther of my phobic father, I quickly familiarised myself with all the possible diseases I could acquire from said mouse and how long I had before I actually died from one of them.
After some time of hand-wringing and cursing the murine gods, I realised that if I didn't do something about it, noone did (let us draw a veil over the helpful man at the hardware store who asked why I didn't just let my husband deal with it - we are in the 21st century after all) and went into disinfection overdrive, using bleach so liberally that I could have probably killed myself with inhalations before the mouse diseases got me. And then did it all over again, just to make sure.
I also followed various people's advice and stopped all the obvious holes I could see (don't even get me started on the state of this apartment, its age, woodiness, and general openness to the threats of the outdoors) and acquired several snap traps, having opted for those over poison after reading all the horror stories of people setting up poison baits and finding mouse cadavers in unlikely places or, worse, unreachable ones so they just made themselves known from their smell. The ones I got are shaped like little tunnels, the idea being that when the mouse is caught (and killed), you don't really have to see it, which I am all in favour of.
Anyway, I was unlucky the first night (cue another round of disinfection the next day), but on Saturday morning (at 6 am, thanks to a combination of jet lag and insomnia caused by obsessing over the mouse's plans) I was greeted by a lifeless tail poking out of one of the traps...my victory dance was curtailed by the realisation that I had to now pick the damn thing up and dispose of it and sure the spring was pretty tight but what if it got loose while I retrieved it and a dead semi squished mouse fell out? Even armed with two layers of gloves, plastic bags, and my trusty Lysol spray, the first time I approached it I felt physically sick and had to walk out of the kitchen - but I did manage it in the end (go me! Take that, Mr Hardware Store Man) and, interestingly, since then there have been no more visits. So maybe this was a solitary mouse who had moved in - or maybe he has a family who will wreak their revenge once their period of mourning is over - I remain vigilant (far too much - I now jump at every noise in the house and inspect every inch of the kitchen compulsively) and the traps remain in their place still.
Interestingly, I have discovered that people here mainly seem to view mice as an inevitable event, and shrugged off my freaking out with sensible advice and a complete lack of alarm (including my landlady, who said she has them "all the time", and even my NYC cousins). I am still not sure what to make of it, though I was grateful to have level-headed people around me in the time of crisis.
As for me...well, I did always say that I viewed this time in the US also a chance to test myself and see what I am capable of on my own - I didn't quite expect it to include battles with mice and centipedes (uuuuuugh the centipede! possibly less worse than the mouse only because it doesn't visibly shit, and it wasn't in my kitchen) and could have done without those particular life lessons, but I guess it's always good to find hidden strengths inside oneself? [this last part of the sentence to be read with valley-girl-rising intonation]