In which I am behind the times, by several minutes...

To be printed 13/05/10 (by which time this will be woefully out of date).

Oh dear. The whole country is in a shambles, and we have a mouse in our kitchen. Whether these two facts are related is as yet unconfirmed, but sources report that a little-read footnote in the Conservative manifesto included a scheme re-homing vermin in the houses of empoverished graduates. Just underneath the cuts in arts funding.

The annoying thing isn’t the mouse as such, but the fact that my mother was right. About a fortnight ago we had a conversation that went like this: Me – “We’re so lucky we don’t have mice. I’ve lived in that house two and a half years, and we’ve never even seen one.” Mother Superior – “Don’t be silly, you must have mice. All London houses have mice.” Me – “But we just don’t. Maybe it’s because we’re two floors up. Maybe it’s like nits, and they prefer clean houses. Maybe we have more than our fair quota of mould, and this is to address the balance. Whatever the reason, we are a mouse-free house.” Mother Superior – “Nah, you have mice. You just don’t know it yet.”

But ho, we know it now. So far we’re resolutely talking about mousey in the singular, because acknowledging that there might be mousey friends in the picture is more than my nerves can handle. Normally a fearless, gung-ho, intrepid female explorer type, I’ve suddenly become the unseen dame from Tom and Jerry, scurrying around in my furry slippers and shrieking at sudden noises. On being told about the mousey sighting by my flatmates (the way parents break the news about divorce – this isn’t your fault, there’s no need to be scared, we love you etc), I very nearly had to sleep the night standing on a chair in the kitchen.

My mum has been proved righter still by everyone else I’ve mentioned it to having gone, “Mice? Yeah, we’ve got loads. They’re called Dave, Dee, Dozy, Mick and Madonna and we feed them on sugar puffs” as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. And perhaps it is a rite of passage in London living, like rocketing council tax and pollution turning your snot black. But that hasn’t stopped me entering rooms like a police negotiator, announcing, “I am HERE, in my KITCHEN, just reaching for a CUP-A-SOUP, no need to make any sudden movements…”.

Meanwhile, we’re all twitchy and tiptoeing as we wait to find out what’s going to happen to the government (I’m writing this on Sunday, so forgive me if by publication it’s all been resolved into a nice job share, with Dave, Nick and Gord taking two days each and Lorraine Kelly filling in on Sundays). Scary though the prospects at the end of it might be, the political limbo bit is actually a tiny bit exciting. Go on, admit it. It’s like the bit between Christmas and New Year where nobody really knows what they’re meant to be doing. Do all the laws still stand? Are we allowed to do anything we couldn’t before, like drive on the other side of the road or keep ostriches on our allotments? Has anybody looked into it?

Sooner or later though, for better or worse or Tory, I guess we’ll have to settle on one of them to rule the country. Because once the turkey’s all used up, Christmas stops being fun; driving on the other side of the road would cause more death than the novelty is probably worth; and ostriches just taste like cows anyway. Besides, we need somebody to name the mouse after.