Country diary: What’s up, mouse? There’s much here looking to kill you

·2 min read

What’s up, mouse? Your eyes are half-closed as though you have just emerged from your hole in the wall and are squinting into bright spring sunshine for the first time, or maybe the last. You look a bit shaky to be out in daylight, perhaps ill or old.

Behind you is a labyrinth through the stone wall, dark tunnels and chambers that protect you during the day until your night-time foraging. There are so many out here looking to kill you, day or night. You are, or were once, too quick to get caught, too knowledgable of the secret ways to be detected. You will never know that the little dribbles of urine you leave as scent-lines and messages for other mice light up like neon to birds such as kestrels and owls that see infrared.

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You stand on the stone ledge, exposed and vulnerable. Maybe you’re so visible because you’re past caring. Have you had enough of hiding from the stink of danger in the shadows of your own fear? Instead, you appear – field mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus, fur, tail, ears, nose, eyes half looking at the forget-me-nots, their vivid blueness, sky-bright.

The swifts are back in Wenlock, screaming over rooftops, dreaming about the sky, but few in number. Orange-tip butterflies dance under your hazels. The big bumblebees rattle about the wall holes, flies warm up on the stones. Quarried from a nearby hill, but too far for you to venture, these stones were laid centuries ago, and mice have lived in them for countless generations. Your wall is the ruined boundary of a garden, a field, a lost cottage, a paddock; it remains as an accident of your history and mine that hasn’t yet been bulldozed and built over.

In woods above the quarry, trees have been stripped of bark and big nails hammered into them. There are strange things afoot, mouse, disquieting things. Something in the messed-up seasons and the caustic touch of this sunlight waits for all of us, out of sight. We both look out at this world, with its forget-me-nots and singing blackbirds. It is so beautiful and ominous, you in particular.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

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