So, life at Burlington-Taylor Towers has, of late, largely been of the non-theatrical variety. Obviously, la vie de Claire is one long musical comedy, but this act has been filled with copywriting, personal and family admin, decision-making and hand-rearing baby field mice.
You know. As you do.
I had an uncharacteristic bout of tidying up. So extraordinarily uncharacteristic that the kitchen cupboards were turned out. And it was while I was poking about in the faintly remembered world of bleach bottles and J-cloths that I came across the mouse nest. Such a cleverly constructed mouse nest in the middle of a pile of dusters, with chewed up yellow duster fluff for cosiness and torn up scraps of newspaper for structure. Mamma Mouse was there, but took one look at my ugly mug and turned tail, leaving a pulsing bundle of warm baby mouseness behind.
Four tiny, tiny mouselets. Stumpy-legged embryonic piglets with skin like suede. Part-developed ears completely flat to their heads. Eyes shut.
I shut the door, terrified that I’d scared the mother away from her babies.
It was worse than that.
The next morning, there was a very happy cat sitting next to a very deceased Mama Mouse on the kitchen floor.
I checked in the cupboard. The pulsing bundle of warm baby mouseness was not quite so pulsing and warm.
I was honour-bound to take over where I had unwittingly forced Mamma Mouse to leave off.
And that’s where the paintbrush came in.
Mouse nipples are very small. I don’t know this from personal experience; I’ve never knowingly seen a mouse nipple, let alone measured one, but I’m fairly confident that they really are quite astoundingly petite. So the question was, how could I replicate a mouse nipple sufficiently accurately to dupe the teeny meeces into suckling from it? The answer seemed to be to dash to the shop to pick up assorted milk products (soya milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, cat milk…), trim a fine paintbrush down to just a few hairs and hope for the best.
I put their nest in a small cardboard box, sat the nest box on a hot water bottle and got on with trying to keep the miniscule creatures alive.
They took to the paintbrush impressively swiftly. I had to find the best way to hold them (wrapped in three fingers, so head is poking over index finger, held there by first finger and thumb) but they did latch on and suck, after a fashion. Warmed cat milk went down best, though the droplets they were consuming were really little more than molecules. They must have been starving, having had 18 hours or so (which, if they were 5 days old when I found them – as my later internet research indicated they were – would be 15% of their lives) with nothing to eat, so an iota of anything must have been so welcome, even if it was coming from something that neither smelt nor felt like Mamma Mouse.
A few days later, having gained confidence in my brush technique, I thought of taking some snapshots:
And that’s how Great Mouse Adventure began…