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It was him or me: the battle to catch Mr Jingles, our furry little London lout

The make-up of the city’s housing stock gives rise to a peculiar and infuriating problem

It has been eight months since the move to London and for two of them we’ve had a housemate. We call him Mr Jingles. It turns out London is an attractive city for his kind, due to the nature of its housing stock.

But Mr Jingles is not welcome in our house.

Fans of The Green Mile, the Stephen King supernatural novel made into a film starring Tom Hanks, already know who he is. In the story, Mr Jingles is a Louisiana death row mouse who achieves immortality. This summer, one or more of his brethren took up residence in my rented house. Our Mr Jingles, I resolved, was going straight back on death row.

I first spotted him one evening out of the corner of my eye, a faint shadow streaking through a gap and behind the kicker boards in the kitchen. No big deal. I had encountered a house mouse only once in Dublin. I trapped it at the first attempt and never saw another one again. But the London variety is a different beast.


I got some standard wooden snap traps from the cluttered household goods shop on the high street. “Old school,” smiled the shopkeeper, nodding as he admired my vintage choice, plucked from a bewildering array.

I baited the traps with scraps from the fridge and placed them near the kicker board, before leaving for a quick weekend trip. Upon my return, I expected to find my house guest, and any of his pals, caught in the traps. But there was nothing.

The kids finished school in Ireland and we were going on a weeklong break in Europe. I rebaited the traps and changed their positions. Upon our return, we realised Mr Jingles had been back. But he had outsmarted the traps and, by extension, me. The traps had been activated. But the crafty bugger had ducked out of the way each time.

Then, in an act of insouciance or perhaps full-blown mockery, he had then eaten the bait off each of them in safety. So began our war.

Mice and other rodents exist everywhere that humans do. But London appears to have a particular issue related to the make-up of its housing stock. House mice move around and between homes by scurrying through gaps in brickwork and across pipes, beneath floorboards and through attics and walls.

Swathes of London’s housing stock comprise old Victorian terraces. It is easy for mice to roam between them through gaps in the structures, as they seek access to kitchens for food. The area of southwest London where I live is almost all Victorian.

Other areas, such as Bethnal Green in the East End, are well known for their Georgian houses. These are often three or four stories high and, in the modern era, usually broken into multiple flats. That means multiple kitchens, which gives mice more options for food.

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that 56 per cent of London households live in house flats or maisonettes, which are flats with their own door entrances at street level. The city’s extensive stock of old period terraced houses riddled with gaps, along with the number of houses containing multiple flats and kitchens, means London is mouse heaven.

But I wanted Mr Jingles to go to hell. By now, he was popping his head up two or three evenings a week

I deployed the full range of weaponry. The house was due to be empty for several days at the start of August. I laid snap traps (baited this time with peanut butter, a mouse favourite), block poison bait and even a few glue traps, which are considered cruel but I was feeling desperate. Eventually, my wife convinced me to bin them.

Before leaving, I booby-trapped the house, sealing up some gaps to corral Mr Jingles and his friends into areas that I had baited. Nothing worked. He refused the bait and outwitted the traps, no matter where or how I laid them.

Mr Jingles was going nowhere. I gave up and called in a professional. There is a boom in pest control businesses in London due to the extent of the problem here. Sree, the charming Indian man who came to save me, listened patiently to my furious tale of why Mr Jingles was the world’s most cunning mouse. I sensed he thought I had gone mad.

“If you catch him,” I said, “I want him strung up as a warning to the others.” Sree laughed somewhat nervously at what he presumed was a joke.

He explained that many mice in London were immune to the rodenticides available in shops. So he laid a variety of trade-only baits and strategically positioned poison gels, which the mice scuttle through and then groom off each other’s fur.

Sree came back recently to check the by-now half-eaten bait stations. He reckons we should leave them a little longer, before finally sealing up all the holes. “Don’t worry. We will get your Mr Jingles,” he promised.

We haven’t seen a mouse for two weeks now. Could we be near the end of Mr Jingles? Please let it be so. It was him or me. But knowing how cunning he is, I’m sure he will have the last laugh.