Now is the Winter of our Content

Does anyone have an idea for how, without using lethal force, I can dissuade mice from camping in my piano? (See Posts passim, e.g. July).

Yes, they’ve moved back in again, occupying several keys around Middle C. It’s the third time since I first carried out the operations previously described and, frankly, it’s getting to be a chore, dismantling my piano every month and sucking out the nesty stuff and shit. Especially as I don’t even play it.

Some others who have moved back in again recently are the students.

The town where I live has a university of international standing, which the new Pro Vice-Chancellor is seemingly doing her best to level by dint of chucking all the library books in a skip and filling the space instead with beanbags.

With a settled population of around twelve thousand, in August the town swells mightily with holidaymakers heading for the beach, and the roads are choked with caravans. This is as nothing, however, compared with September, when the population doubles with the arrival, in the same week, of twelve thousand students, all heading for the pub.

Friday 20th, last Friday, was studentsallmovebackinagain day. (Shall we hail it ‘Stripy Friday? Objections on a postcard, please.) Having completed his gap year, my son is now one of them, a ‘fresher’. We drove his stuff the half-mile up the road and, with the help of some improbably nice kids in yellow sweatshirts labelled ‘hero’, carted his boxes upstairs to the drab little room smelling of degree despair, with its salutary view of the tax office across the car park, where he will spend the next nine months.

Let’s hope he doesn’t waste them.

That night, the internet slowed to barely a crawl, as twelve thousand students went on-line, all hoping to lose their virginity on the same night.

As a point both of principle and logistics, my TV set isn’t connected to an aerial. We lived on the farm without TV for ten years while we brought the kids up free from malign influences and Simon Cowell. I still congratulate myself as being a non-viewer of television, but, thanks to the miracle of this tiny silver laptop, and the boredom that comes with enforced retirement, I can plug-in to a big TFT screen and downstream improving material on the i-Player: old David Attenborough documentaries, recycling CGI sequences of axolotls taking to the land; Newsnight, with Jeremy Paxolotl; cheesy episodes of Inspector Montalbano (to improve my Italian, you understand), with lashings of catch-up on the side.

All summer I have had no problem doing this; last night, however, my crepuscular attendance on the television industry came to a crashing halt. I spent several hours glugging from a winebox while staring morosely at the Refresh whizzer going around like a washing machine on medium spin, until at length the caption came up: ‘This content doesn’t seem to be working’…..Oh, is that why there was nothing much happening on the screen? I was wondering, it looked like a normal night on BBC-3.

Frankly, it would be more entertaining watching the tax office. So with a heave and a sigh, I set off for the kitchen to investigate who has moved in under the keys around Middle C. I hope it’s mice, and not more students.