Town mouse, country mouse

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

We are in Aberdeenshire, slowly accumulating a small mountain of beech-nut cases, conkers, feathers and twigs.

Getting dizzy on all this country air, I take the kids into town; an outing to Codona’s. Think Brighton pier without the pier, about 10 degrees colder. Dazzled by the bright lights, I fall for a nicely made Papa Smurf soft toy, find myself shoving pound coin after pound coin into a rip-off arcade game. It’s the kind with a grabber arm programmed to drop the prize before it reaches the punter. After losing twice what it would have cost to buy Papa Smurf in a shop, I walk away empty handed. Considering my track record of knowing when to say no, it’s a victory of sorts.

Milo gives the 2p falls machine a go, quickly establishes that they are more fun than the money box for donations at the Barbican. Is this even legal? Within minutes he’s playing two machines at once. Winning on both.

Uneasy at the glazed look in his eye, the thought of him graduating to one-armed-bandits before his third birthday, and having no room in the coin compartment of my purse for any more coppers, I call it a day. Milo cries. Real tears.

Back at base, restored to our cocoon of still-green-leaved trees, Milo gets his Fisher Price garage out. A mouse appears from inside it, runs straight past him. All thoughts of hypnotic arcade lighting and Fireman Sam rides are forgotten. The mouse squeezes into the cab of Milo’s orange digger. Its long tail hangs out, twitches.

Milo laughs, jumps up and down.

I yell for my parents: “MOUSE!”

That’s the thing about being in the country. You never know where the next shot of adrenaline is going to come from.