This blog comes to you from a sofa in Essex, from a non-hungover human, who’s petting a miniature dachshund. It’s the first post since January of this year, and it’s about the tiny mice you see in the tunnels of London’s Underground stations.
No matter how bad the day has been, when I see the mice darting between the tracks and the platform, I feel better. It’s odd how something so small, brings me so much comfort. It’s also odd how I deem what’s technically “vermin” exceptionally cute, but I’m willing to live with that. If that little mouse can thrive down there, I can certainly survive whatever’s happened to me up here on the platform.
Part of it is nostalgia, as a kid I owned pet mice, and that desire came from watching (and reading) the Brambly Hedge series, written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. My brother and I named our mice after the characters – we had three pairs of mice over the space of a few years – Snowy & Primrose, Wilfred & Blackadder (the latter not a Brambly Hedge character, obviously), and Snowy II & Primrose II (imaginative, I know). The last pair even had a litter of babies, which absolutely made our childhood. We kept one, and I called her Bramble.
It’s the memory of Bramble’s fur colour that makes me smile when I see those little soot-covered mice skitting around on the train tracks. I love the way they brave the edge of the platform, pausing cautiously, before cruising past my Dr Martens to get to wherever they’re going. It all looks like a game. They look hassle free and oblivious to the tonne of metal that routinely flies above their heads. They’re content to exist in the darkness and chaos – filthy, feral, and free.
You could apply that to living above ground in London as well. Living here is hard. It’s expensive, overcrowded, and at times it’s unfriendly. I moved here less than two years ago, and at times I have doubts about whether I really fit in here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great friends, met my boyfriend here, and I have a great life in this city – but it often leaves me stressed and pent up. Sometimes I spend my weekends sitting in my room because I can’t be arsed to deal with the busy streets and lack of greenery. London often makes me feel anxious and occasionally, really bloody lonely. But strangely, whilst I was away in America for two weeks for my Brother’s wedding last month – I pined for London. I guess it takes something as big and brilliant as going to America to make me realise that I do love living in this city, and that something as small as a rogue mouse in a tube station is what I need to keep me going (among other things, of course).
So, next time you see a mouse on the tracks, I hope it makes you smile. I hope it helps you to realise you do fit in, and despite all of the stress and worry, it’s well worth living here. If the sight of the mouse makes you shriek however, fair play. Hopefully you have another form of distraction in this smoky, sublime city.