Mousie and some pals. Photo: Getty Images
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All I care about is wine; all Mousie cares about is bread. And now we have a new housemate – Antie

My only consolation, as I now wonder what on earth I am going to put my Marmite on besides my finger, is that Mousie will have burst like a balloon with the amount he has eaten.

Mousie is back. I believe I mentioned this earlier. He has since become more brazen, or friendly. One evening while I was holding court at the living-room drinkstation (my workstation is my bed and few people are allowed there), my interlocutor remarked that Mousie was now taking the air: pausing for a recce, as it were, beneath the heel of my right brogue, at that point resting on the crossbar of the table’s lower framework. I wouldn’t even have had to uncross a leg to crush him. Either the fact that Mousie’s great-grandfather had been destroyed by that very same heel had not been passed down the generations, or it had, but he was taking the piss. He was saying, “Look how soft you are now.”

I had learned to hide the bread on top of the fridge. It had worked. It’s a fairly tall fridge. When Laurie Penny lived here I could hide things from her on top of it. But that spot is now no longer safe. I come down one afternoon to see that my pack of Hovis multigrain has suffered an outrage. Its guts spill out of an eviscerated bag. A tunnel of bread is visible right through to the back. No slice is salvageable.

My only consolation, as I now wonder what on earth I am going to put my Marmite on besides my finger, is that Mousie will have burst like a balloon with the amount he has eaten. His actions do not suggest those of a mouse who has thought only of his family and carried the crumbs back in his little paws.

Maybe I malign him. For all I know, he is doing the right thing. I was once rebuked thus: “The only things you care about are drink, and your children.” I have suffered worse, and more inaccurate, accusations. And who knows? Maybe Mousie is not so selfish after all. Would Mrs Mousie say, as he returned, paws full with his burden of stolen bread, but a bit stuffed himself, “All you care about is bread and your mice”? She may well have used those very words to imply that although she may not have chosen the ideal mouse for keepmate of her brief time on this wretched earth, he still fulfilled the basic obligations; she could have done worse. At least it faintly amuses me to consider that the only way out of this, every other having failed, is to revert to the complex and modern technology of the breadbin.

Meanwhile, another problem has presented itself in the Hovel. This would be Antie. I may suspect that there is more than one Mousie on patrol but I see only one at a time (indeed, “he” may well be a “she”, but I was dozy and inattentive during mouse-sexing classes and am too tired to type “foraging mice statistics by gender” into Google, and I am also old and stuck in my ways, so forgive me for not defaulting to “she” here); but Antie’s name, like the devil’s, is legion. Antie is a zeugma.

There are compensations: recently, having left out the lid of a takeaway pot of some sweet Thai chilli sauce, I found Anties racing round the rim, like so many tiny speedway motorcyclists – not cyclists: these ants were really crazy fast, too fast even to take bets on individuals. But I picked the lid up and tossed them away into the void. They were probably so hopped up on nam chim that they thought it was all part of the fun.

Anyway, becoming a curator to a zoo with rather limited exhibits is only a symptom of the general decay. As I mentioned previously, my father fell and broke his hip the other week. This was all we needed to complete the family drama – or near completion. I tried once suggesting my parents give up falling over. The best way, I told them, if you do not want to follow the whole acupuncture/hypnosis/patch route, is to try to give up the first soothing fall after breakfast. Soon enough you find yourself postponing the after-lunch fall, then, harder perhaps, the post-dinner fall. After that, it’s a piece of cake.

Unfortunately they failed to listen and so here we are again. Then my computer blew up. I’m typing this on the decade-old machine I was going to throw away a year ago because it could not be rebooted. But somehow, miraculously, I got it going.

Maybe I am not, after all, as daft as I look. I was at least able to sit back and relax and not worry where the money for the next computer was going to come from. Unfortunately, at some point in the relaxing process, I trod on my glasses. Fortunately I had a spare pair, pre-dating even this machine. Maybe Mousie will bring his family the shards of the old pair to improve their vision. 

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Motherhood Trap

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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