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

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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Donald Trump wants to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency - can he?

"Epa, Epa, Eeeepaaaaa" – Grampa Simpson.

 

There have been countless jokes about US President Donald Trump’s aversion to academic work, with many comparing him to an infant. The Daily Show created a browser extension aptly named “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again” that converts the font of Potus’ tweets to crayon scrawlings. Indeed, it is absurd that – even without the childish font – one particular bill that was introduced within the first month of Trump taking office looked just as puerile. Proposed by Matt Gaetz, a Republican who had been in Congress for barely a month, “H.R. 861” was only one sentence long:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018”.

If this seems like a stunt, that is because Gaetz is unlikely to actually achieve his stated aim. Drafting such a short bill without any co-sponsors – and leaving it to a novice Congressman to present – is hardly the best strategy to ensure a bill will pass. 

Still, Republicans' distrust for environmental protections is well-known - long-running cartoon show The Simpsons even did a send up of the Epa where the agency had its own private army. So what else makes H.R. 861 implausible?

Well, the 10-word-long statement neglects to address the fact that many federal environmental laws assume the existence of or defer to the Epa. In the event that the Epa was abolished, all of these laws – from the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – would need to be amended. Preferably, a way of doing this would be included in the bill itself.

Additionally, for the bill to be accepted in the Senate there would have to be eight Democratic senators who agreed with its premise. This is an awkward demand when not even all Republicans back Trump. The man Trum appointed to the helm of the Epa, Scott Pruitt, is particularly divisive because of his long opposition to the agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said that she was hostile to the appointment of a man who was “so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency” that he had sued the Epa 14 times. Polls from 2016 and 2017 suggests that most Americans would be also be opposed to the agency’s termination.

But if Trump is incapable of entirely eliminating the Epa, he has other ways of rendering it futile. In January, Potus banned the Epa and National Park Services from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, and this Friday, Trump plans to “switch off” the government’s largest citizen-linked data site – the Epa’s Open Data Web Service. This is vital not just for storing and displaying information on climate change, but also as an accessible way of civilians viewing details of local environmental changes – such as chemical spills. Given the administration’s recent announcement of his intention to repeal existing safeguards, such as those to stabilise the climate and protect the environment, defunding this public data tool is possibly an attempt to decrease awareness of Trump’s forthcoming actions.

There was also a recent update to the webpage of the Epa's Office of Science and Technology, which saw all references to “science-based” work removed, in favour of an emphasis on “national economically and technologically achievable standards”. 

Trump’s reshuffle of the Epa's priorities puts the onus on economic activity at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Pruitt, who is also eager to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, spoke in an interview of his desire to “exit” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He was led to this conclusion because of his belief that the agreement means “contracting our economy to serve and really satisfy Europe, and China, and India”.

 

Rather than outright closure of the Epa, its influence and funding are being leached away. H.R. 861 might be a subtle version of one of Potus’ Twitter taunts – empty and outrageous – but it is by no means the only way to drastically alter the Epa’s landscape. With Pruitt as Epa Administrator, the organisation may become a caricature of itself – as in The Simpsons Movie. Let us hope that the #resistance movements started by “Rogue” Epa and National Parks social media accounts are able to stave off the vultures until there is “Hope” once more.

 

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

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