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An Exercise In Misplaced Smugness

Whether you believe there is order in the Universe or not, I am amused sometimes when things happen in a way that seems spookily connected. In essence, I do not really care whether it is an actual random coincidence, part of an ineffable plan or a trick of the human mind, because anything that can make you laugh these days is probably worth celebrating rather than worrying. You know the kind of coincidence I am talking about. You go to Barcelona where among the thousands of people in the city you know one well. You have not arranged to meet them but still you somehow bump into them in the park. Or like this weekend, where after a breakfast conversation with friends on the effectiveness of my anti- squirrel measures connected with our bird feeder seemed to spectacularly back fire later in the day. You see, Id taken some pride in keeping the furry little buggers of the feeder. An upturned plastic barrier half way up the feeder was the main defence, but that’s not enough in our garden where overhanging trees provide the perfect launch pad for the rodents to hurl themselves at the nuts and seeds. You may not like grey squirrels much but you have to admire certain aspects of their behaviour and courage/reckless abandon is one of them. It took the best part of the week slowly moving the feeder around the garden to reach the sweet spot that was just too far for any of the little devils to make the leap. I had defeated them. Humans: 1 Squirrels: 0.

So, revelling in my smugness I was less then pleased to see the grey squirrel sitting happily on the feeder, gorging on the delights that I thought I had protected for my feathered friends.

I may have uttered some naughty words and I was frankly flummoxed. Was this some kind of super-squirrel? Had the ones in my gardens suddenly evolved so that they could fly?

I needed to know. So I chased it off the feeder, went back inside and waited to see if the secret would be revealed.

The plastic barrier has curving down edges and was completely smooth and about three feet off the ground. What I had not reckoned on is that a flat metal feeding tray was just a few centimetres further up and the edge of it was about flush with the edge of the plastic protector. To my amazement, and with some grudging admiration, the squirrel launched itself almost completely vertically up and grabbing the edge of the feeder with its front paws, was able to haul itself over the plastic barrier and onto the feeder. Humans: 1 Squirrels: 1.

When I was at school, one of my maths teachers tried to explain trigonometry to confused eleven year olds using the device of a Harrier Jump Squirrel. Up to now, I had always assumed he had made it up. Now, I see he probably was just referring to actual experience. I forgive him this (although not the practice of scrawling ‘Vile!’ in red pen all over my maths homework, even if this was probably an accurate description).

A quick run into the garden waving hands at the interloper soon saw it make a tactical withdrawal. Then, after a bit of a fight with a rusty wingnut the offending feed tray was removed and once more the observation post that is the kitchen window was manned.

Needless to say, since it knows the food is there the squirrel was soon back and took little time in propelling itself upwards reaching out with its claws, and, this time finding no purchase on smooth plastic, falling backwards in space with a thump on the ground. I think it is fair to say I winced, but I will not go as far as feeling guilty at this or the next few attempts the squirrel made that resulted in slamming its body against plastic and/or ground before finally giving up – at least for today. Humans: 2 Squirrels: 1.

I’m sure it will be back. But I ‘m going to be less smug about this now in an attempt to put of any actions of the rodent deities – never underestimate your opponent, even if he/she is vermin.

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