It’s not what you expect to see in Finchley. Borneo and Bangladesh certainly, North America but hardly North London. I looked out my back door this morning and saw a flying squirrel.
Well, a squirrel, flying. A squirrel I’m at war with.
And it was a good effort. Sailing through the air off an overgrown tree branch, it ended up about a foot and a half short, plunging a couple of metres to the ground. If I could have tripled gravity for that single second I would have taken the crippling pain in my bones and yours just to see the little shit flattened like, well, a squirrel on a road.
I don’t have anything against squirrels exactly. If I see one in the park I’ll normally greet it with a ‘Morning’ or similar, as I would a cat or other nearby creature. That’s perfectly normal. No, it is.
But this fucker.
I’ve always been a bit of a twitcher. Placed strategically around my garden are no fewer than eight bird feeders of various shapes, sizes and contents. Bird feeders, for birds. Clue’s in the name you hairy fuck.
There is nothing this squirrel won’t attempt to get its hands on the treats it sees hanging all about. Edible things growing off trees, things that I haven’t shelled out for, that just won’t cut it for this son of a bitch as he Krypton Factors his way around the garden. The other day I swear I saw it rubbing two fingers together and grinning as it broke a fat ball holder and scampered off with the contents.
I’ve tried different types of container. There’s one where the food’s surrounded by a cage that only birds can get through, and another with some kind of shutting mechanism when anything heavy sits on it. These are like brain training puzzles to a squirrel, introducing fun to its diet like the world’s made of spaghetti alphabets and Marshmallow Mateys. Lately it’s started throwing things at the feeders to try knocking things out. I think I might be accidentally speeding up evolution. If the motto of the next party in government is Sciurus carolinensis, I’ll hold my hands up.
I’ve tried introducing a rat, by leaving the garden in a state of general disarray and waiting for a rat to turn up. Every war needs mercenaries, and as the squirrel ponders strategy this rat will suddenly pounce on it and chase it around the battlefield. One day the rat and the squirrel were both at the back of the garden, there was a sudden flurry of rustling and deathly calm ensued. Mind you, I put a hedgehog in there once so Christ alone knows what kind of bestial cage match is going on under there.
But the squirrel was back immediately. So obviously I bought a gun. My enquiries about a firearm that would “damage but not kill” a squirrel were met with a round of “We’re not allowed to sell you that sir” from various internet companies that post butterfly knives to infants, so I bought a bright orange £20 pellet rifle and aimed the fuck up. Each pellet travelled two metres before limply plopping to the ground. Eventually I hit the squirrel in the rump. It looked up, surprised. Scratched itself. Didn’t so much as glance my way to acknowledge the effort, or the £20.
One morning I saw the squirrel on his main prize, the peanuts. Now, these peanuts are protected from below by something called a baffle, a plastic dome that the squirrel runs up under and peers through, baffled. This is one of the funniest things I can ever hope to see as it slowly slides down the pole in confusion like a simple-minded stripper.
So how did it get on the nuts? The other week a storm uprooted the barbecue that sits in the corner of the garden. Drunk one night I righted it, and in my shambles I evidently plonked it too close. I know this because I subsequently moved the barbecue, waited five minutes, and saw the squirrel clamber back up onto it only to stare at the faraway nuts, confounded. From the other side of a glass door, a man chuckles quietly. The tos and fros of World War 0.0000001.
Then there’s the bird table. Now, despite lining the wooden bird table with perspex – I’m telling you, this is a goddamn military campaign – the little shite can still get up there after a couple of botched slides up and down. Clearly I can put nothing on the bird table itself, but there are some fat ball holders hanging from it. The nails I’ve hammered into the edges of the table to turn it into some kind of suburban Colditz have been systematically plucked out by, I don’t know, something with tiny hands I expect. Nothing remains to stop the squirrel squirming itself around and upside down and chomping at my bloody fat balls.
And this is where we are: I don’t know yet how to stop the squirrel from getting at those fat balls. Can’t poison it without poisoning birds, and my soul. I’ve toyed with the idea of some kind of slinky but it’ll probably find a way to rig it up to fire Gardman Seed Mix into my eyes. Not allowed to shoot it without moving us both to America and becoming ‘disgruntled’ before turning the gun on myself. But right now, flinging open the door and ranting and yelling is all I’ve got as it peers at me, bemused and amused.
And I’m left with the harrowing knowledge that I am becoming a mad old lady. My tiny, elderly next door neighbour, normally a placid and friendly woman, has enemies of her own: crows. She puts food out for something else, the crows get at it and there she is at the back door booming “NO! NO! THAT’S NOT FOR YOU!” As I toss gravel lamely at the squirrel I can feel myself becoming Margaret, wizened, barking and losing my hair, which is probably the most ironic set of words I’ve ever written given the current state of me.
I am at war with a squirrel. I’ve taken to watching videos of anti-squirrel tactics on Youtube. I can question many of the decisions I’ve made in my life, but this one feels right.
Maybe a trebuchet?