September 23, 2012

Grey days

Squirrels seem to be everywhere right now, scuttling crabwise up trees, scolding passersby from the branches and springing like Slinkys across roads. There doesn't seem to be a garden or a park, a street tree or scrap of verge in Streatham without an incumbent grey.

In autumn they tend to be active all day, finding and caching food for retrieval in winter, and that's certainly making them more visible. I've seen them carrying conkers, fungus, hazel mast and even fried chicken bones in their mouths; they bury their haul shallowly, patting the ground down carefully with their front paws. Last year I unearthed a whole heel of bread from one of my garden pots.

They dig up my plants, eat the food I put out for the birds, and purposefully tease my dog, who's constantly outraged at their effrontery. They strip the bark from trees, and compete with songbirds for nesting holes. Yet I can't bring myself to condemn them. Like us, they're just trying to get by in the big city; and their cheek and determination, on grey, dreich days like today, can be unexpectedly cheering.