Back in the dim and distant past, when the west of Scotland was slowly emerging from the dark Satanic effects of the Industrial Revolution, a squirrel was as exotic as a dinosaur.
Even in our rambles up into the hills around Dunoon, nary a squirrel was to be seen. In those days, I guess, on the Argyll peninsula, the red squirrel would have been the boy to see. The grey lads were still making their way north.
Our exposure to the squirrel was confined to the Tufty Club, watercolours of Squirrel Nutkin and a faintly dozy character who helped shill Cadbury’s Caramel chocolate.
Squirrels were cute, cuddly and weirdly savvy about traffic.
However, the next squirrel I spot gets it’s bloody neck wrung if I get a hold of it. Oh, for a return to those days of squirrel-based ignorance.
My garden has come under sustained attack by a band of squirrels as voracious as an Old Testament plague of locusts.
Virtually every spring bulb has been ripped up, ripped apart and the remains scattered about the grass like a murder scene perpetrated by a mini-Mafia on a contract to take out the flowerbeds of Leith.
Plants that survived the teeth of the Beast from the East have lost their battle at the paws of the Pest from the West.
These little furry-tailed horrors are no longer the cutesy standard-bearer of the watercolour world of a mild-mannered lady writer and illustrator of twee children’s books. It’s like Beatrix Potter read Irvine Welsh, hit the hard stuff with gusto and re-wrote the bedtime stories of middle England with a spaced-out eye on Leith Walk.
Squirrel Nutkin’s been mainlining spring bulbs and turned into Frank Begbie. Twinkleberry’s doing the Renton swagger.
These freaks of nature dare to come right up to my window, stare right at me and flick that tail in a manner I can only describe as “giving me the tail”, then boldly start digging.
By the blessed Attenborough, I swear these things fear nothing, not even the crashing open of the back door and the appearance of a short, fat, middle-aged woman in a terry towelling bathrobe, a vision that would give a highly trained SWAT team pause for thought. And therapy.
This means war.
Ginger lads left sitting in corner
Chilli flakes. Everybody said scatter chilli flakes around your plants. So I did, and sat, gloating in the gloaming, waiting with the patience of a big game hunter for victory. Discovery One. Begbie and Renton like their food spicy. Discovery Two. They just dug up the ones that I’d missed.
These cunning little furies will be looking for the right to vote next.
They’re not even our squirrels. Like a lot of irritations in modern life, the Pest from the West is American, introduced back in 1870.
Our native red squirrels couldn’t compete with the lads in grey, who, and this won’t surprise you, turned out to be better at the mating game than our lot, who quickly turned into the quintessentially ginger lad at the school disco, sitting in the corner, probably mumbling about stamp collecting and trainspotting and avoiding eye contact.
It also turns out that grey squirrels eat anything, and that includes my bulbs.
Let’s get our red-headed laddies better at the mating dance. Might be the only way we can stem the tide of the grey invader.
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