As a corner house in the close, we are lucky to have quite large gardens, the front garden where the (sort-of) rockery is, the side garden where my partner’s pond roses and apple trees are, and the back garden where the shed, garden furniture and herbs live. This part also backs on to a little park, where people walk their dogs, a play area for children and some cherry trees. And a squirrel.
A large, fat, extremely healthy looking squirrel is resident somewhere in this park and he is the absolute bane of my little Princess’ existence.
The first time we saw him, we were out in the garden together, having a gentle stroll around the property, making sure nobody had been digging where they weren’t supposed to. I was just inspecting my white rose bush that was looking distinctly chewed, mainly due to the activities of a colony of leaf cutter bees, I later discovered, fascinated by the way the furry insects scissored away postage stamp sized pieces of leaf – my leaves, actually – and carried them away.
The squirrel in question is actually a grey squirrel, but he declined to be photographed for the purpose of this post, hence the use of my red Poole pottery squirrel ornament as a fill-in…
“Meh – meh – meh!”
I turned from my artfully tattered rose bush to see what had aroused Charlie’s anger.
“Meh MEH meh!” she called more insistently.
I walked round the corner of the shed and saw Charlie in full Tiger Princess mode, a miniature hunting machine, poised and powerful. Her tail was tinsel – fluffed and every line of her tense little body was aimed towards her target prey … the squirrel.
He was sitting on his haunches, safely on the other side of the fence, cheerfully twirling his whiskers and eyeing Charlie as if to say:
“Well, you’re a big girl, aren’t you? Not really my type, but hey … “
And with that he shot up the tree.
Charlie leapt after him, a cinnamon blur, darting through the gap in the fence – we have hedgehogs – and arriving at the base of the squirrel’s tree. It’s an ash tree, so its trunk is smooth with barely any toe or claw holds for anything larger than a squirrel. Yet my little cat is nothing if not brave …
A strangled, wordless protest fell from my lips as Charlie with all the grace and elegance of a high – wire artiste flew up the vertical tree trunk for a height of about ten feet.
The squirrel, meanwhile, was perched on the first horizontal branch, hurling what can only be described as vulgar insults at my cat:
“Yahhh! Fatty! Watch out, big girl, this is only a little tree!”
Charlie decided that it really was most unladylike to stoop to the level of a mere rodent. (“Ha ha! Stoop? You can’t even REACH me!”) She stopped, a look of absolute rage on her face, and carefully backed down the tree into my waiting arms, muttering threats about vulgar peasant squirrels…
“Oi! Mind you don’t break a nail, love!”
A couple of days later, Charlie saw the beastly squirrel again, sauntering along as if he owned our garden, not a care in the world. She was sitting on my son’s bedroom windowsill and spotted the furry monster, tail flourishing as he inspected her garden. She actually clattered her teeth with rage, and I’m ashamed to say … I laughed.
“He’s there! I know he is!”
A face – off was inevitable. And it happened … Our garden is quite long, and it just so chanced that the two combatants were in the garden at the right moment for me to see and be rendered utterly incapable. If only I’d had a video camera.
The squirrel had just shinned down his tree and popped through the hole in the fence to have a quick poke round in the flower beds, perhaps for any stray bulbs. He was happily rummaging amongst the clods of soil, back turned towards the other end of the garden, where I was quietly sitting, contemplating the meaning of Life.
Random pumpkin… although I suppose it’s month-appropriate!
Now, Charlie isn’t much of an adventuress, unlike Lily. She’s far more a stay-at-home warrior kind of girl, and is consequently quite happy just to have a little walk round the garden, usually with me, do her business and return indoors. This particular day, she had been having a mini-power-catnap, sitting on the bench next to me.
She awoke. Instantly. And spotted the furry grey interloper. Off the bench and on her paws with the grace and skill of the Ninja princess she is and she began to walk, pretty quickly, towards the squirrel.
He stopped rummaging and looked up. Then started walking very carefully and deliberately, towards my cat. She walked a little quicker. So did he. Charlie broke into a run. So did he. These two mighty opponents, cat and squirrel, hurtled towards each other along the garden path.
Spellbound, I held my breath … what would happen? Would they whip lances out of their pockets and unhorse each other? Had the insults and abuse been all for show, would they perhaps fall into each others’ arms and kiss passionately… ?
Neither. They passed so close to each other, their whiskers must surely have brushed, but then at the last minute, they swerved to avoid each other … the squirrel continued barrelling towards me while Charlie carried on the opposite way towards the pond. Then they stopped.
Honour had been served. They had taken part in the age – old battle of feline against rodent, but when it came down to it, didn’t really want to kill each other. A bit like these historical re-enactment societies you see, who re-play all the great battles of this country with smoke bombs and rubber swords.
I’m not entirely convinced that Charlie knows what this squirrel actually is… a large mouse… or a small cat. They still see each other, after this epic confrontation:
“All right then, Chubby?”
“Why do you always have to be so rude…”
But the close-quarter conflict has never been repeated… Secretly, I think the squirrel rather fancies my little cat.
“These little things – SQUIRRELS – are sent to try us”