Small Winter Delights

Gainful employment will in future lead to sparser posts (or perhaps to more, depending on how data entry inspires the dormant parts of the brain). Sometimes I want to try to say something intelligent about art, sometimes I just need to tell the internet that I FED A SQUIRREL OUT OF MY FINGERS TODAY.

I don’t mean I charmed a shy and nervous woodland creature, either, I mean a grey squirrel in Russell Square launched itself down the side of a tree and zig-zagged over to where I was sitting (already being eyed up by hungry opportunistic pigeons) and more or less perched on my boot in a very entitled fashion, demanding to know why I wasn’t sharing my lunch. So I broke a piece off and held it out and the squirrel balanced him or herself on my fingers with his or her claws (do rodents have a sense of gender?) and snatched it off to eat. We repeated this a few times, and then I held out my empty hand to see what would happen. Happily the nippy bugger didn’t bite me (I sustained a brilliantly bloody finger wound from a hedgehog as a child, and the list of animals which have bitten me is lengthy as I am either very tasty or deeply objectionable or – in the case of the Shetland pony, probably just possessed of unfortunately convex palms) , but our squirrel friend did leave an accidental scratch on my wrist by way of a souvenir.

It was an oddly enchanting encounter, for all that the sky was nearly black at three in the afternoon and I’d been planning to eat in the British Museum, put off by the lack of appetising food choices (“left-over chop suey and cheap satay” is apparently appetising to me and goat’s cheese and rocket salad is not, which is no doubt a damning indicator of social class) and the seething mass of people. It was chilly, and there were lumps of pigeons adhering to the branches of the naked trees like weird feathery tumours, when they weren’t belching into the sky in a tidal wave of stupid birds every time a parks vehicle came past.

The other thing I learned from my lunchbreak was that a surprising number and variety of people in London have Staffordshire bull terriers as pets, a development I find entirely wonderful (anything to stem the endless unwaning enthusiasm for Labradors, which I can’t stand). There’s nothing like the determined, barrel-chested trot of a Staffie who is Going Places, especially one wearing a baby pink harness with incongruous rhinestones on it. Sort of like seeing a broad-bodied gruff construction-stereotype called Dave donning his best tutu and heels and striding purposefully to the pub. Magical.


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