My life is become one of torment and misery. And the reason? Squirrels. Those festering, tree-hugging ridiculous-tailed grey rats. Little b*st*rds.
The unreasonable nut-botherers have always been a particularly jagged thorn in my flank, but there seems to be more of them about this year. And not the proper red ones either - no, these are the common grey beasts; illegal immigrants. Illicit asylum seekers who have forced out the native red squirrels and taken root in the branches in their place. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing a red squirrel in the wild (although I remain undecided as to whether that's a bad thing or not - have you seen how big the red squirrels' paws are? Blimey).
During recent forays into some local woods I have exhausted myself almost to the point of expiry by chasing these tiny upstarts. But they always elude me by scampering up trees and then standing on high branches jumping up and down, shaking their tiny fists and shouting incomprehensible but doubtless filthy squirrel-chatter at me. Have you ever heard a squirrel shouting? They sound exactly like ducks. Comical, but nonetheless irritating.
Only a few days ago I was ambling slowly along a narrow path, minding my own business, when the sound of hasty rodent whispers and rustling came from on high. I stopped and looked up, but couldn't see anything unusual. All at once, there was more rustling and a sudden snap. A cascade of twigs, old, dry beech leaves and nutshells poured down from the branches and covered me from snout to tail. I was enraged. I could hear high-pitched tones of helpless laughter wafting from the nearest treetop, punctuated by an occasional "Shhh!" I shook off as much of the tree débris as I could and raised my head. "COME DOWN HERE!" I shouted. No response, save more giggling. "I DEMAND THAT YOU SHOW YOURSELVES!"
"You're barking up the wrong tree, doggie." said an anonymous thin, reedy voice, and a fresh wave of giggles erupted from above. I mustered what remained of my dignity and stalked off, silently fuming.
But that was not the end of my troubles. Oh no.
Just yesterday evening, I was enjoying a delightful walk in the same woods (avoiding the offending path, you may be sure) chasing squirrel after squirrel, along with the occasional rabbit, and keeping a respectful distance from the owls out hunting in the early evening. While rooting about for bits and bobs in the woods, I heard the snapping of twigs directly behind me - I whipped around and stared, aghast, at an enormous RED squirrel! It stood at least four feet high, and was staring straight at me!
"AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!" I barked, at the top of my voice. I had never encountered such a rodent. My heart froze in terror when I recalled that my poor partner was, at that moment, standing unchaperoned on the path towards which this unholy behemoth was now charging. I began to run in the general direction of where I hoped my partner would be, praying that I would not be too late and speeding quicker than a whippet with a firework up his bottom. "FLEE! FLEE!" I barked to my sweet partner as I ran, "SAVE YOURSELF!"
I felt sick with fear as I gained the path, wondering what my final view on earth would be of my partner - her rear racing towards the safety of our Little Green Corsa; or her already-flayed body lifeless on the soil with the titanic red squirrel cackling and looming over her. To my surprise, when I reached her, she was merely standing quite calmly and happily, waiting for me. "Giant... red... squirrel..." I managed to splutter.
"Jasper, you great twonk." she said, "That was a small red deer. Look, there it goes, towards the field."
Ahem. Well, it was an easy mistake - take a look:
I walked quietly back to the car without looking at my partner, thankful that the scarlet humiliation that covered my cheeks was masked by my fur.
But I am still picking bits of leaf and nutshell fragments out of my coat. Little grey gits.