Tell me Everything You Know About Squirrels

For some reason, companies have got it into their heads that in order to find the best candidate to fill a position, rather than asking questions pertinent to the job on offer, it is better to ask questions which make no sense whatsoever. Thus it is that should you wish to get a job at Google (or Gwgl as I’m now calling it in the hope it will catch on and we’ll get a renaming on St David’s Day), you will need to answer such brainteasers as “How much would you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle?” and “Why are manhole covers round?” For the record, my answers would have been “I charge by the hour” and “So they’ll fit in the manholes, obviously.”
Strider, who is currently decimating the Welsh government with her Probably-really-is-Swinflu-this-time-itus, tells me of a job interview she’s heard of in which the candidates’ chair is set to the kind of ridiculous angle reminiscent of a gynaecological exam and the successful candidate is whichever one puts the chair right without asking or making a fuss about it.

The original purveyors of stupid questions to determine worth were, of course, the Oxbridge Universities and a favourite of theirs, or so I’ve heard, is to lean forward and ask the nervous candidate to tell them everything they know about squirrels.
It is then, rather a shame I am not going to be experiencing any Oxbridge interviews as I could tell them quite a lot.

Squirrels are evil. Really evil. You have only to look at their fluffy, innocent tails to know you are staring at the backside of the most evil creature to stalk the realms of this earth. Even those red ones with the fluffy ears that everybody thinks are endangered are evil. The red squirrels live on the Isle of Wight for heavens sake; I’ve been to the Isle of Wight and I can confirm that nobody who wasn’t plotting something would bother to live there. You know who lives on the Isle of Wight? David Icke, that’s who.

To begin with, there were a pair of squirrels who would come and eat the bread from the bird table. They were quite sweet. One of them was clearly the Mammy squirrel because the other one would repeatedly attempt to suckle from her only to receive discouragement in the form of a swift blow to the head, often with the largest piece of bread Mammy squirrel had to hand.

Earlier this year, for reasons we were never able to work out, they took to appearing at the bird table and carrying away the quartered apples we had left out for the birds. Why we felt birds would enjoy apples, I’m not sure of either. In any case, it didn’t matter because the squirrels seemed to need them for something so the birds never got a look in. I theorised they were building a squirrel fortress deep in the woodland so they had somewhere proper to sit and plan their nefarious squirrel deeds. Either that or they have a cider press.
When we had run out of apples, the squirrels took to climbing onto the tubes of bird nuts and eating them instead. We were getting through a cylinder of nuts every couple of days. The problem became exacerbated by the Coal Tits who worked out they could extract whole peanuts through the holes left by the squirrels and who would fly off into the woodland with a peanut the size of their head.
The theory that the squirrels were extorting nuts with menaces was briefly floated but was swiftly discounted. The Coal Tits have struck a deal with the Chaffinches to form a gang large enough to take on the Greenfinches. Not even the squirrels are stupid enough to mess with the Chaffinch-Tit Mafioso.

Now that it is wintertime in this hemisphere, we have begun putting the nuts back out again and this has led to a return of the squirrels, only this time there are three of them. Or at least, there were three of them.
We tried knocking on the window to make them go away. This failed. We took to opening the door and clapping our hands loudly. This worked for a time until the squirrels decided they could safely ignore us. We took to walking outside with a menacing expression on our faces, a dangerous task given the wetness of the decking, which only worked for as long as it took the squirrels to realise we were hippies who weren’t going to do anything terrible to them. Now they just look at us carefully to see if we have any quartered apples for the woodland squirrel overlord.
Eventually, I decided the best way to get rid of the squirrels was to make a really, really loud noise. So I got a wooden spoon and a saucepan. This worked. This worked so well in fact, that one of the squirrels accelerated up the corner of my two story house until he reached the roof. He then fell back down onto the decking, regarded me and my pan with a surprised expression and ran across the lawn to the safety of the trees. I haven’t seen him since and feel massively guilty in case he’s lying in a pool of rotting apples somewhere in the forest.

The other two, meanwhile, continue to devour the nuts with impunity. They have also taken to looking through the kitchen windows at me in case I want to go outside and give them some more. When I tap a finger on the window to make them go away, they hopefully sniff at it through the glass in case there is a peanut attached.

In an effort to foil them, we hung the tube of nuts from the washing line where the bird would be able to reach it, but the squirrels would not.
To begin with, it worked very well and had the added bonus of providing He Who Knows Everything and I with squirrel based entertainment as we laughed at the fluffy wretches’ obvious confusion. For the best part of two hours they clambered over everything within a ten metre radius of the elusive nuts until finally managing the work out they could perform a death defying leap from the topmost branches of the bay tree and grab the nut tube on their way past. As I shouted to them through the window, if they could learn to put that much effort into finding a natural food source, everybody would be much happier and relaxed.
To foil further death defying leaps, we moved the nuts further along the line away from the tree until Mammy realised they were climbing all over her contorted hazel and breaking it, so we brought the nuts inside until a solution could be found.

I’m told that coating the nuts in chilli powder will prove a formidable deterrent which won’t bother the birds but I have to confess, I’m a little reluctant to try it. I already have one of their number on my conscience, I don’t want to be responsible for the other two staggering across the lawn looking as though they’ve been maced.
I’m also told that creating a squirrel feeder filled with delicious peanut butter and raisins will keep them away from the bird feeders. I’m not keen on this either. I’ve already had one of the little blighters climb in through an open window scouting for the missing bird feeder and leaving muddy squirrel footprints all over my hall and sunroom; can you imagine the siege I’d be under if I started giving them something they really enjoyed?