Sunday, 4 March 2007

Psycho Squirrels and the Disney Empire


I note that in the sub heading on my blog there is mention of squirrels, which I ought to clarify. I have a recent history with squirrels or rather one particular American squirrel. Last August I was hiding in a basement in the USA courtesy of an Arts Council Grant in order to try and complete the first draft of THE definite novel. I allowed myself short breaks for oxygen and Vitamin D exposure in the garden of this small but bijoux New England house.

Being English and of a generous disposition I chose to feed the wild life small biscuit crumbs. Again the Disney Empire extended its tentacles deep into my psyche and I was constructing the image of myself as Snow White with assembled woodland fauna gazing dotingly into my eyes. With hindsight I can now see several flaws in that film. The hygiene of a squirrel drying your dinner plate with its arse was never fully grasped by the audience nor was the potentially aggressive nature of these animals explored. Disney obviously wasn’t about to animate the scene of a dwarf trying to pull a rabid squirrel off Snow White’s throat against the back-drop of gingham curtains and freshly picked flowers.
To cut a long story short a cute fluffy-tailed grey squirrel bounced endearingly out from the trees. I threw it a chunk of all American mock Scottish shortbread, which it ate and then it bit me on the foot. It had, it transpired, previously attacked the small white toy poodle next door, inflicting a number of deep penetrating wounds as it rode it around the garden. It had subsequently been staked out by a gun totting octogenarian relative of the poodle owner but agility, cunning and the poor eyesight of the hunter had allowed it to survive. Local cats were not so lucky.
I immediately managed to piggy back on the local fish freezing plant’s wireless internet connection and looked up whether you could catch rabies from a squirrel. What a wonderful thing search engine technology is in extremis.
“Can I catch rabies from a squirrel bite?” I asked and the ether replied with its all knowing but slightly worrying oracular powers
“Have no fear rabies is very rare and you are more likely to get Tularaemia.” I resorted to mouthwash to disinfect the wound and tried to display the pioneer spirit, I was after all English and needed to display a stiff upper lip. Two days later, after the boys in the Road House I frequented at night commented on the size of my swollen foot, I presented myself at the local hospital for the appropriate injections. They did not seem to find squirrel related injuries at all unusual. However, they informed me, they were also used to removing swordfish from the bleeding sides of local fishermen and one cheery doctor said he had treated gunshot wounds to the testicles of a Santa Claus at a well known Boston department store. I paid cash as the thought of winning the Travel Insurance Stupid Accident of the Month Award was too much for me to bear.
I have since been alert to squirrel related incidents and indeed friends have sent me accounts of close encounters of the squirrel kind and I am, like Robbie Coltrane in Cracker, starting to build up a squirrel profile. Warm cuddly and cute on the outside but psychopathic killers underneath; all that ‘come and stroke me fur’ and tiny dextrous almost human hands is mere camouflage. I have no doubt that this American squirrel survived the winter , not by assiduously storing up his nuts but by dining on a fellow squirrel with a nice Chianti and some farfel beans. Come the tourist season, visitors will not be silent like the lambs or embarrassed English writers. When Mr Nutkin gets his teeth stuck into a prime Boston calf or thigh there will probably be much bleating and litigation will ensue and the guns will be out in earnest.

On a serious note I was sadden and shocked to hear of the recent sudden death of the poet Julia Casterton. I had heard her read on a number of occasions, the last time only a couple of weeks before her death. She was in fine form and read with her usual mix of humour, humanity and sensitivity. She had been a caring and encouraging teacher for many years at City Lit in London and she will be a great loss to poetry.

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