Middle Class Problems: You really should feed the squirrels - but what is it about them that makes you shiver?


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Before we get too deeply into this, there is, of course, a very obvious answer to the question: "Should I feed the squirrels – the desperately hungry-looking, I've-almost-exhausted-my-winter-nut-store squirrels – on my walk through the park?" Yes. You should. You frozen-hearted, mean-minded, non-person.

By rights, as you wrestle your one-year-old into her coat and drop her into wellies still too big for her, bracing yourself for the whip of wind and the walk that will Do Both of You the World of Good, your thoughts should turn to the food cupboard and to what you can reasonably take to offer the bushy mob as they scamper at your feet. Grissini? Wasabi almonds? Do squirrels even eat Bombay mix?

Yet something makes you pause and take stock. What is it about squirrels that makes you shiver, even as you admire the nimble charm that makes your daughter love them?

Is it the clack of their claws as they pursue you along the path to the swings? That article you once read, about how they carry more viral disease than a rabid dog? Or is it simply – yes! – their sense of entitlement, the way they stop a mere two feet in front of you and rise up on their hind legs as if they are NOT AFRAID OF YOU AT ALL.

Whatever it is, half an hour after shutting the front door, you find yourself intoning, in a sing-song voice that you hope your daughter will understand, and one day emulate: "I'm sorry, Mr Squirrel, but no. We don't have anything for you to eat. No, no, no we don't, I'm afraid."