At the End of the Day

Sidney the squirrel goes gathering walnuts

It’s damn near perfect down here in Let et Garonne at the moment. Over the last week, the sun has changed from burning intensity to a gentle heat that makes for easy gardening, and a nut-brown edge to an ageing Rosbif’s tan. Leaves are busy working their way through the colour spectrum from full green via bright yellow to pastel rust, and the sunflowers are drooping their heads towards the Sungod.

Sunflowers aren’t all big and yellow and photogenic for long: within a fortnight, they look for all the world like a football crowd of old blokes – heads bowed, bored by the game, but hanging in there in the hope of a goal. Our neighbour Lauren has already harvested his maize, and dumped this year’s mountain of ordure on the soil in readiness for ploughing in later. For a brief few weeks, our entrance path will be free of rotting cow dung; after which, the process will start all over again.

Now is the summer of our fat content made worse by the Autumn arrival of walnuts…with that fresh, slightly damp feel the very first kernels have as they start to drop from the trees. And as the glut becomes predictably unmanageable, they are added to warming, early-winter soups containing pumpkin and other scrumptious things. Except that, if Sidney the Squirrel has his way, he and Mrs Squirrel will be the only beneficiaries of this year’s crop.

When we had the new slate roof fitted last year, Sid was confused. Having spent years scampering up and down chestnut tiles with plenty of grip, the poor chap slid this way and that up and down smooth Spanish slate. But having had time to think about it, he now approaches matters with more cunning, and less use of the roof itself. The little scamp has taken to clambering up our north-facing stone wall, and then making the small leap from gutter to branch. So now I’m back to finding empty green jackets or – even more frustrating – rejected nuts that Sidney thinks sub-standard.

And he’s right, the bugger. I’ve watched him at his skilled quality control, and it seems to me he uses weight as the criterion. He gets the green casing off in about 0.02 seconds (it takes me a minute at least) and then – literally – uses his claws as scales while he judges whether there’s anything worth eating inside. So for much of the time, I’m picking up Sid’s tossed-away nut-free shells, thinking how good they’re going to taste later. Thus I too have been reduced to sussing out the weight. Over time, I’ve become quite good at it. I could make it to sophomore squirrel any year soon.

We don’t see much of Mrs S. She has a rather less bushy and showy tail than her partner, although she’s a little bigger than him. We don’t know her name: Jan wants her to be called Sybil, but that’s only because she likes the idea of sibilant alliteration going together with sweet little furry things. I’d quite like Sid’s missus to be a Doris – after the great Private Eye couple, Sid and Doris Bonkers, fanatical supporters of Neasden FC. But naming wild animals is something of a hit and miss process. For years we had Archibald the pigeon, a regular visitor to our home near Lyme Regis on his way back to his whippet-racing owners in Sunderland. And if you want to know how we know all this detail, as Alistair Campbell is wont to remark, “I make it all up”.

9 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. It’s not Let but Lot et Garonne. And the name of the young Tirbois is Laurent. But for the rest it made me a little bit sad that I have to leave in a few months Monviel.

  2. You do have nice weather in France it seems; here in the North, it does nothing but rain. I could go on …

    However, mention of squirrels reminds me of a friend who found his bird-feeder constantly empty. One day, finding it necessary to rise earlier than normal, he noticed a squirrel that was interested in the bird feeder. The canny beast unhitched the bird feeder, and inverted the thing to empty it of its peanuts. Nothing so clever in that of course; no, the clever creature put the thing back of course!

    • You’re lucky – our squirrels just chew the bottom out of our seed feeders and then wonder why they haven’t been refilled..

  3. You are definitely right about the coming of autumn, been feeling it in the air for a few days now, the farmers around here ( s/w Dordogne ) will be getting stuck into the maize harvest very soon leaving the odd field for animal foodstuffs until october. Having said that I’m off to a classic bike rally near Montauban mid september, ( if the Beezas gearbox holds out ) and the last two years have seen temperatures in the 30′s so there may still be a few warm days left.

  4. The Beeb informed us this evening this has been the coldest summer since 1993. Hasn’t seemed that bad. There was the ususal relapse after a superb spring but late July and August have been about par. Now can feel autumn in the air in the early mornings and late evenings. Time to get back East now the typhoon season is winding down again.

  5. Talking of weather…before I went away for nearly three months end of May, the Met Office “experts” were forecasting a hot summer in Britain with some very high highs. Apparently a high pressure was building nicely.
    Upon my return a family member told me they pulled that forecast sometime in July and I gather the weather’s been pretty awful (it certaily has been since I returned). These are the same “experts” who want us to believe their computer models re. AGW/GW. aye aye.

  6. Just got a .22 airgun for the grey variety that my Dad insisted on calling “tree-rats”. Nutkins 0 – 6 Airgun. Alas no red ones here, the greys screwed them about 1910 I’m informed…

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