Tim Dowling: spring is coming, and the evil squirrel is back

I have not seen him in weeks, and now he’s less than 3ft away, looking down at me, head cocked

I’m sitting alone in the kitchen, drinking coffee and listening to a soft, rhythmic scraping sound that I assume is coming from somewhere outside – a door being planed two gardens over, maybe – because I know I’m alone in the house.

At some point it dawns on me that the sound is actually coming from within the kitchen. I look up to see the dog’s bed, minus the dog, slowly migrating across the floor. I watch for a moment in mute horror, trying to summon my rational side.

Eventually I realise the tortoise is propelling the bed from underneath, making his way toward the back door. He will do this every morning for the next few weeks – leaving his nightly resting place, or rather bringing it with him – in a premature bid for freedom. Once again I’m reminded that while the later harbingers of spring (blossoms, bluebells) are often stirring, the first signs are always a little ominous.

The next day, I’m on a bus when my wife sends me a picture of two dozen crows sitting in the bare branches of our cherry tree. “A murder,” she writes. I text back something about it being normal crow behaviour, although I have no idea.

Two days later I am in my shed at sunset when a flash of movement catches my eye. The small window above my computer screen frames a rectangle of western sky, with a section of trellis running along its bottom edge. On top of the trellis sits a squirrel – the squirrel – in silhouetted profile, his left eye looking down at me. I have not seen the squirrel in weeks, and now he’s less than 3ft from my head.


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