Have you ever been squirrel fishing? Have you ever used squirrels in your baking? Have you ever boarded a flight with a squirrel? These unusual questions have presented themselves to me over the past few weeks. Squirrels are trending, they are not seasonal, they nibble their way around our parks and gardens all year round. Why all this sudden squirrelness in my world? It all started with the unexpected invitation from a friend to go squirrel fishing.
It may or may not surprise you to know, that this is the first time I’ve been asked if I’d like to try squirrel fishing. Many strange thoughts circulated through my mind at the time, however, the most pressing thought was the dilemma of what to wear? I then questioned the ethics of this potential endeavour. I was ensured implicitly that no squirrels would be harmed. Although the activity contained the word fishing, the only liquid involved would be a flask of hot chocolate. Still slightly perturbed as to the nature of this endeavour, my friend assured me that the full details would unfold in due course. I was not to worry about the minutiae.
As yet, due to busy diaries and pre-booked autumnal activities of a more common nature – making pumpkin soup and going for country walks – squirrel fishing, the safe and harmless activity for adults has yet to materialise. If it does, and I am not traumatised or arrested, I will duly report back.
This odd invitation was swiftly followed by a comforting and grounding episode of The Great British Bake Off. This year’s contestants did much to maketh my cup of heartfelt joy runeth over. In these testing times I want to crawl into the Bake Off Tent and never leave. No harm can come to you when you have a daily diet of biscuit chandeliers, choux pastry space turtles and homemade Wagon Wheels. When the aptly named Kim Joy decorated her vegan tarts with iced images of squirrels, she elevated the lowly, nut bingeing creature out of the woodland and into the homes of six million Bake Off viewers. Sadly her fantastical creativity and re-design of the Lost City of Atlantis in genoise sponge were not enough to win her the coveted title.
Not long after the sugar-coated squirrels, I heard the news story of a woman in the US thrown off an internal flight from Orlando to Cleveland for attempting to board with her ‘emotional support’ squirrel. It was news to me that airlines in the US allow passengers to travel with a comforting pet in the cabin. After a little bit of research, I discovered that this is a fairly common thing among our friends across the water. Travellers usually choose to be accompanied by a cat or dog to calm their nerves. Animals with tusks are banned, as are reptiles and rodents, and this sadly includes squirrels.
As yet, UK airlines under EU regulations have not adopted this friendly policy. Instead, nervous flyers within Europe stick to gin and valium to calm their nerves. Perhaps this could be introduced to the UK post Brexit? If indeed our passports are still valid and we are allowed over European airspace.
Personally, I prefer to fly with friends and loved ones for comfort. On a recent flight, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a dozen comfort animals, twelve of my oldest school friends. None of whom were classed as rodents or refused boarding. As a collective, we headed to the beautiful island of Majorca to celebrate a significant birthday for half the group. Upon arrival, we gracefully climbed aboard our friend’s boat and set sail from Puerto Pollensa to the idyllic bay of Formentor.
As the sun shone down on us, we frolicked in the clear blue waters, lit the BBQ and cranked up the Spotify playlist. We raised a glass to those from our school days who sadly hadn’t made it to a half century, and as we indulged ourselves in a weekend of comforting old friendships, we thanked our lucky stars that we had.
“You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit”
Sarah Jessica Parker
This post also appeared in the Brighton and Hove Independent