From Susan D in Ottawa, Canada

6 May 

Local entertainment

Our back garden is very small, the addition to the house having taken up as much of the lot as city by-law allowed.  Nonetheless, it provides us with endlessly entertainment, primarily by the squirrels that treat the large old oak tree and several elderly lilacs as a sort of jungle gym. At this point of maybe-Spring they are extremely energetic, leaping from branch to branch, occasionally hanging upside down by their hind legs.  One of them, grey with a white tummy, seems almost demented; it leaps about on the ground all by itself, and does little back flips every now and then.  We do wonder if there is something in the garden that when nibbled enhances squirrel reality.  Two black ones chase each other continuously and seem to be playing, siblings we think.

Perhaps this speaks to a certain level of boredom: we watch all this action over the course of the day as we eat our three meals at the table in the bow window overlooking the small garden, the small park beyond and the small pond beyond that.  The pond is connected to the Canal and is emptied when the canal level is reduced to create the longest skating rink in the world and is, therefore a mud flat from Fall to Spring.  It almost feels as though we are at the cottage when the water comes in, and a good thing too while the Quebec border seems set to remain closed to Ottawa cottagers.

Of late we have been sharing our meals with the garden animals.  Being confined to the house, we have resorted to an old bread machine that is becoming less and less competent at its job – no matter the setting and the bottom crust is far too crusty.  So as we nip off the hard bits of breakfast or lunch or dinner bread, we have started to share them with the squirrels.  To add a little a little excitement to this routine, we have decided to train the squirrels to come at the ringing of a set of little bells brought home from Austria.  So far, the conditioning effort has had no effect.

After writing this, during my nightly visit with Alec Guinness via his journal, A Positively Final Appearance, I came upon his delightful squirrel description.

From my study window I see three very young squirrels experimenting with their tails.  First they curl them over their heads as if they were inflated umbrellas; then they make undulating rhythmic movements with them, like grey waves; then they spread them wide and flat on the ground so they appear to be feathers; and finally, fed up with all that, they just fling them around in the way women did with their silver-fox furs in the thirties.

Snow yet again

It seems that May is taking lessons in cruelty from April; flurries are forecast for Friday and Saturday.  The timid little lilac buds that have barely begun opening must be saying to each other, “Oh no, not again”.

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