While driving in the Lake District last year, this little beauty of a sign caught my eye.
Although clearly not addressed to me, I did marvel at the intelligence of the Lakeland red squirrel; firstly at its ability to read, and then at its paw/eye co-ordination.
I decided to make further investigations, and contacted the Office for National Statistics regarding the number of red squirrels killed on the road in traffic accidents.
The results are shocking.
It turns out that a large proportion of red squirrel road traffic accidents are alchohol related, with dangerously high levels of blood-alcohol being detected in 45.8 per cent of red squirrel road deaths.
It is disturbing for nature lovers like myself to realise that the bucolic idyll of country life has such a dark underbelly.
Along with high levels of alcoholism in the red squirrel community are other addictions, mainly to nuts and acorns. Squirrels have a tendency to hoard their nuts in all manner of places. In fact, a recent survey revealed stashes of nuts in a field near Worthing, up a pig’s anus and in a cumulo-nimbus cloud.
The Red Squirrel Road Safety Action Forum, the Penge-based group of militant socialist squirrel-fanciers and road users also point out that the British red squirrel is in decline due to heavier traffic volumes in the last few years.
“The red squirrel has not adjusted to the new road conditions, and still imagines that we live in the England of the 1920s, when other furry British mammals, such as Ratty, Mole and Badger did not drive, leaving the roads open only to aristocratic, non-hopping amphibians, and squirrels,” he informed me, while fixing me with a slightly intense stare. “But since rats, shrews and even immigrant gerbils have taken to the road, the high speed antics of the British red have led to just one tragic result: car-nage.”
In a secret location at the Dog and Duck in Penge, the spokesman also hinted at more sinister reasons for the shocking decline of the British red.
“Let’s be clear about this, apart from not being able to see over the dashboard and press the pedals at the same time, which makes driving inherently dangerous for the British red, we have to bear in mind that most squirrel mechanics are greys,” he hinted darkly.
“The American grey has the body mass needed to replace wheels, lift engines out of engine bays and service vehicles. And…” he supped on his Babycham and checked over his shoulder to see if any rodents were listening before continuing. “They like to gnaw. On brake pipes. I bet that’s a statistic not held by the ONS,” he slurred as I plied him with more fizzy alcoholic drinks once fashionable in the 1970s. “You know why? Because the ONS is run by greys, too. It’s a conspiracy.”
I was distracted from our interview for a moment by the sound of feet scurrying away from a table nearby. Whoever had been sitting there had left behind no clue as to whom they were, except for an empty bag of peanuts and a copy of The New York Times, from behind which, the Penger assured me, “they” had been listening.
A call to the ONS asking for details on the amount of red squirrel road accidents caused by gnawed brake pipes received only a stunned silence at the other end of the line. A query as to the species balance in the government-run organisation was followed by a high-pitched Texan rodent voice aggressively asking me for my name and address.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Grey Squirrel Mechanics Alliance was unavailable for comment.
Last night, I was awakened by the sound of the clinking of tools outside, and I looked down from my bedroom window to see small, furry movements underneath my car. It was clearly a dream. I will be taking a drive in the country later today.