Today a squirrel shattered my self-esteem slightly

There’s a lady who frequents my local park. She has unkempt white hair and she carries a lot of plastic bags on her mobility device, as though she lives in some kind of rustic way (I imagine a derelict old house packed with towers of horded junk, but this is mere conjecture).

Every day I find her in the same spot by a big tree, scattering peanuts and talking to the pigeons and squirrels that come to take her offerings.

Today I went as usual down to the park to collect fresh grass for my guinea pigs. While I was walking, merrily swinging my many-times-reused platic co-op bag full of grass, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by a squirrel, which bounded out of the undergrowth and stopped right in front of me.

I too stopped.

“What?” I asked.

The squirrel reared up on its hind legs, it’s little paws held out in front of it like Oliver Twist.

“I don’t have food for you,” I told him, and then added a sheepish “sorry”.

At first I found the squirrel’s bold puppy-like behaviour cute and funny, but then something unsettling occurred to me. Did the squirrel…think I was the eccentric bag lady?

My hair was a little windswept and I was carrying a plastic bag full of grass to feed the two rodents I live with, and I was talking to a squirrel.

That’s when a more alarming thought occurred to me. AM I the eccentric bag lady?

Did lockdown actually send me a bit nuts? So to speak. Maybe she’s the future me. Maybe I’m going to retreat further and further away from society until my only friends are animals.

But you know what? Would it be so bad? She always looks so happy, feeding and chatting away to her furry little friends. A person who gets so much joy from making other creatures happy is a better role model than all those rich entrepreneurs who position themselves as self-help gurus, don’t you think?

Next time I go to the park, I’m bringing peanuts.