Day 29 of 80 — Squirrels

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 29 : Squirrels

Before my first weekend in London, I had only seen squirrels in Spirou & Fantasio and in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone.

So when I walked through Hyde Park then St James’s Park on that first London visit, at the age of sixteen, I was delighted. Squirrels everywhere! Not too shy, either. You could get close to them, take a picture. They were a bit greyer than in the cartoons but I did not let that detail spoil the experience. They were just as cute as I imagined them to be, as quick as Spip (Spirou’s pet squirrel). Soon they had overtaken some famous London sights in my teenage mind’s hierarchy of memories.

Then I grew up, became a Blue Badge Guide, and learned that Grey Squirrels had actually chased away the Red Squirrels that used to live here. I was told that Grey Squirrels are like pretty rats, that they’re dirty and spread diseases. I learned all about London’s sights and its history and I now find many other things to interest and amaze me when I walk through Hyde Park or St James’s Park.

But when I’m on a tour, and some of my group get distracted by squirrels and stop listening to me, I can’t help but think fondly of sixteen-year-old me. And so instead of getting frustrated, I offer to borrow their phone and take a picture.

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