Dusk dissolves into darkness. I listen carefully. Nothing, not even a single hoot or caw. The birds and squirrels have retired for the night and silence spreads like a snug blanket tucking in my wildlife family members into their respective beds. The solar lanterns light up and twinkle. I have just spent the evening washing the bird feeder and filling it with suet pellets. That will be something different from the usual peanuts for the birds to try in the morning. The squirrels have now realised that they are playing a losing game. Their tactics have changed as they peer at me with begging eyes when they catch me at the kitchen sink. “It’s Summertime, go and find your own food, you lazy so and so’s”, I reply back. I have a sneaky suspicion that they will get to the suet pellets before the birds.
That was on Friday. Saturday dawns and the bird feeder looks untouched. Summer is half way through. The second summer since life took a sudden turn and plunged us into uncertain times. Most of us have weathered it well. Some didn’t. The latest casualty is a childhood friend. If Enid Blyton had five children in her adventures we too had five. He was the only male in the group and younger than all of us except Ruby. She was the baby of the group. The weekends and school holidays were ours to explore and we made the most of it. Santhini and Prasad went along with all our plans. Back in India we were too far apart to stay in touch but managed brief contacts for important events. The first domino has fallen. Our turn will come but hopefully not for a long while.
The squirrels have found the feeder and one of them is wrapped around it. I wait to see if he can get to the pellets. I still haven’t named them and Lakshmi has run out of good names. What about Fauci and Whitty, the two important names in our lives over the past year, or will this be considered disrespectful. I get inspiration from those I admire and respect and I have respect for these two physicians and think that they wouldn’t be offended if I name these intelligent creatures, albeit rodents, after them. I don’t know which should be which as I can’t tell them apart and think the names are gender neutral enough and so that’s settled then. Fauci manages to flick open the lid. I rush to the scene, close the lid firmly, reprimand him and tell him to go search for the red hawthorn berries I saw him nibbling the other day. We have a few more stand offs when I catch him near the feeder repeatedly. We glare at each other till one of us give in and walk away. Finally he thinks it is not worth the effort and leaves the feeder alone. The birds return.
Sunday morning and we are going away for a few days. It is a hot sunny day and I see Whitty and Fauci running around chasing each other playfully. I go into the garden to water the plants. I tell Fauci to keep an eye on the house and look after the plants while I’m gone. He says “No” and walks away. Well, serves me right, doesn’t it. “I’ll bring you back something from Witney”, I call after him. “Where is that?”, he enquires. “In Oxfordshire”. “I’ll have to think about it”, he’s still upset with me. “Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” I enquire. “Can I play with the bird feeder?”, he asks. “Oh, ok then,” I reply resignedly knowing very well that he will not leave it alone if he knows I’m not going to be around. I finish the watering, put the hose away and make a mental note to search the internet for squirrel proof bird feeders.