The Duke - October 28, 2015

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The Manager has gone to war.

No, she’s not joined the Poulton branch of Senior Citizens Against ISIS, it’s more personal than that.

Well, when I say personal I actually mean more sciuridae or, in less scientific language – squirrel.

I’m running the risk of finding my dinner’s in the cat (and we don’t even have a cat) but I find our (well, it spends most of its life in our garden) grey squirrel quite an endearing little creature.

All right, its fellow grey sciuridaes (or even sciuromorphas if you want to travel further down the boffin route) have seen off most of our native red variety but that’s an immigration issue and our border patrols have bigger fish to fry (I know, I know, squirrels aren’t fish but you get my point).

So what’s Mrs D’s problem with Master (or Mistress – how the heck do you tell from a distance?) Nutkin?

Well as one last hurrah to this year’s gardening blitz she decided to make the most of the recent spell of mild weather before the predicted Arctic Winter sets in and plant enough bulbs to make the organisers of next year’s Chelsea Flower Show sit up and take notice.

She bought a job lot from a national newspaper offer and they bunged in a pile more for nothing, presumably assuming with an order of that size we owned our own nature reserve. All well and good except that – ignoring any obvious innuendoes about what squirrels might do with their nuts in the cold weather – our little friend must have felt all its Christmases had come at once. And early.

For no sooner had Mrs D completed her daily burial of crocuses, daffodils, bluebells and goodness what else (that’s as far as my floral knowledge goes), than the squirrel would set about resurrecting them, feast on a few bulbs (its preference being crocus for reasons best known to itself) and squirrel away (sorry!) a load of others to see it through the months ahead. I’ve not seen The Manager quite so annoyed since the Spring Offensive. Again, nothing to do with international conflicts, more a case of enthusiastically planting a herb garden into what looks unnervingly like Dracula’s coffin and which was lovingly hand made by my stepfather.

She loved filling it with seeds for chives and mint then parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme whilst singing a poor version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair. She less loved the fact that our previously much admired feathered friends liked the herb seeds with the passion of a Michelin chef (except for mint, which we’ve still got an abundance of) and set about scoffing them with gusto.

Anyway, back to the squirrel. It didn’t take too long to discover that lying in wait in a hidey hole near the garden shed then jumping out and yelling “shoo” at the top of her voice was not the ideal deterrent. Have you ever heard a squirrel chuckle? We have.

So out came the chicken wire. No, we don’t have chickens but we did once have neighbours whose dog would cross the great hedgerow divide and leave us a regular reminder of his short stay. Strategically placed chicken wire kept him at bay but we over ordered by about tenfold so I was actually quite pleased Mrs D could finally chop it into small pieces and cover her pots and other containers with it (plus holly leaves, broken dishes, stinky compost and anything else she could lay her hands on).

Has it worked? Only time will tell but the way the squirrel winked at me this morning from the garden wall I wouldn’t hold out too much hope.

Now here’s a museum to really get your teeth into...

I’m really looking forward to Blackpool’s long-awaited museum (bad label by the way!) in the Winter Gardens but not as much as I am to a planned one celebrating the delights of the Cornish pasty.

Sadly it will be in St Austell (Cornwall) which is quite a hike but then again a lot closer than the world’s only other Cornish pasty museum which for some reason is located 5,000 miles away in Real del Monte, Mexico, which also holds an annual pasty festival.

The Cornish version is the brainchild of pasty loving 60-year old Redruth-born (but Oxfordshire-based) businessman Malcolm Ball, who rightly admits to being “absolutely staggered” at the dearth of any pasty based visitor attraction in the UK.

He is now calling on pasty makers past and present for help with artefacts such as photos, tools, stoves and ovens.

There’s a few cafes round here which could probably help out with some genuine old pasties just to start things off.

But beware of imitations, Cornish pasties were awarded protected status by the EU four years ago so that only pasties actually made in Cornwall can legally be called Cornish pasties. Quite right, too.

So come on Blackpool business people. How about a Fish & Chip Museum with a kebab annexe?