Like Squirrels to Nuts

Apart from my brief sojourn to the Scottish Highlands, I am mostly staycationing this year, so another beautiful Sunday afternoon found me out on the patio with a picnic and a terrific book, Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes. (Lovely lady, if you’re reading this, any chance of a sequel, Like Squirrels to Nuts?)

Of course, just because I am only out on the patio, it doesn’t mean to say that standards need to drop. I hauled out my indoor hammock (no, Kaff still hasn’t got me a groovy outside one), picnic blanket, a hamper of nuts which was very heavy but happily, quite a bit lighter when I brought it back inside, and a lovely bottle of something cool and pale. I wish I could say it was the Cisk beer featured in Caroline’s book but it wasn’t. I had to settle for a bottle of Dalwhinnie instead.

My shades and sun hat are very important – I don’t want to end up a red squirrel, after all – so I made sure to take those with me on the first trip out to the patio. (I am only a little squirrel and had no help shifting everything, so it took a couple of trips.) However, when I finally had everything around me, I kicked off my sandals, and read for a while.

Caroline Smailes is a lovely, very clever lady and a top writer. I’ve been to a lot of islands but haven’t been to Malta, yet she described it so well that I feel as if I’ve been there this afternoon. I had taken my iPOD outside with me as well, but I didn’t need it, I was so engrossed in her book. If you want to find out more about it, Kaff did a review on her blog The Nut Press. (She should have been writing my book, The Adventures of Squizzey, but instead read Caroline’s and then wrote about it. I think that’s a little naughty but Caroline’s so lovely, I don’t mind too much, I suppose.)

All in all, it was one of those lovely, restful paws-up afternoons that a busy International celebrity squirrel like me doesn’t get very often. I enjoyed it immensely. How did you spend your weekend?

No squirrel wants to be Without Alice

It was such a beautiful day today that I was desperate to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Kaff has towers of TBR books (that stands for To-Be-Read, how well am I getting into this literary speak, eh?), so I clambered up, only knocking out a couple of volumes on my way, and filched this promising-looking book from the top of the pile. Without Alice is the debut novel of DJ Kirkby, one of Kaff’s Twitter pals. Having met the lovely lady in London in May, I wanted to read her book, especially as Kaff is promising to take me to the book’s London launch in October.

As soon as they got wind of me going outside, of course, the crew wanted to come, too. I managed to persuade the chipmunks to stay indoors and guard the nut stash but Fluffy, Patch, Squashy, Leo and Hotty all came out onto the patio with me.

As you can see, we all became engrossed in the story and enjoyed our time in the sun. It’s so much lovelier spending time outside with a good book than reading indoors, isn’t it? And Without Alice is certainly a good book. A very good book. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far.

*Btw, just between you and me, I have to admit that I don’t think much of the cover model, so I have offered my services to Denyse for her next book.

You can find out more about Without Alice and buy it exclusively from the Punked Books website. It doesn’t go on general sale until October. You can also join in the discussion on the Without Alice FaceBook page . To find out more about DJ Kirkby, visit her Author Website or DJ Kirkby’s Blog .

Clearing Out

This is a photo of me on an extremely powerful and poignant memorial statue called The Emigrants which commemorates all those who were forced to leave their homes in the Highland Clearances. It is situated in Helmsdale on the east coast of Scotland. The father and son look out to sea and an unknown future and the mother (with her baby) turn back towards the Strath and the home they have left behind. You can find out more about the statue here.

This statue made a lasting impression on me. While I’m not in any way being exiled, unlike those who were cleared out of their homes and sent to far-flung countries, it does sum up how I feel after visiting this part of Scotland. I feel sad about having to leave. It is a wrench to have to go to home. But from the time spent in this beautiful part of the world, I also draw an incredible strength for whatever lies ahead. So, much like the father, I feel like I am striding forward with determination.

Bright Prospects

This is one of the stops we made on the way up from Helmsdale to Strath Halladale: it’s a picture of me at Baile-An-Or, the site of the Sutherland gold rush. Kaff’s grandfather took part in it. No, he didn’t find any gold – like Kaff’s family has ever had any luck with finding their fortune! – but it is a beautiful part of the Strath. Whenever we reach Baile-An-Or, we stop and have a breather, knowing that we’re very close to reaching the croft where we usually stay.

It’s also by this point that we lost any decent Internet signal so mine and Kaff’s hopes of blogging and tweeting our vacation were abandoned. The poor thing tried to get a signal and drove up and down the Strath, stopping in almost every passing place to try and see if she could get 3G, but it was never strong enough for mobile Internet. She managed to get some time online at the local library in Thurso to deal with some emails. Ho hum. In the end, she was forced to do what everyone should do on holiday, and RELAX. It was kind of funny watching her struggle to switch off and enjoy that she couldn’t get online and nobody could reach her. She has become Geek-Girl in an alarming short space of time, bless.

I’m thinking that being able to take a real holiday and disconnect from the Internet and mobile phones might just be the GOLD DUST of our time.

A Wee Dram

Hello there! McSquizzey here…

Yes, I am at long last on my summer holidays and whizzing ever northwards. After a fab-ly fun stopover with my lovely mates in Kendal, I have made it into Scotland. Currently in Fort Augustus on a stop-over, we visited Dalwhinnie Distillery yesterday to pick up some of their special brew for Geek-Boy who’s been left at home. He’s fine. He has computers to play with and a kitchen floor to put down. 🙂

I persuaded Kaff to get me a bottle of Dalwhinnie whisky and I look forward to having a wee dram this evening when I put my paws up.

In the meantime, here’s a pic of me with my bottle among some of the casks at Dalwhinnie. Like the outfit? It’s so Moi, n’est pas? It was a pressie from our mates in Kendal. That’s how cool they are.

More posts to follow, lovely friends, so you can follow me on my Scottish adventure.

The Squirrel’s heart beat

‘If we had keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.’ George Eliot

I read this quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch today. It’s not a book that Kaff or I particularly liked or enjoyed but we’re revisiting it this summer and seeing if we weren’t a little hasty in our dismissal of it. That, and, once she’s read it, Kaff believes she’ll have another excuse to watch the adaptation with Rufus Sewell in it. (As if she ever needs a reason to do that.)

Anyway, the quote got me thinking about how good it would be, if you humans did occasionally stay still long enough to hear something as quiet as a squirrel’s heart beat. I know we all lead busy, busy lives but really, when was the last time that you stopped and took a little time for yourself and looked at a place or an object or another person or listened to another person or a song or a poem? I mean properly looked or listened. Maybe you should do that this weekend? In amongst all the noise (those dratted vuvuzelas or, if you live near Sid, like I do, that darned woodland imp of a real squirrel, who’s been banging on about how the new patio’s covered up his nut stash all blooming day!), STOP and look at something or someone, or listen to them, so that you really see or hear them. Don’t just glance up and back to whatever you were watching or doing or reading or tweeting (yes, Kaff, I’m talking to you!) Really LOOK and LISTEN. Try it. You might like it and want to do it more often. Just saying.

Hammock Heaven

My hammock isn’t really an outdoor hammock. It’s supposed to sit on Kaff’s desk. (High up, where she can forget about me.) I keep asking her when she’s going to plant some nut trees in the garden and swing a hammock between them for me but 10 summers have passed and it hasn’t happened yet. So, when the weather was so warm and balmy on Saturday, I sneaked my super posh hammock with palm trees out onto the patio and caught some rays. Do you like my shades? Super cool, no? I am still in my festival gear, so this might yet turn out to be the summer of love for one little grey squirrel. I can live in hope. Most of my new Twitter followers are female, so things are decidedly looking up…

Here’s a pic of me chilling and swaying, waiting for my amaretto on the rocks to be brought to me by my ever-unreliable and decidedly-lazy serving wench.

Paper Aeroplanes

I went to a Paper Aeroplanes gig at Chapter Arts in Cardiff last night. Me. Out. On a Friday night. I was beginning to think that I might be getting too old (well, I am 3,000 years old) to keep up with the youngsters or down with the kids or whatever it is these days but no, it appears that I still have it going on. Yeah baby!

Paper Aeroplanes are the soundtrack to summer for me. They make perfect, poetic pop songs. Lyrics with depth and melodies that soar and sear their way into your soul. I do also have to confess to having a little crush on the lead singer, Sarah. She’s lovely and her voice is pure and beautiful and makes me go a little weak in the paws.

If you haven’t heard of them, check them out. Cliche was their first single and you can hear more of their music on Paper Aeroplanes’ MySpace Page. They are absolutely wonderful and I guarantee that you will hear more and more of them.

Purple Ponty

It never fails to amaze me just where Kaff sometimes takes me. Take last night, for example. I thought I was going along with her and Geek-Boy to meet up with Fenty (a top bloke who we all used to work with) and go to an event in The Blueberry Hotel in Pontypridd.

Admittedly, while Kaff, G and even Fenty had registered, I hadn’t and so Kaff smuggled me in a bag (as usual – not very V.I.S.) but, as I blog and live in a valley, I did actually have every right to go along to the inaugural Valley Blogger Meet Up, which is what we were going out to.

But when I forced my way out of my (I’d love to say limo here, but you know it wasn’t, it was a bag) transport for the evening, I was confronted with a purple haze. Hey up, I thought, what’s going on, where are we and what have I let myself in for? I was expecting to see dancers of a certain kind appear any minute.

Sadly, they didn’t, but the evening was great fun despite this minor disappointment.


I have Hay Fever after my first ever weekend camping in the famous Book Town. Okay, okay, so technically the campsite was just outside it and over the border in England, but still. I was there!

Although I’ve been to the Guardian Hay Festival many times in the past, I’ve always gone up there for the day and come home again, Kaff being too much of a skinflint to shell out for some deluxe squirrel-friendly accommodation. I don’t know what happened to her this year but somehow Joycey persuaded Kaff to camp over the first weekend and she booked a Yurt for the three of us. It was smashing. We had enough room inside for two single air beds, a table, two chairs and plenty of space for my travel hammock.*

Hay was fab. Plenty of squirrel-friendly treats, like macadamia nuts, pistachio ice cream and amaretto and cherry fudge during the day and coconut curry in the evening. I wore my trendy festival gear and made lots of new friends. I think it’s fair to say that I was quite the hit. No doubt everyone I met will be back the next time I appear at Hay to promote my very own decalogy, The Adventures of Squizzey. I should think next year for Volume 1. The wench must surely have finished it by then?

*A travel hammock is slightly less salubrious than my usual hammock, with no paint job but still with palm trees (I do have my standards, after all!) but it stands up to the rigours of being on the road much better than the posh Floridian hammock does, and I would hate for that to get damaged.

(Many thanks to Kaff’s mate (@ViolaMaths) for the pic.)