The use of McWiFi to keep in touch with the world at large whilst travelling is all very well but is sometimes less than convenient; one doesn’t always stay within easy reach of a McDonalds. We should be thankful that some places remain unMcSallied, I suppose. Prior to this trip I had invested £10 (half price when I replaced my last laundered mobile phone) in an O2 PAYG mobile broadband dongle in an attempt to establish independence. I installed the software before we left but thought I’d wait ‘til we were on-site before buying any data. Once here, I fired up the O2 “Connection Manager” and was greeted by the frustrating message, “No networks available”. Incroyable! Can these English not implement anything well? I would have to revert to essentially reliable old McWiFi, then. At least, here, McD’s is not too far away and is close to a reasonable supermarket, though the fuel is depressingly expensive (£1-40.9/ltr).
Since, as forecast, more traditional English weather had returned today, we thought we’d spend our wet morning combining a much needed big shop with a trip to McWiFi for an O2-beating Internet cappuccino. We’d developed another more sinister need, too. Not only have our avian friends begun to get the hang of our coconut shell fat and seed feeder, but the accursed American grey squirrel imports have got the hang, quite literally, of our birds’ peanut feeder. Nearly every time we look out of Guillaume’s window in search of a delightful Marsh Tit, we are confronted by the site of a darn squirrel hanging on the peanuts. I know squirrels look quite cute but they are simply tree rats with PR. Not only do they pinch the food intended for the birds but they frequently destroy the feeders in the process. This was war! Our clever neighbours came very well equipped not only with a pole from which to hang three feeders but with a squirrel baffle, too. We needed to find an arms dealer.
Opposite Sainsbury’s on the outskirts of Christchurch we found a mega garden centre. Inside was a vast array of Guardman bird feeding paraphernalia including several supposedly squirrel-proof jobs. Since the ground on our campsite resists all but 25cm/10in rock pegs, a pole was out of the question – we’d never get it in the ground. We needed a modestly sized peanut feeder that would hang from a relatively insubstantial tree. Francine spotted one potentially cunning device with a spring-loaded metal sleeve. The idea is this: when Mr. Squirrel clambers down onto the feeder from the branch above, Mr Squirrel’s weight hanging on the metal sleeve and collar assembly compresses the spring whereupon the sleeve and collar slide down protecting the goodies. That was the theory. We returned to Guillaume to see what might happen in practice. If nothing else, we were gleefully anticipating the entertaining sight of a shocked looking squirrel sliding down the feeder under its own weight. 😀
I filled the new feeder and strung it up in our tree. Along came a squirrel. The squirrel completely ignored the new feeder and began munching the fat balls. Well, of course! We threw pine cones at the squirrel which scarpered. I did my best to mimic something of the design of the high-tech peanut feeder by fixing a length of grey plastic waste pipe above the fat ball feeder. It wouldn’t slide down and cover the fat balls but it might give pause. For the moment, I tried without the added deterrent of smearing it with Vaseline. “Don’t use your big guns too early”, I thought. Along came a squirrel. It attempted the fat balls again but didn’t care for my plastic waste pipe. It backed up and went for the high-tech peanut feeder. Gingerly, it let itself down onto the metal sleeve. The spring compressed, the metal sleeve and collar slid down. The collar reached the end of its travel and stopped rather suddenly whereupon the metal sleeve became disconnected and, together with the squirrel, continued on their downward trajectory until both were stopped by terra firma.
A disgruntled squirrel disappeared. I went out to repair the high-tech feeder. The metal sleeve is a simple push-fit onto the collar. It clearly wasn’t push-fitted tightly enough to withstand the jarring of a sudden stop when loaded with squirrel. Incroyable! Can these English not implement anything well?
I may need a Franco modification.