One morning last week I was woken up by a squirrel jumping onto the outside window ledge of my bedroom. I told it to go away in no uncertain terms and to my surprise it did as it was told. It was only after it had gone that I realised that it was wearing a bowler hat and carrying a rolled umbrella! They must have made life difficult when running around the branches of trees!
I just assumed that I'd been dreaming until I was half asleep during the television adverts later the same evening. It just so happened that I heard an old Cadbury's jingle. You probably know the one; 'Nuts whole hazel nuts, Cadbury's take them and cover them in chocolate.' In my drowsy state I suddenly sat up and remembered the squirrel earlier that morning. If a squirrel was to work in the sort of industry that expected the worker to wear a bowler hat and carry a rolled umbrella then surely the acquisition of large quantities of perfect nuts could be performed 100% by a squirrel.
This conclusion made me think about following the animal if I ever saw him again. I had to wait a few weeks looking out for him then one morning he appeared at the end of my garden. He was having a sniff round the small grove of hazel nuts that I had mistakenly planted in order to have a fresh supply of nuts for the family at Xmas. I'd always blamed the squirrels for my lack of festive fare and now I might have seen the culprit.
Instead of shouting to frighten him away, I watched him carefully to see where he went when he left my garden. He approached the house without appearing to show any fear and walked casually (for a squirrel) out to the front garden and the road. Then looking left and right to make sure it was safe to cross, he turned right and headed off towards the railway station through the public gardens at the end of my road.
At this point I didn't feel I ought to run after him, after all what would an elderly gent be doing running after a squirrel; even supposing I could run as fast as he could!
The next day I was ready and waiting for him as he ran through the park quickly and I was just in time to see him head into the station car park. Assuming that he caught the same train every day like all the other human workers I was waiting on the platform for him to appear the next day. Sure enough there he was getting on the train just as the doors were closing.
I went home and checked the stations that the particular train stopped at on its journey and then tried to find a reason why a squirrel would want to travel to one of these places.
It didn't take me too long to find out that one of the stopping points was near a large Cadbury's factory, so as soon as possible I went to the factory gates before his train was due to arrive. I'd guessed correctly and was there to watch him in due course arriving at the main gate. He went in almost as if he owned the place. Security staff ignored him as he scurried past and headed for one of the smaller buildings. Fortunately I'd had the foresight to bring a pair of binoculars with me so that should my presence be questioned I could always claim that I'd seen a rare bird and was keeping an eye on it, which was true in some respects.
So using the binoculars from an inconspicuous vantage point I was able to follow his journey to its conclusion as he entered a door on the ground floor that had a large picture of a hazelnut painted on it just under the letters 'Q.A.' and a squirrel flap in the bottom.
By keeping my head down the next day I managed to pass gate security and walk to the QA door with all the other human workers, I tapped on it and walked inside. The office appeared to be perfectly normal, a girl looked up as I closed the door behind me.
"I'm sorry to intrude." I said, but I'm rather intrigued by the squirrel that just came in."
"Oh you must mean Mr Nutkin," she said, "we called him that after the squirrel in the Beatrix Potter books. Nobody knows if he even has his own name but we gave him one to distinguish him from all the others. He's in charge of the other squirrels who work here, I'll show you if you like?"
I nodded enthusiastically and the girl got up from her desk and opened a door to her right. This lead on to a sort of balcony from which humans could overlook the hundreds of squirrels working just above floor level. Each squirrel had its own narrow production line belt with a row of nuts in their shells passing rapidly in front of it. Every now and then the animal would press a button and a nut would disappear down a chute to one side into a bin marked 'fail'
The flow of nuts was considerable. "Every nut is perfect," enthused the young lady showing me what the QA department did, "before these lines were put in the detection rate for poor quality nuts was about 83%. The squirrels have a natural instinct for checking them for suitability for consumption and the production rate for our bars of nut chocolate has been increased considerably, now that we know that the ingredients are all 100%"
"So how did anybody get the idea of using squirrels and how did you get them to come and work here?"
"Mr Nutkin just walked in one day and said he'd had the idea for improving our production rate."
This was a bit too much for me to believe. "But squirrels can't talk surely." I was beginning to have my doubts even so, however unbelievable though they may have been.
The girl laughed." Of course they can't, but somehow or other Mr Nutkin has learned how to type! He can't spell very well but he gives us the ideas, and the working squirrels just arrived"
"One of the things that puzzles me is why on earth he wears a hat and carries a rolled umbrella?"
The girl laughed again, "that was his idea. We couldn't understand what he meant when he began patting his head and rubbing his ears, then one day somebody had the idea of taking him to the main gate as the workmen came in. As you might imagine we're an old fashioned firm and as the bosses came in he got more and more excited. We couldn't imagine why at first, then one person noticed that as they got out of their cars they were all wearing bowler hats and carrying rolled umbrellas. So we girls all got together and made him a bowler hat with slots cut in to accommodate his ears. The rolled umbrella was a bit more difficult until we realised that there was no point in making it work, providing it had a curved handle."
"One last question if you don't mind, surely setting up this production line must have cost a lot of money?"
"Well not as much as you might think. There's no expensive structures to provide, just the drive for the conveyor belt and that was already there, it just needed adjustment to suit the squirrels lack of height."
"Still I'm quite sure they don't just do the work for pleasure, how on earth do you pay all of them?"
"Oh that's the easy part, we just give them the one thing they like most that they can't get locally.
"I would have thought they had everything they needed supplied by nature?".
"No we've found something they have a tremendous liking for, now they all quite literally work for peanuts!"