I’m Being Chirped a Lot Lately

(Here are some bits and pieces of a column I’m working on.)

Those of you who have a “bird feeder” know that is too narrow a term. In truth you also have a squirrel feeder.

Some might find Sciurus cute, but it’s a member of the rodent family

You could spend your income tax rebate on a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. But all you would be doing is installing the squirrel equivalent of a Sudoku puzzle, one they can solve before you have time to crumple up the sales receipt and toss it angrily into your fireplace.

Might as well put up a sign saying “This feeder is for birds only” and hope the squirrels have taught themselves to read English between meals.

Over the years the squirrels and I developed an informal protocol, much like cold war combatants that feel a need to rattle their sabres without actually going nuclear on each other.

This allowed both camps to maintain the pretext that squirrels were unwelcome at my bird feeder while they filled their bellies at will.

If I ventured onto my deck I would stomp loudly and perhaps let loose with a primeval growl. When you live by yourself in the woods you can do all sorts of things that would be embarrassing if observed.

The squirrels would dutifully leap from the feeder to nearby snowbanks in simulated fright, then scamper into the cedars. Then they would scold me like the chorus in a medieval morality play. Not that I’m quite old enough to have heard the real thing.

After a respectful interval, they would return to the all-you-can-chew buffet.

These days I practically have to make like a Newfoundland seal hunter to get a squirrel off my bird feeder. Not that I would club a red squirrel to death on a snowbank, though it might be fun to have Brigitte Bardot, Sarah McLachlan, Pamela Anderson and Gwen Stefani screaming “Save Our Squirrels” on my deck while I barbecued.

So I Said To Myself, “Do You Come Here Often?”

(My bouquet to you: A modified version of one of the columns in my book.)

You say Valentine’s Day is coming and you don’t have anyone to get down and romantic with?

You can tell a lot about a guy from his online dating site profile picture.

If that’s because you and your partner do little more than mutter what might only loosely be considered expressions of endearment as you pass each other in the hall, this column won’t help you much.

But if your valentine vacuum stems from being single, read on. Solitude can be cured, if you really want it to be, thanks to modern pop behavioural science.

Think positive. You still have time to find someone who might come up with a suggestive card, suggestive chocolates, suggestive wine, suggestive roses, suggestive lingerie or a blatant suggestion.

So let’s get started.

There’s still time to connect on online dating sites. But if you troll through those murky electronic waters, do so with your eyes open. The surfing part, I mean.

You might want to close those peepers if you actually hook up with someone from a dating site, because as in TV advertisements the “product may not be exactly as illustrated.”

There’s less fiction in a bodice-ripper paperback than in the average online dating profile. Hey, consider the lies and exaggerations you stuffed yours with. More important, consider the psychoses you glossed over.

Unless you want to limit yourself to avatar amour, you’re going to end up in the real world eventually. So why not start there?

Contrary to countless warnings you’ve heard, mainly self-serving ones from proprietors of online dating services, bars are a great place to meet someone from the opposite sex. Or whatever sex you happen to fancy.

Why? Well consider the TV commercial about drinking and driving, the one that places beer glass after beer glass in front of the camera lens and the image gets blurrier and blurrier.

That’s what happens in bars. After a few hours you start to resemble your dating site photo and believe your concocted profile. So do prospective partners.

Besides, by the time you strike out you might already have consumed more than enough consolation.

But some theorists believe the best option for finding an instant valentine might be to go where you go for other last-minute items: the store.

Supermarkets should be happy hunting grounds for men, because they’re chock-full of women.

Just cruise the aisles until you find a woman that appeals to you. She will be examining labels, assessing ripeness or comparing products.

Say something such as, “I’ve always wondered how to cook that.” Hopefully she won’t be holding a box of instant macaroni dinner or frozen hamburger patties at the time. And be wary of the geometry of certain vegetables if you’re in the produce department.

Your comment tells her you try to cook, so you’re probably single; you’re not very good at cooking, so probably you haven’t been single forever; you defer to her superior cooking skill; you need a woman, if only for recipe consultation.

The conversation that follows, unless she pegs you as the Supermarket Shelf Stalker and rushes off in search of a security guard, should tell you a few things about her.

If she says, “Well, my husband likes his lo mein . . . ,” she’s probably indicating that she’s not available.

If she says, “Well, my ex, that son-of-a-xxxxx, liked his lo mein seasoned with rat poison,” you might want to remember that you urgently need a dozen eggs.

Regardless, you’ve started a conversation that could be construed as innocent, yet elicits personal information and might cook up a relationship.

The worst that can happen is you’ll end up with a bag of quinoa in your cart.

Woman can try the same tactic, but they’re better off doing so in a hardware store.

Take your pick of the many men who seem to be spending way to much time examining tools, figure out what general category of tool he’s examining and then ask, “Oh, is that what I should use to fix my . . . ?”

As a man, he will find himself unable to confess any degree of ignorance. A long conversation is likely to ensue about whatever real or imagined repair problems you might have and how he has dealt with similar projects.

If it comes out that he recently remodelled his kitchen, he is married. Attached men usually blurt out how their partners turned a simple replacement of a light bulb into a full-scale kitchen reno.

If he built a bar in the rec room or added on to his garage, he’s single, or will be soon.

Regardless, you might find yourself surrounded by a cloud of men, each suggesting better ways to deal with your home-repair issues. With any luck those prophets of competing fix-up gospels won’t forget you are there.

Of course, the easiest way for an unattached soul to enjoy Valentine’s Day is to go out and buy something for himself or herself. Chances are it will be just what you wanted. And it will come straight from the heart of the person you love the most.

If that sounds a little unromantic, pretend the Valentine “surprise” comes from that promising but totally fictional match on the dating site. You know, that woman whose hobbies are hunting, fishing, small-engine repair and watching hockey. That guy who likes long walks, romantic movies and cuddling.