Thursday, 17 May 2012


Quick, grab the camera!” I shriek, “I've just seen a flash of red!” I run to the back door and fling it wide open; Monty, the family dog, is hot on my heels and overtakes me. His throaty growls disturb the peace: 'Clear off! This is my territory!' they say. A streak of red was darting over the fence into next door's garden. Damn, we missed him! Monty's growls were dying down, but he continued to patrol and snuffle, then trundled proudly up to me, his tail waving. With a few barks and some whimpers he communicated to me: I did my job. I always chase squirrels off and pigeons are fun to barrel into. I don't know what that was, but this is my turf, I'm the only red creature allowed here. Mother joined us outside, “Foxy outwitted the pair of you” she simply stated. Monty and I exchanged puzzled looks, was that the case? Had we just been outfoxed?

In Roald Dahl's book, Fantastic Mr. Fox, the fox is a crafty character. Stealing food from under his neighbours noses and digging up their plots. Make no mistake, there's something quite mesmerising about Mr. Fox. You'll know what I mean if you've crossed paths with him or a vixen. The red coat; the bold, but startled look; will human or fox react first? Witnessed in the flesh, the effect can be hypnotic. Living in a third floor flat, you forget how to connect with nature. You begin to appreciate rare glimpses: squirrels stealing half a baguette, crows fighting over a slice of pizza, or the occasional rat loitering by some overflowing food bins. An animal's instincts can reveal a lot about human nature. We too squabble over food and are opportunistic.

Vermin is the word we choose to use to describe such pests or bad people. Labelled as rodents or as undesirables, they need to be removed or domesticated. Residents want them moved on, when asked they remark 'get rid' and 'not in my back yard', complaining to the council. Where to then? Tame, incarcerate or destroy are the one-word replies to the question. Foxes, unfortunately, are included on this list and at times are disliked with a vengeance. Doesn't anybody ever think: couldn't it be us encroaching on their territory? Every house that Jack builds takes away another fox's den and makes their habitat smaller.

The fox, like an impoverished human being, is forced to resort to cunningness for their survival. A inherent aptitude we humans haven't lost, but choose to deny or hide. Perhaps that's it, we don't want to admit to our foxiness? But in doing this, aren't we sanitising nature? Fantastic Mr. Fox might be underhand, but he does what he has to. Sound familiar?