Wednesday, 7 July 2010

City Wildlife

There was a lot of fuss when I was in London recently about foxes getting into people's upstairs bedrooms and snacking on chunks of their children. Personally, I couldn't understand all the outrage and surprise. When hunting was banned, did no-one else foresee this? How did the campaigners expect foxes to use their new spare time? They've never been much for hobbies, foxes, let's face it. Didn't anyone read Jemima Puddleduck when they were young? Did the scary imagery of Ted Hughes' Thought Fox -

... an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.

not enter the dark hole of anyone else's head?

Apparently not. Most Londoners are usually too busy maligning that other furry city dweller, the squirrel - rats with fluffy tails, mere vermin, I was regularly told when I lived there. As squirrels don't frequent sewers and are not, as far as I know, plague carriers, this always struck me as a bit unfair. To me, they seemed extremely obliging creatures, happy to pose for tourists' pictures - and it became obvious to me, on my walks in London's parks, that the sight of a few squirrels was often the highlight of many people's trip to the UK - for little more than the promise of a peanut.

So, when - stuck in a traffic jam on Upper Thames Street, just near Queen Street Place the other day- I saw a squirrel come dashing out of a churchyard ahead of me, scamper a hundred yards down the pavement, dodging the feet of city workers, and shoot into a second churchyard and straight up a tree trunk there, I didn't grimace and mutter about infestations and filth. I saluted the little animal, admiring the ease with which it was negotiating its way through the streets of the city - an ease I could only envy.


  1. Unfortunately, too many people's experience of wild animals is limited to Disney movies.

  2. Stupidly, I used to think Beatrix Potter, with her rabbits in little blue jackets and tam o'shanters, was schmaltzy, but of course that was only window dressing, wasn't it - there is the threat of violence just around the corner in her stories, unlike Walt's.