Monday, 24 December 2007

Fox Caught Cat Napping

As an animal lover, I was surprised and enormously cheered to find a lovely fox curled up asleep in the middle of my urban garden at lunchtime on Saturday…and unfortunately, this delight led to a bit of embarrassment on the train this morning. I didn’t accidentally take the fox to work with me—nothing like that.

On Saturday, I had just come back from the vets (got all my shots!) and felt somewhat shaken from the journey there at the hands of a truly psycho minicab driver, so it was a diverting surprise to see my new furry friend honouring my neglected--nay ignored-- garden with its snoozy presence. Anyone who read my first posting about how a pigeon’s nest outside my window lifted my spirits for a month can imagine I might get positively feverish at the sight of a fox so near for so long. Usually, they are just fleeting glimpses of scarlet in the moonlight, dodging the bullying neighbourhood cats as they search for food often in atrocious conditions, nights I would have hoped they’d stay huddled safe in their den somewhere, but I suppose they must go out in horrid weather as they can’t ring Domino’s for delivery.

Here in broad daylight, in the middle of a small square shabby garden that was long ago concreted over and just barely decorated with errant vines straying from the neighbours’ garden with no respect for the boundary, and on the other side of the fence, with numerous noisy Christmas shoppers chatting and slamming car doors just a few feet away in the car park so near the main shopping centre in town….lay a snoozing fox, rather exposed.

It seemed so surprising that I started to worry that the fox must be injured and could crawl no further so stopped where it landed. Fortunately its chest was rising and falling with comforting regularity, and surely any broken limbs would not manage to curl into such a tight red ball. I also feared that it might be disturbed and run into the path of danger, and I hoped it would at least sleep ‘til dark, which would be in a few hours at 3.30pm.

So I kept an eye on him, took a few photos from a distance as I did not dare go down into the garden for fear of terrifying him. I eventually got out my old-fashioned camcorder and filmed him, and just as the sky grew a bit darker, he picked up his head, looked back (coincidentally in my direction) revealing his gorgeous fox face and wonderful ebony ears, had a bit of a chew on his probably mangy skin, and gave his ear a scratch with a back foot as a dog would. He was lovely, and he seemed to be well.

He then hit nature’s snooze button and curled up for another brief visit to noddytown, then after a bit lifted his head, stood and straightened out by lunging forward then backward, stretching his legs. He raised his head to assess the situation but didn’t look at all surprised about where he was so it must have been a conscious choice to nap there. After a bit, he moved to the edge of my garden to the path that led to the front, cautiously gazed down it and seemed to decide that direction was unsafe, thought he’d go through the small picket fence to my neighbour’s garden and cutely tried to put his big furry head through the fence only to find—fortunately before it got stuck—that it was way too big to fit. So he looked up and leapt over the fence, ran through my neighbour’s garden and disappeared….though he would have had a lot of concrete and pavement to cross before he got anywhere remotely secluded.

Pleased to get some footage of such cuteness unravelling before my eyes, I transferred it to my computer that night and left it (and a few other clips) burning onto a DVD whilst I slept. In the morning, eager to see how it turned out, I grabbed the newly burned DVD to watch on my laptop on the train. Comfortably seated on a busy train carriage, having put my MP3 player headphones in my ears, I turned on the laptop and carefully checked that the sound was, as always, muted so the DVD would not be heard by everyone in the carriage. The DVD would contain no fox noises (which I’ve often thought to sound a bit like someone slowly strangling or crushing a screeching bird of prey—horrible in the night) as I had filmed through a closed window. What it did contain, I’m ashamed to admit, was a running commentary from yours truly that comes naturally when I see cute animals. It’s scary; I talk out loud and in a thoroughly shameful goopy voice.

So I watched the DVD on the crowded Christmas Eve train, and lots of people looked over at me and my laptop, which often happens; I think it’s rude and surprising that people are so unaccustomed to seeing someone use a laptop on the train that they stare. When the fox footage ended, the DVD moved straight to a slideshow I’d done of photos of my father throughout his life to Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart. Such a fitting tune, but I did not expect to hear it absolutely blasting out of my laptop today on the train. It took me a moment to realise I was the one to blame for the powerful noise, as my ears were otherwise engaged listening to music, remember. I ripped out my headphones to confirm, with great alarm, that my laptop volume was not muted after all and in fact was horribly loud. The speaker volume was set to mute, yes, but apparently the DVD-playing software overrode that setting. I immediately shut down the software and opened the DVD-tray in a panic to stop the noise that everyone in the busy train carriage was hearing.

To my horror, it dawned on me that I’d just unwittingly treated said carriage full of people to about 15 minutes of the soundtrack of the fox footage. They would have heard a constant chorus of “Awwww, bless it! Look at the cuteness! Look at da fuzzy wuzzy ears! What adorableness! Please, please let it be okay! Awww, look at the fluffiness of da tail! It’s skitching its little ear, soooo sweeeet!” in an ultra-goopy voice of which I am not proud. I also seem to recall near the end as the fox made its getaway that I uttered an extremely rare-for-me expletive when I tried to film and photograph the fox at the same time and dropped one of the cameras. So that, after all the fuzzy goopy silly ‘adorableness’ constant narration, would have been blasted around my train carriage without my realising. For about 15 minutes. So maybe, just maybe, that was why everyone was staring at me! Including the many, many children on the train who must have been coming to London for some pantomime treats.

Oh dear. I just hope that those people are people who ride the train in only on Christmas Eve so I will never see them again. I’m sure that will be the case, if I wish really hard on the Christmas star I see tonight….

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