msb ~041 Beyond the background wild #2

Beyond the background wild #2

Street fox, Brighton 2018

Thinking about times I’ve really encountered wild animals, I realise there are very few true moments beyond the ‘background wild’

Southampton in the 90s: heading to the station for the last train home from work, the main road silent, empty of traffic and people – and a fox sauntered up the path. We both stopped, inspecting each other. Then she moved closer, slow but not especially cautious. I’m unsure how cautious urban foxes should be… More than this. I stood. She kept coming, reached out her snout, sniffed.

I raised my hand, thinking to head her off, but she kept sniffing, now an inch from my fingers. I think I said ‘Hello’ (well, who wouldn’t greet a fox?) but wanted her to be warier: of me and the road she was approaching. I made a gesture – unthreatening but definitive? – “Time to go, fox. Go back.” Part of me did wonder if she’d bite as easily as sniff; a larger part wanted to touch her anyway. She headed on, untroubled by ideas of me or roads, and I continued down to the station, wondering what she’d wondered as she considered me, smelled me, then went her way again.

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