Foxes of Walthamstow

The tabloids told us foxes kill babies. Or possibly kidnap them? I forget, as that particular panic was a few years ago and has been replaced by other, more urgent ones.

I was feeling quite panicky myself, today; but not because of the foxes. I find all urban creatures reassuring, for the same reason as I find the sound of a late night tube rumbling underneath reassuring. It’s a sign that life goes on.

Near to my house there is a green patch of trees and diagonal paths. Not grand enough to be a park, but a good place to sit at midnight and watch the local foxes. There were three, tonight; at least, three that I could see. They came from three different angles, with an overflowing bin their trig point. They played, they relaxed. And, eventually, they ate some chicken, spilling the bones from unguarded plastic onto the cool grass.

While I was sat in the darkness, a young, drunk man lumbered towards me, eyeing me quizzically. But he eventually grasped exactly what kind of weirdo i was, and so veered off, clutching his small, blue plastic bag full of cans.

Before this, I had been in Lloyd Park, home of the William Morris gallery. Usually, the park shuts at dusk. But due to either a relaxing of Covid-19 controls or an absent minded park keeper, all the gates were open, and I could walk freely. I was alone, almost: the telltale ghoulish light of a mobile phone indicated the presence of two teenagers enjoying the darkness and the privacy.

Giving them a wide berth, I headed into the back, more open section of the park, past a closed cafe and a BMX track, the dark turning its jumps and bumps into some toy town lunar surface.

My senses were having a fun time, alert to the relative lack of information.

I’ve been doing these sort of nighttime walks for decades. What do people make of me, if they see me? Is this behaviour stranger for a man in his forties than in his twenties? And if so, does it matter?

I’m lucky to be male, white and nondescript. I am generally left alone by men of authority or otherwise, to enjoy the privilege of luxuriating in nocturnal anonymity. There will be an age, or a time, when this perambulatory safety valve won’t be available to me any more. But that seems a long way off, and I appreciate my fortune and my freedom.

Looping back, I sat on a bench, stared at the old house lit up in defiance of the stars, and wondered quite what had happened to the day.

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