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Almost Christmas. I say that with a distinct sense of freedom and joy, not because it’s the festive season – Bah! Humbug! I say this because this year fate has spared me the usual barrage of Christmas songs. You know the ones I mean. All those songs that radio stations, supermarkets, and those not blessed with a sense of music play at this time every year ad nauseum. Hardly heard any of them this time around. Makes you feel good to be alive. A Noble Deed It’s going to be ten years since I became Lord Rail. All in all, it hasn’t impacted much on events, other than making a few people rather critical of me, including a couple of claims advisors, one of whom actually swore at me in public when I politely made him aware of my new found status. Another claims advisor attempted to crush my title out of significance with rather less rude language. They both failed. What next for the Caldrail autobiography? What can I do to offend conformity, advance the cause of individualistic idiocy, and generally make life a bit more interesting than visiting supermarkets at Christmas? Hmmm… Let me think…. Adopting Nature May I introduce you to Ronald? He’s a robin, the red breasted variety (although they do seem a bit orange rather than actually red), and has taken up residence at my workplace. Haven’t a clue what he finds to eat, probably subsisting on leftover sweeties when things are quiet. No food on the shop floor please… Okay, the boss is gone. But this is a bumper time for Ronald, because rules go out the door at Christmas as the boss brings in boxes of chocolates to reward us for a year of dedicated hard work and constant gripes. Seeing as this was the festive season, I suggested the company adopt Ronald as a mascot. I have no idea what Ronald thinks of this honour. He flew away. How Not To Get Home My last shift before xmas is done! Yahoo! Can’t be bothered to walk home in the rain so I opt for a bus. As much as I detest buses, even I have to confess they do come in handy occaisionally, like going home after the last shift before xmas. You could tell it was the festive season. Whilst I normaly have to wait ages for a bus to arrive, I had no sooner gotten to the bus stop when my ride arrived. I’ve long since learned to take my backpack off before getting on, but this not being a patient driver, I stepped aboard, pad the fare, got the ticket, and found myself entangled in the straps as I struggled manfully to fit into the seats. Slipping on the wet floor, cursing at the lack of movement, the bus accelerating and braking like an entry at Le Mans, boy oh boy, that was a test of manhood. I;m pleased to say no-one made any sarky comment at all. They must have seen me struggle before. What? Last Christmas? Oh heck, please let this not become an annual ritual…. Mammalian Connection of the Week A little while ago I finished a late shift and as I often do, I stopped at a lonely bus stop to rest for ten minutes before walking four miles home. The bus schedule finished hours ago you see. So I was there, guzzling my energy drink which I keep handy for such occaisions, when movement down on the pavement caught my eye. A fox! Not really that unusual, certainly not in that area with plenty of supermarket refuse bins to forage for food. This one hadn’t seen me, trotting happily along the pavement, looking in good health and really picture postcard perfect condition. Then it noticed my surprise. When you surprise a fox like that, some scarper immediately. Others freeze until they decide to scarper. This one froze. But it was odd. I was looking straight into that foxes eyes and expected the usual look of startled horror at encountering a shabby tired out human being. I saw something else. Although alert and poised to move as instinct demanded, for just a brief moment it looked as the fox was wondering if it could approach in a friendly manner. Scrounger behaviour rather than genuine friendliness, I’ve seen squirrels adopt the same begging action, but the sensation of empathy however misinterpreted is genuinely a deeply rewarding experience. Instinct got the better of it and the fox scarpered. Happy Christmas, Mr Fox.
The other day I strolled into a music store in my home town, thinking of upgrading some recording equipment. It’s been a while since I took music seriously and having been unemployed for the better part of a decade, I could hardly afford to. But, with money in my pocket, time to splash out and get ready to impose my music upon the unsuspecting world. “They don’t make those any more” Said GK, someone who has sold me all sorts of instruments and gizmo’s for the last thirty years. After a short converstation, it was clear that music was not the hobby it had once been. I looked blankly at him for a moment and in that moment of awakening I said “Heck, I’m getting old….” GK couldn’t stop laughing. But I’m beginning to realise what a fantastic period of history I lived through as a young man. The days when you could walk into a computer or music dealership and buy just about anything are gone. The world has changed, and not for the better. Changing the Country The hullabaloo over Brexit continues with continued calls for a second referendum. Really? Didn’t anyone realise it was going to be difficult? Fact is, we had a vote, we voted to leave, that’s it – it’s going to happen. As much as EU strategy is to have our legs wobble at the sheer scale of our endeavour and ask to come back with our tail between our legs, Britain is made of stronger stuff. Or at least, some of us are, given how much whinging the remainers are making. But what do I hear from Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader? Renationalise everything. His radical new plan to save Britain is more or less to recreate the seventies when left wing politics still had some clout in this country. I well remember the seventies, and it wasn’t a high point in British history. Terrorism, strikes, the Three Day Working Week with the family sat around of an evening by candlelight, rubbish bags piling up on the streets. If there was any solid reason for keeping Corbyn out of power, it’s the 1970’s. Change of the Week There I was, walking home after a late shift in the wee small hours, when I spotted a fox. No, two foxes. No, three foxes. That’s a little unusual. But what startled me was that one of those foxes actually growled at me. Foxes don’t do that. They just silently retreat or flee. Not this scruffy young fox, as it turned to face me once it through the gates of the local park. Bared teeth is alarming in a dog. But a fox? Disturbing.
Right now the wildlife in my home town is on full throttle. Most of the older foxes I got to know and name have disappeared, replaced by lots of young striplings who are busy learning the art of surviving in Swindon now that mum has kicked them out of the nest. Along one street in particular, you often see rubbish in those blue polythene bags the Council supply left out for collection but in a few instances, ripped open and the contents spilled across the pavement. I suppose for the most part residents blame the very same foxes I see every night, as well as the ones you hear shrieking in the distance. But they might be wrong. In fact I know they are. I often see a badger on this one street in the early hours of the morning, waddling around at a brisk pace. Normally he sees me coming and scarpers. Once I surprised him in one of those tiny front yards you see in Edwardian brick terraces. Again, it made a quick escape. The other night I was heading the same way. There he was, snuffling at a bag of rubbish, a silhouette in the lamplight but unmistakeable. It didn't matter to me. I had other places to go, and so continued along the pavement, wondering when the badger would notice. he didn't. Tucking into someone's discarded takeaway, he was lapping up every morsel and enjoying his free meal to the max. So engrossed he was that I walked right up to him, stunned he could be so careless. There he was, right at my feet, a wild badger doing badger things. The moment had to pass because I needed to carry onward, so I tapped the ground and quietly said hello. Immediately the badger realised something was not quite right. He tensed. Then, with a careful sideways glance, he realised the danger, and immediately fled under a nearby car. I went my way, he went his. Life goes on. Oh No You Don't I live in what must be described a noisy part of town. Drunkards and partygoers often stroll past the house. In the quiet hours of the morning, they sometimes pay rather too much attention to my home than I would like. Last night I kept hearing noises that made me suspicious, as far as you can be when you're half asleep. Upon investigation I saw nothing untoward. However, later that same night, I heard the sound of a few miscreants being herded into a police van and driven off. Whatever they were getting up to, it ain't happening now. Scramble of the Week At the local park it's usual to see a swan or two on the lake. On one particular morning there were five, lazily drifting around the surface of the water aimlessly as they do. Now once in the past I witnessed an angry swan cross that lake semi-airborne, heading right for me. It was a fairly intimidating sight. But for some reason these five swans decided it was time for a squadron scramble. All of them hurtled across the lake, their wings audibly beating, stretching forward and really going for it together. Erm.... At the last minute they realised the Luftwaffe were not bombing Swindon and gave up their race across the lake, settling down into the water again with a noisy bow wave. Oh good. But that was definitely an experience.
The good news for all you people out there earning a living is that finally you're getting your own way. I'm shortly to be placed on a 'More Intensive Regime' concerning my endless quest for gainful employment. Basically that means I have to turn up every day at the Job Centre and explain why I'm not out there looking for work, which of course I would be if I wasn't too busy explaining my presence to my claims advisor. The thing is, I'm also supposed to be attending a Support Centre every day. Unfortunately they've changed premises and forgot to tell anyone who knew who to set up their internet access. For the last two weeks I've been turning up to an empty office full of inactive computers. The Support Centre staff have even resorted to telling claimants not to bother coming in. Yesterday I did, and asked if I could use a computer "What for?" The Office guy asked, looking perplexed that anyone was trying to use the Support Centre for the purpose intended. Oh you know.. Switch it on.. Do stuff... Please bear in mind that all you hard working people out there are paying for this. This morning they locked the door and didn't let anyone in. Don't worry - I'll explain it to my claims advisor. Blonde Moment By chance I happened to catch a televised session by Blondie at the Maida Vale recording studio. They say you should never revisit your past. Time, it must be said, hasn't been entirely kind to Deborah Harry. I don't want to be cruel, these days she looks like a pub landlady. And sings like one too. Sorry Debs, I love the stuff you did back in the day, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy a ticket any time soon. Mind you, looking in the mirror, Jeez, what happened to me? Foxhunt Of The Week It's been a while since I spotted the local wildlife nosing around outside at night. The Old College site had been quite a game reserve but a network of steel girders in battleship grey and rust has gradually filled in the big empty space gouged into the side of the hill. Other girders lay in neat rows waiting to be bolted into place among the cranes and telescopic forklifts parked up until the start of the next mornings shift. Not much room left for urban foxes to mooch around then. Just when I thought they'd all been gassed or something, the other night I spotted a young fox nosing around the parapet overlooking the site. There's a steep drop on one side of thirty feet or so which clearly didn't bother the fox. He was only there a few minutes before he vanished, quite wisely, as a late night dog-walker meandered over to where the fox had been, beer can in hand. Foxes are animals naturally selected to survive chases from packs of hounds and horsemen. Somehow I doubt the fox was in any danger. Eventually I heard the beer can being crushed and responsibly deposited at random, and the sozzled dog-walker ambled back across the car park, where he no doubt spent most of the night trying to remember which house he got the dog from.