By the time I reached the classroom the rumour had evolved from gossip into gospel. Summonsed from my morning constitutional of greeting the children and their families at the main playground gate, I made my way as quickly as possible down the long, airport-like corridor that connects the four wings of my school. A child had passed the message to me, (in strangled English heavily laced with a Bengali lilt), that a fox was sleeping outside the window of class 6 Yellow.
The thought of a fox in the urban side streets of the city’s poorest district may seem farfetched. In reality, there is probably not a single Londoner who has not spotted one at some point in the past year or so. Steadily, the population of the much maligned mammal has risen as the environment provides plenty of shelter and food scraps.
What started as a group of three living in the thick undergrowth along the edge of the staff car park has risen to a skulk of 10 or more. As their numbers have increased, so has their bravado. They can be spotted several times a day, plodding along the car park, peeking into windows on their way to the neighbouring park. It is possible to spot individuals; the one with a damaged leg that limps along on three paws, the spindly and mange-ridden mother, the sleek and quick male who I remember as a cub last April.
I doubted the sleeping story immediately. The foxes don’t sleep in the open. The path between their car park den and the local park was a motorway to them; a means of getting from A to B. It was familiar to them but equally it was a place of danger. They seldom loitered let alone slept in the open, other than to boldly peek in a window or two as they padded down the cobblestones. No, the fox was surely dead I thought.
And sure enough dear readers, upon reaching the classroom window, I could see it was too still to be sleeping. By now Big Bert, the school caretaker had joined me with a makeshift array of equipment soon to be a fox-disposal kit. “Sleeping, eh?” he winked at me as we opened the classroom door and approached the lifeless body. Our collective breaths froze in the mid January air, as we circled the remains.
Big Bert poked the torso with a litter picker. It was hard, frozen both from rigor mortis and the blast of Scandinavian cold currently blanketing Britain. He lifted the animal up and the body did not change shape. Gravity has no providence in such matters.
I held open the rubbish sack but the weight of the body was too much for the litter pickers; they bent and strained. Bert’s baseball-mit-sized hands draped in thick industrial gloves grabbed the animal by its sleek tail and stuffed it into the bag. A chorus of disgust arose from 6 Yellow and I turned to see 30 faces pressed against the glass; processing the collective realisation that the fox was not actually sleeping at all.
Hello again, dear readers. I offer no apologies for my sporadic efforts in updating this blog. The blog has always and remains driven by catharsis and life has been quieter in the post-inspection era. The school is thriving. Just like the skulk behind the car park.
It was in that moment; the stiff and frozen carcass being lifted by its tail that my thoughts turned to this blog for the first time in months. Something so full of life, now dead to this world and frozen in an un-natural pose, how could one not have drawn parallels with the journey of this blog?
And so, another omen. I poke at these words with a cheap litter-picker to see if I can coax life back into the body. Perhaps I shall try again, when and if needs dictate. Perhaps the rumour was correct: it was sleeping, not dead.
Keep the Faith,