“Would you please wee in the garden.”
I was sitting quietly, reading the newspaper…
“Next time you go to the bathroom…”
“Would you please wee in the garden.”
As far as I was concerned, we had discussed this before we bought the house — one bathroom was going to be OK for a year or so, if that’s what it takes to get the house we want.
“I thought you said that having one bathroom was going to be OK for a year or so, if that’s what it takes to get the house we want.”
Mrs Albion looked up from her pamphlet.
“Nooo… it’s to keep the foxes away. It says here that the men of the house should be encouraged to wee in the garden so that the fox thinks it is competing for territory with a large animal.”
“It is — it’s competing with us!”
“Well, you’d better make sure it knows that darling.”
‘As cunning as a fox’ is far more than just a figure of speech. Long before the ban on fox hunting the crafty critters realised they were better off in the city. Four of them used to visit the courtyard of our apartments in Notting Hill — they would race around and around the pond clockwise, then around and around in the other direction, then jump all over the lavender beds and disappear over the fence from whence they came. In summer it was their nightly ritual. And one morning I came snout to knee with one near Leather Lane, in The City, so I was sure we would have them here in Hackney.
The first hint was loud clucking from the fox-proof-hen-pen. Sybil was standing as tall as a bantam can, with her shoulders puffed out, comb wobbling and feet stomping. (Basil was eating, and looking sleepy.) From our bedroom window I followed her gaze and saw the fox. It was backing away — startled by the ferocity of the poultry — stepping backwards with every crescendo of clucking. I ran out the door, down three stairs to the landing, around the corner, down more stairs, around the corner and along the short hall to the balcony door. I threw back the bolts on the door and leaped through. The fox was gone before I could throw anything at it.
But not before it left a fox calling card in the back garden. I buried it — can’t have the fox marking its territory.
So I started marking mine. And the next day I ordered an ultrasonic fox repeller.
The fox did not return.
Neither did the girls lay any eggs.
I removed the ultrasonic fox repeller.
The girls started laying eggs again.
A few days later, 4am. The sun is about to come up and I happen to be up already. I peek out front window on the landing just in time to see the fox trot along the footpath, turn through our open front gate — without hesitating — run up our front stairs and disappear along the top of the wall at the side of the house towards the back garden.
I turn on the ultrasonic fox repeller, at the opposite end of the garden from the hens. We see no more fox poo.
I move the ultrasonic fox repeller closer to the Eglu. The hens stop laying.
I turn off the ultrasonic fox repeller.
A few days later I find fox poo on the side path.
I get up to go to the loo in the middle of the night and I hear the squeal of a fox. It’s a distinctive squeal — it could only be a fox, or a child being tortured. Instead of heading to the bathroom I walk through the kitchen, towards the back door. It is unlocked for some reason — so it opens silently. I step onto the back doormat. The bolt on the door rattles. There is a crash from the tree near the house and a blur leaps from the bushes.
It lands in the middle of the garden, towards the back fence.
It pauses on the paved area at the end of the garden, looking at me, I am sure.
I clap my hands. The sound ricochets off the neighbouring houses. The fox leaps over the back fence.
I swagger towards the tree, and mark my territory.
© Damian Clarke 2019. The original post was first published on the Our Albion blog, 21 October 2006.