At the bottom of my garden lives an extended family of foxes. I’m not sure how many there are down there exactly, but at the end of last summer – as I fell out of a taxi one balmy September dawn – I counted nine of the brutes roaming about the street, casually tearing into dustbins, discarded kebabs and small household pets. I tripped over the pavement and scrabbled for door keys at the bottom of my handbag, and they stopped momentarily to appraise me, before turning back, unbothered, to their scavenged feasts.
The foxes that live in my garden are not the fat, healthy, wholesome creatures of Disney movie, Attenborough documentary and Animals of Farthing Wood fame. They are rangy and skeletal, with matted, patchy fur, missing teeth and filmy, glaucomic eyes. They are often unsteady on their feet; injured and bloody, dragging a lame leg behind them as though they have just lost a bar-fight and downed couple of whiskies to take the edge off. Although they are nominally nocturnal, I have, on occasion, spotted them stumbling above ground to sleep off a hangover in a shaft of mid-morning sunlight. I get the feeling that if I lit up a crafty Mayfair and offered to twos them, the foxes at the end of my garden would be well pleased, and accept without delay.
Whenever there is an intermittent media panic about the explosion of the urban fox population – when one is rumoured to have savaged a baby or left a stinky, disease-riddled deposit on a suburban doorstep – I am, without question, on the foxes’ side. I am quite happy to live cheek by jowl with these sly, debauched beasties who remind me of a better, wilder version of myself.
Except for the sex.
Have I not mentioned the sex?
They have loads of it. All the time. Furious, uninhibited love-making that climaxes in a screaming, orgasmic intensity that I haven’t known since that friend of a friend back in 2008 – who might have been excellent in bed, but who was also evasive and tedious and has recently grown a beard and impregnated an office worker, thereby solidifying his position as a man who nobody hot will ever fuck again. More’s the pity.
I try not to envy the sex lives of my foxy neighbours, on the grounds that jealousy directed at feral, flea-bitten animals, routinely slaughtered by home-made traps and posh people on horseback, is potentially a mental health issue. But it’s hard. Because despite their myriad difficulties, there are perils of modern dating that foxes just don’t have to contend with – which is why they have hot sex with such abandon so often. (Unlike, for example, me.)
Foxes do not have to deal with man buns, beards hosting visible breadcrumbs, Tinder, misjudged teenage tattoos spoiling an otherwise flawless physique, dick-pics, jokes that might have been racist but you weren’t really listening so you can’t quite tell, amateur rappers, finding yourself without contact-lens solution on a one-night-stand, whatsapp, the half-my-age-plus-seven rule, pubic hair grooming, grandparents who just want you to find a nice bloke and settle down, hyper-masculinity, fractured Freudian dreams, sex-toys, the institution of marriage, condoms, six weeks of radio silence and then a text that says ‘hey. How’s things?’, Valentines’ Day, Match.com, Calvin Harris tweeting pictures of Taylor Swift in hot-pants, the morning after pill, being invited to weddings without a plus one, Nando’s.
When you think about it, you can hardly blame them. Foxes have it sorted. Even if they do keep me up all night with their carnal indulgences, so that I sleep through my alarm with frightening frequency (fox sex is not, by the way, a valid excuse when you’re late for work). After all, who wouldn’t be shagging left, right and centre if you removed the social and psychological torture of romantic relations and kept it all about the orgasms and bodily fluids?
What I’m saying then, is that, in the next life (God if you’re listening, now’s the time to pay close attention), I’ll be an urban fox please. Although, let’s get real: I already am.
*The image that accompanies this article is from badtaxidermy.com. It’s called ‘deranged fox’. Which is a pretty excellent title. I might use it, if I ever write an autobiography.