Monday, 8 September 2008
Meetings with Foxes
On Saturday I took a taxi home, as driving having drunk alcohol of any quantity is forbidden in the Czech Republic. On the road we came across a fox – the taxi slowed to a crawl and the fox disappeared from the headlights' fierce glare into the verge. “Liska,” said the taxi driver smiling. Strangely this was my first encounter with a wild fox (liska) in the Czech Republic, although I see them regularly in England on the hills around my home. The only previous meeting had been with a sad fox at a nearby zoo, which paced up and down in its concrete cell.
My Czech home is built into the slope of a small hill, the downstairs rooms at the back being literally scraped out of the rock and earth. The hill is called Lisci Dira - Fox Hole in Czech. The following day I set off for the woods to walk and collect mushrooms. After the intense heat of the day before, the sky was cloudy and threatened rain. We had not had rain for several weeks and even then it had not been enough - the wood's floor was tinder-dry. I was just about to turn for home, when I spotted a clump of chanterelle mushrooms. I had looked in all my usual spots for chanterelles without success and had come to the conclusion that the drought had put paid to them. But there they were hiding in the moss. The Czech name for the chanterelle is Liska Obecna – common fox.
I had just picked the last of them, when a drop of rain fell on my arm. By the time I was out of the woods, across the field and into the narrow track that runs down to the village, I was soaked. As I came to the end of the trees that lined the track, I was stopped short by an extraordinary sight. There in broad daylight – it was 3pm and so mid afternoon – was a fox standing in the middle of the lane. It contemplated the scene for a while and then trotted off into the fields. Now I have seen foxes in daylight in London, indeed we had a whole family of them living in our back garden, but they were urban foxes used to people and had no cause to fear us, so unlike their country cousins. I walked on musing on this strange meeting. It is apparent to me that the fox allowed me to get that close. In my haste to get home and out of the rain I had made no attempt to walk softly and a fox's big red ears can hear a mouse squeak at 100 metres, I had stood watching him for a good minute or two before he chose to move off. Now he had chosen to stand in my path.
I am told that to the Czechs this was a lucky occurrence, that the fox is an animal spirit associated with witches and his appearance to me (not once but twice) was a sign of good fortune. I certainly felt lucky to have met with "bold Renardine".