I live in Devon. Generally this means I have a semi-rural kind of life: I see hills and fields, sheep and cows, during my drive to work. Along a dual carriageway.
The nearest field to my house is about three hundred metres away, up a hill (after all, it is Devon). From our windows I can see fields and trees, if I look through the gap between the houses opposite. See what I mean? Semi-rural.
Sometimes the rural part invades a little further than normal. For example, my all-time favourite work email: “Just to make you aware, there’s a cow loose in the bottom car park. Please take care when returning to your cars.” Brilliant. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in central Manchester (I’m guessing).
Then again, there are occasions that remind you that, actually, we are all urbanites at heart. Another work email, received much more recently: “Beware! A fox has been spotted in the car park. Be careful, especially near the hedges.”
I’m sorry? A fox? What’s it going to do: mug me? Why, oh why, do I need to worry about a fox? Then I remembered all the asparagus I had eaten recently and I began to get concerned. But really… For fox ake, as one wag put it.
This email reminded me that most of us are not really hands-on with the countryside anymore. It’s just outside the window, but it seems we are still a little scared of it; when really we shouldn’t be. Not scared of foxes at any rate. At the end of the day – because we were too scared to leave before then – not a single one of us saw the fox. No one was mugged, fantastically or otherwise, nor did we develop mange. We all survived.
As for the fox? Rumour has it that he was last seen driving off in a 4×4 with a man transporting a chicken and a bag of grain. But that would be silly, wouldn’t it…