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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Three Little Foxes

Even though we live in the city we have had a lot of foxes in our garden over the years. At the moment we are being visited, morning and evening, by a vixen and her three cubs. The cubs are muddy in colour and haven't yet developed the rich red coat of their mother. Their pointy ears look far too big for their heads and their long, white-tipped tails brush the ground as they explore, diving in and out of the flower borders. Two of the cubs are fairly cautious. They never stray far from Mum, who is usually sunning herself on the lawn. One of the cubs feels the need to touch base from time to time which she doesn't always appreciate. Occasionally the little one is rewarded with a snarl or a nip. The vixen is obviously finding the whole motherhood thing a bit trying! And I don't blame her because the third cub is much more adventurous. He's a wanderer and I sense her anxiety (I had a child like that!), as she tries to keep track of him. I watch these foxes with a mixture of fascination and trepidation, especially as the bravest of the cubs is often to be seen in our garden on his own and I wonder if he has become separated from the family. Also he (I am assuming it is a he), has taken a particular interest in our guinea pig.

Humphrey, bless him, thinks that everyone in the whole world has his best interests at heart and presses his little pink nose to the wire of his run as if to say hello to his new foxy friend. If I knock on the window the fox cub looks up but he doesn't run off. That takes a trek into the garden clapping my hands and shooing him away. But still he often doesn't go far and within minutes of my returning inside is often back. This is not conducive to concentrating on my writing!

These little foxes have reminded me of a rhyme which my grandmother used to recite to me when I was very small. It is from When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne and this is the first verse.

Once upon a time there were three little foxes
Who didn't wear stockings, and they didn't wear sockses,
But they all had handkerchiefs to blow their noses,
And they kept their handkerchiefs in cardboard boxes.

I had actually forgotten all about this rhyme until I was watching these fox cubs the other day. But nursery rhymes are powerful things and there are many I do remember from my childhood. When visiting schools last year, for the launch of Last Chance Angel, one of the teachers said that, when asked, most of her class didn't even know what a nursery rhyme was. I found that absolutely shocking.

I don't remember being read these rhymes - my parents and grandparents knew them by heart and that is how I learnt them, by listening, absorbing and remembering. They taught me words I didn't know and they taught me about rhythm and rhyme, about pattern and structure and they helped the development of my imagination. The best thing about them was that I didn't even know that I was learning these things at the time. All I knew was that nursery rhymes were fun and funny. It is a tragedy that a whole generation has been raised without knowing the joy and value to be had from experiencing this. Most of us over a certain age will remember a handful of nursery rhymes without prompting. We have a duty to pass these down to those small people we love and care for. In doing so we are giving them a gift which will last them a lifetime.

Thank-you for reading and if there are any particularly favourite rhymes which you remember I would love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. I hope Humphrey stays safe. I hate the thought of those urban foxes eating pets but I also don't like the thought of urban fox cubs starving to death. *shrugs*

    I remember when I was teaching full time in Leicester the children, 95% Moslem, didn't know our nursery rhymes but I always hoped that the mothers chanted other things to their children, other cultural material that had been passed down through the generations. I wonder.

    I love A A Milne and have blogged about my favourite one. It's The Dormouse and the Doctor. There once was a dormouse who lived in a bed of delphiniums blue and geraniums red. I have a bed like that in my garden now to remind me of the times my Mum used to chant that to me as she dragged me off to school every morning.