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A nation divided over Ol’ Brush

world Updated: Sep 14, 2010 02:37 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
Ol’ Brush

“Goodbye,” said the twenty something. “You’ve been a friend to us all and enriched our lives. I hope you found your tail-shedding a lovely adventure and our garden a home away from home. So rest in peace, Brush.”

There was a dramatic pause, and then I picked up the bucket with the grim swiftness of a practiced executioner and poured the noxious liquid on to the reddish brown head.

Ol’ Brush — the teenage daughter claims the name was made up at the last moment — has died. Named after his once-bushy tail that began to resemble a brush, he was a red fox who hung around our garden.

Foxes have become a common sight in London. Driven from their homes by construction, they have turned into smart foragers. Unlike their village cousins, who have birds and rabbits to feed on, the city ones have to raid our rubbish.

They are mostly harmless — there are thought to be around 33,000 urban foxes in Britain and hardly any incidents. Yet there was anger this summer when a fox entered a house through an open back door and attacked twin nine-year-old girls in their bedroom. The girls survived but foxes are being demonised in the popular press.

I don’t know if Ol’ Brush was a scavenger. He came from the commons and I looked upon him as an old destitute man. He was a visitor to the garden, where he would lie for hours.

And then he disappeared, until a check by the council months later found his body tucked away in the garden. Unable to bury him, we were advised to disinfect the carcass, hence the little ritual with the bucket.

Few things divide class-ridden Britain as the red fox. The upper classes insist on their right to hunt foxes. Equally, banning the sport is an article of faith with the Labour Party, which introduced a wishy-washy law but Tory PM David Cameron has promised to repeal it.

A class war? Rest in peace, Ol’ Brush.