So Jim Corbett's books on maneaters, and Kenneth Anderson's adventures with rogue elephants and bears, were always on my preferred reading list. Good books, well written, conjuring up a sense of what life was like for colonist and native alike.
Which brings me to their modern counterpart - the urban journalist. So the screaming headline "The terrifying night I, too, was attacked by a fox in my home" drew my attention straight off.
But oh dear, it doesn't really live up to its billing:
...nor should we be blind to the threat posed by increasingly brazen urban foxes. I should know, having nearly broken my neck when a fox attacked me in my own home.Oooh! *gets popcorn*
And as for those who insist foxes will run away at the first opportunity, perhaps they could explain why it took me two full hours to eject this terrifyingly bold male from my house?*hugs cushion as it gets scarier*
The experience, which unfolded in my Richmond home after midnight last autumn, was so unsettling that I eventually moved house to escape the memories.*begins to wonder if she hasn't picked up a spoof article*
Before anybody jumps to conclusions, allow me to explain a little about myself. At 6ft 1in I am not a small man and at 30 years old a lifetime of dance training means I am light on my feet.Err...
I can remember that night as clearly as if it was yesterday.The phone call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!
Arriving home after a jolly supper, I pulled up outside my house with a boot full of shopping. Stepping over the threshold laden with bags, I switched the light on and left the front door open while I made two more trips to and from the car.
The entire process took under five minutes, yet as I closed the door I had a feeling of unease. I started to climb the stairs, feeling even more unsettled, almost as if somebody was watching me.
Oh, sorry. Wrong genre...
Suddenly, with terrifying ferocity, a screaming ball of fur and teeth came flying towards my face. The impact - and sheer terror - sent me flying backwards on to the banister, which I only just managed to grab.Ah. Right.
I was wondering how an animal the size of a large cat could possibly pose a threat of the neck-breaking kind...
As I flailed backwards, I realised that a fox was crouching on the stairs, wailing like a screaming child. All I could see were a pair of yellow eyes, fixed on mine, and a row of teeth.As any fright would do to anyone. But then our hero picks himself up and goes off to do battle with his nemesis...
Suddenly the fox - a rather mangy-looking male - shot down the stairs and into the sitting room. I hauled myself up and sat on the stairs, shaking uncontrollably.
It was so late at night that I didn't know what to do, so I went to fetch a broom and slowly crept into the sitting room. The first thing which hit me was the stench.And now we get to the meat of the story, as Ben battles heroically with the crazed animal, using the broom to keep the slavering jaws from his throa...
Every surface, even the highest shelves, had been swept clear by the rampaging fox - and there he was, squatting on my sofa and soiling it. When I switched the light on he simply sat there, staring at me and baring his teeth.
I opened the front and back doors and attempted to chase him out with the broom, but he strolled past me and headed upstairs again to explore the rest of the house./facepalm
This cocky intruder then proceeded to enter every single room in turn as I pursued him with the broom - the bedrooms, bathrooms, study and kitchen were all marked in the same way, with his incredibly pungent odour.
And still he refused to leave via the open doors.
At one stage, he even crept under my bed and appeared to be trying to sleep there. My attempts to prod him out with the broom only provoked him into biting - he nearly snapped the handle and left a row of vicious-looking tooth marks.Oh no! Now you're helpless!
Well, admittedly, not much more helpless, but still...
In retrospect, perhaps I should have called the RSPCA or even the police. But it was late and I felt faintly ridiculous - how could I, a grown man, not get rid of a fox no bigger than a springer spaniel?Oh, man up, for the love of god!
It was only after two hours of cajoling that he finally left. All of a sudden he simply turned around and padded calmly out into the night.Can it get any better? Oh, yes:
Exhausted, I set about cleaning the house, but barely managed to make a dent in the carnage. Eventually, I fell into bed, still unable to escape the vile stench left by its droppings around the house, and lay there sleepless until dawn broke.
But, silly though it may sound, nothing could shift the conviction that I was no longer safe in my own home.HE KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE!
Over the following weeks, I saw him dozens of times - sunbathing on a shed roof here, trotting down the pavement there.At this stage, I'm rather expecting to hear the scrape of nails on a blackboard...
He has a tuft of hair on his head and a distinctive strut - there was no mistaking the identity of my night intruder.
As I drove home one night, he crossed the road in front of me and stopped, staring directly at my car. Shamefully, I considered for a moment pressing the accelerator and getting rid of my tormentor - but I couldn't do it and he lived to scavenge another day.It's a wonder he didn't install a panic room...
In the end, I was the one who moved on, away from Richmond and into an apartment - safe from visiting foxes.
When I saw the damage that fox did to my broom - when I remember how close I came to breaking my neck when I was knocked down the stairs - I am left with the conviction that the closer we get to urban foxes the more incidents we will see.Well, we will if people like you continue to prove themselves incapable of dealing with them!
They have a right to live alongside us, but this is getting far too close for comfort. The animal rights activists who attack Pauline Koupparis are woefully misguided. Two little girls' lives have been threatened and any self-respecting mother would do everything in her power to protect them.I bet she'd do a lot better in such a crisis, too.
But more to the point, and while this is a very amusing article to ridicule, who, in their right mind, would write a column like this, oblivious to how it makes him appear?
Update: This was written on Thursday. And on Friday, what does Pavlov's Cat bring to my attention, but this story of a school apparently intent on turning out not just the next Ben Douglas, but an entire generation of them.
We're doomed, aren't we?
Update 2: Some people are totally unable to see a bandwagon go by without jumping aboard, and local newspapers tend to encourage this...