The Capital’s Real Menace
Some days ago, Simon Jenkins published an article in the London Evening Standard entitled “Tally ho! Hunt down the capital’s vulpine menace”. In it he explained:
“London’s small gardens are infested. In mine, pigeons so fat their legs can hardly support them roll about on the steps. Parakeets squawk in the trees. Grey squirrels munch their way through rose buds and strip clematis. Mice trot this way and that, leaving little trails of droppings. Foxes treat garden sheds as free bed and breakfast.”
To Simon Jenkins, the council’s careful advice on how to deter the fox from making its home in his expensive Holland Park garden was outrageous. He was bemused when the person suggested he could urinate near his shed, as that would get rid of the fox easily and humanely. He demanded extermination. His own suggestion was “strychnine and two barrels of a shotgun”. He fantasised about a full-on hunt in Holland Park.
Rarely have I seen a more eloquent, if unwitting, expression of the sense of entitlement the rich of this land feel; their refusal to share the planet with other living creatures. He might as well add “benefit scroungers” and “pretend disabled” to that list and sound the horn.
Like every truly stupid story in the Standard, it was accompanied by a truly stupid picture. The photo below appeared with the byline: “FEARLESS: An urban fox scurries past the entrance to Southwark Crown Court in broad daylight”
I will limit myself to pointing out that this is the cleanest, fluffiest fox I have ever seen in my local borough of Southwark; that it does not cast a shadow (like the guard behind it does); that it is in perfect focus when equidistant parts of the pavement are not; and finally that its reflection in the glass is not a mirror image (note the hind legs, which should be reflected the opposite way). You can draw your own conclusions.
If the veracity of this pictorial is anything to go by, perhaps like everything else in the Standard, the story was entirely made up. Perhaps Simon Jenkins didn’t call about a fox and the council didn’t tell him to urinate near the shed. Perhaps he called about a cat and the council told him to piss off.
Of course, this is not Jenkins’ first foray into thoughtless idiocy. He was outraged when it was suggested that he should improve his security after he has been burgled, describing it as “locking the door after the horse has bolted” – as if nobody gets burgled more than once. He was outraged by the occupy movement, which he described as “not a proper protest”. He was outraged by suggestions that privatising the police may, just possibly, be a bad idea.
His rants fit perfectly within the Evening Standard’s ultra-right-wing, illiberal, illiterate agenda. (I always note with amusement how differently he occasionally writes for the Guardian.)
And this is the more serious point: Having destroyed its competition and secured the much-coveted, single-paper distribution spots inside underground stations, the London Evening Standard is essentially a monopoly; a sole voice shouting “Vote Boris” five evenings a week; a monotonous white noise telling us that the only important square mile in our city in the Square Mile of The City. This election leaflet, thrust into my hands on a daily basis, is much more annoying and offensive than any urban fox.
I, for one, have decided to stop mechanically picking up the damn thing, just because it is free. I urge you to do the same.