It’s weird how themes develop isn’t it? A few years ago, I was asked to give a talk at work. It was a new forum for me and I was somewhat scared of the audience. However, in the end, it went extremely well, my trepidation was completely unfounded and it was possibly my favourite talk of that year. The audience members were interactive, gave great feedback and seemed to really appreciate what I had to say. At the end, one of them came forward proffering what appeared to be a gift. Now, usually at these things the gift is a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. Not so at this event. No, this time it was, er, a laminated certificate with a picture of a fox. I tried very hard to hide my disappointment at the lack of an offering containing calories and simply enquired as to the significance of the fox. “Well, everybody loves a fox, don’t they?” came the reply. Do they? Do they really? In the UK, where I come from, they can be a nuisance. They make noise at night, they scavenge through your garden and they have even been known to come in through the patio doors and attack children. So no, I don’t think everyone does love a fox.
Literally a few days later, I was on an outing as part of my quest to walk all the suggested itineraries in a book of walks based on the national park near where I live. In fact, I never finished all the walks and I likely never will now as a disease called kauri dieback is proving to be a scourge on our native kauri trees and so some of the tracks have been officially closed whereas the rest are subject to a rahui, a traditional temporary prohibition put in place to protect a threatened resource. Anyway, on this particular day, I was attempting a walk in an area where I had never been before. The walk started by crossing a suspension bridge over a river just to the side of the car park. As I rounded the corner to step on to the bridge, I noticed two people at the far end, one dressed as a fox including a full head mask, and the other photographing them. It took all my being to walk past and pretend this was nothing out of the ordinary and just a completely normal Saturday afternoon occurrence. As it turned out, I walked for about 10 kilometres and these were the only people I met all afternoon. The rest of the time, I was literally alone. The reason for the fox get-up will remain a mystery forever but it seemed such a coincidence that I had received the certificate and had a fox conversation only that week. After this, places I have visited that have been deserted have earned themselves the description of being so quiet that there wasn’t even a fox about.
My next lecture was at a charity event with patients’ families as the audience. At the end, one of them lumbered forward with a gift and I joked, “it’s not a fox, is it?” As it happened, it was a box of Lindt (how do you say that word?) chocolates but I was left having to explain the fox comment and so I told the story of the gift from the previous talk. One of the patients came to my clinic shortly after this. I am especially fond of this little boy and his family. They had been having tough time and I had helped them with some advice. As he came in, I could see he was carrying a gift which he gave to me with a big grin. It was a lovely bottle of wine, complete with stuck-on pictures of foxes which he’d cut out himself. The card read something like, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family. Everyone loves a fox, don’t they? Love from L xx” It had me giggling for a long time afterwards and I was touched that they had remembered the story.
As the cycle trek approaches, I thought I had better start thinking about equipment and whether I needed to buy any supplies for the trip. My padded cycling shorts seem to be serving me well but clearly I am going to need more than one pair for an eight day trip. A friend had given me another pair but they were nowhere near as generous with the padding. And so I investigated my own pair wondering if the same ones would still be available as I had literally bought them about ten years ago. A quick look revealed them to be made by a company called Muddy Fox which, yes, is still churning out cushioning for the cyclist’s derrière. The joys of internet shopping meant that hey presto, five minutes later I had ordered two more pairs at 80% off to be delivered to my door with minimal effort. It had been a while since my previous fox anecdotes but I was pleased to be reminded of them.
This week we have had a public holiday and so off I took my Muddy Fox-sporting backside on my bike for a long overdue practice. The problem with these summer public holidays is that everyone and their dog seems to be out and about in the sunshine and I knew my favourite cycling spot would be crowded with people and, hence, cycling hazards. So I decided to try some cycle paths I hadn’t visited before, one of which was along an estuary a bit of a distance out of the city. The access was via a less than salubrious street and so it was a complete surprise that when I emerged on my bike along the waterfront, it was like a millionaires’ row with these massive impressive great mansions with the most lovely views across the water. Between the houses and the sea was a gently undulating path which hugged the contours of the cliff making for a scenic ride with a mild breeze and some loose native bushland providing some relief from the unremitting sun. Yet the strangest thing was that it was exceptionally quiet. I went past a few little beaches without a single soul on them. It was so quiet, you might say that there was not even a fox. I cycled for about 15 kilometres without a single fox in sight then suddenly, I spied someone – a man, sunbathing in his garden – completely in the buff! Why would you do that if your garden backed on to a cycle path and the fences were railings through which all details of said garden could be seen? He was lying face down and seemingly oblivious to my cycling past and so perhaps it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. I was mooching this point as I carried on my ride, only to be confronted around the next corner by another nudist, this time a woman striding through her garden with literally everything (and shall we say she was somewhat generous?) on display. As this was one of those rides where you go out and back, turning around at the end to come back along the same route, I came past the same gardens again. While the woman was gone, the man was most definitely still there, still lying prostrate upon his patio. How bizarre then, that the only people I spotted on this ride were naked? Let’s hope that this is a one-off and I won’t be reporting back in a few weeks’ time that my life has become a series of naked encounters in the same way as the fox coincidences unfolded. Although wait, there could be worse things…
Until next time xx