Wily fox no match for angry Bonzo in his Y-fronts

TWICE lately I ve glimpsed a fox in the motor s headlights, flitting ghost-like across the road, brush streaming out as it streaked for cover. Each time I found myself thinking I could like you guys if you weren t so murderous. As an east London evacuee

TWICE lately I've glimpsed a fox in the motor's headlights, flitting ghost-like across the road, brush streaming out as it streaked for cover.

Each time I found myself thinking I could like you guys if you weren't so murderous.

As an east London evacuee new to the country I was told foxes were killed because of their own wanton killing. Since in all my six years in the country I saw but two foxes, one of which was long dead, my knowledge of them remained scant.

A lifetime later, however, I learned at first hand just how destructive they can be.

At Welsh friends Mervyn and Eleanor's farm, the door of the ducks' shed was somehow not properly secured one evening.

Well away from the farm dogs kennelled in the yard, all eight ducks were slaughtered in the night. A dismayed Mervyn growled: "All right, take one. But killing the whole lot is against all nature, isn't it?"

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For the next couple of nights he sat up grimly with a 12-bore and a torch in the vain hope of the assassin's return.

Yet there's no denying foxes can otherwise be captivating creatures, as a friend found out after two contrasting experiences of them.

The friend concerned is Billy Bonds, MBE, long-time West Ham legend.

Roused early one morning by a racket in the garden of their Kent home, Bill and his wife Lyn were horrified to see a fox energetically trampolining its way through the wire roof of the pen housing Clover, their girls' much-loved pet rabbit.

Had the fox known who he messed with he'd doubtless have legged it sharpish.

Hurtling downstairs bare-footed, clad in his Y-fronts, Bill emerged from the house just in time to see the fox making off with Clover in its mouth. Choosing the adjacent open field for the getaway was a mistake.

Against Bill, then in his prime and at peak fitness, the fox found itself swiftly outran. Dropping Clover, it fled.

It's probably still dining out on the story.

A Bonds family blood-feud with foxes would have been understandable after that.

Before long, however, Bill was relating the pleasure they were having at dusk watching a vixen and her cubs frolicking outside the home they'd made under the garden shed.

I similarly fell for fox hunting's colourful trappings at the meet held in the village I was evacuated to, before the war put paid to such capers.

For us newly-arrived city kids it was a great experience. Free, too.

Formidably, present was Colonel Barker, whose many medals included one from the Boer War, and whose horse stood rock still amid the fuss, as if on a parade at Horseguards.It was said of the Colonel that any gate opening on his behalf, once the chase was on, would go utterly unacknowledged, let along reap the tanner other obliged hunters threw down. The old soldier rated swinging wide a five-bar for him quite reward enough.

Also there was Tishy Roberts, vibrant grown-up daughter at Whitfields, the farm next to our house. She had taken over from Miss Northcott, of East Ham's Hartley Avenue Junior, as the light of my young life.

At the meet she had on the full rig of black bowler and skirted riding habit. She also rode side-saddle. For all her noted seat, I couldn't see how Tish would stay on, taking hedges and fences like that. No one else seemed worried, though.

If any, including the fox, came to grief that crisp 1939 autumn day we never heard of it.

Last seen of the village's one and only wartime meet was the field strung out in the distance behind a yelping pack. Not a fox in sight.

We strained ears vainly for a sighting or tootle from the huntsman' horn. What I did hear that morning for the first time was the old horse-dung rib-tickler.

When the hunt moved off, my pal Brisher Martin lost no time filling a bucket with some of what they left behind.

Asked if it was for putting on the rhubarb, Brisher's laconic, heard-it-before "Ar", was nonetheless met with the gleeful hoot of "Ooh, we puts custard on ours."

Rising seven, I couldn't wait for us to have rhubarb for afters, so I might shock the table with that one.