EYE SPY: Peter Havers

Sometimes, you’ll grow tired of London. It happens, from time to time.

When you do, catch the #14 to Russell Square on a snowy, winters night.

Get off at Bedford Place and, once you’ve found your bearings, look for the statue of Frances Russell. It is not hard to find.

Take a minute, or perhaps an hour — however long you need — to take him in. The pose. The robes. The little cherubs lounging at his feet.

And then, when you are happy, retreat. Sit, tucked out of sight, on the steps of the Penn Club. Waiting.

Because soon, you see, you’ll find a figure bobbing towards you.

It will stop, scared, on occasion; made timid by a lifetime on the streets.

Spooked by the backfiring of an engine, it will sit shaking for a while, behind the rear wheel of a parked 1980s Mercedes. Only when the man at number 16, clad in his wife’s dressing down, closes the door having finished his last cigarette of the night, will the creature move on.

Eventually, it will pass you and cross the road to sit before the statue. It will wrap its tail around itself — a buffer against the wind — and wait, obediently.

The statue will look down and lift its weary hand from the plough on which it rests.

It will smile, as it always does, when it feels the foxes’ presence. For the fox and the statue are friends; in life and in loneliness. Whilst the seasons keep them busy, there is no comparison to good company.

Lit by the glow of moon on snow, they talk. About the world. And the weather. And the things they would have done, if hindsight were their friend.

The fox, having spent the afternoon in the park, tells the statue of the news he overheard. And the statue, having spent the day in his head, tells the fox about his life.

About the good times and the bad. Of being orphaned at three and made Duke at five. Of being forced into the glaring lights of the Lords, when a simple life was much preferred. And, of watching over the streets he helped build yet never got to walk.

To the statue, theirs is not conversation but catharsis.

Sometimes, they will talk for minutes. Other times, for hours.

When all is said and done, they will nod silently, as is their custom. The fox will turn, as if nothing had ever happened, and be on its way.

But you, dear reader, will know that that is not strictly true. For the fox has a spring in its step.

A spring, I am sure, you now have too.

Peter Havers

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Image: Public Domain – www.maxpixel.net/City-Bloomsbury-English-Winter-Snow-London-Square-672269

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