All Change and a Handsome Visitor

Dear Readers, those of you who follow this page regularly will know that it’s been a difficult year. My Mum died in December. My Dad’s dementia has gotten worse, and he is now in a nursing home. For the two previous years I had been travelling up and down to Dorset to look after the pair of them, and was pretty much unable to work, both because of the emotional toll and because I knew that I couldn’t be reliable – an emergency could, and did, erupt at any moment.

It took six months after Mum’s death before I could even contemplate getting myself back into the world of work, but back in July the perfect opportunity arose. An organisation that is working with 98 cities worldwide to combat the climate emergency, C40, was looking for a part time reporting accountant, using exactly the software that I’ve been teaching and working with for twenty years. And on Monday I started work. It has been a lonely couple of years, and it is good to have colleagues, and to feel part of something again.

It’s strange, but in the midst of my elation at a whole new adventure I feel a little disloyal to Mum and Dad somehow. It’s hard to explain, but I feel as if, by getting back to my own life, I’m leaving them behind. And this is the first time that I’ve made a major life change without having Mum and Dad to talk to. It’s true that they often didn’t understand the finer nuances of all the techie stuff that I was doing, but they were always 100% on my side, delighted for me if I seemed happy, angry on my behalf if I was having a rant. And now Mum is gone. But I shouldn’t underestimate Dad. He was delighted when I told him that I had a new job, even though he wasn’t quite sure who I was. And if he’s forgotten about it, hopefully he’ll be delighted all over again when I see him next week and tell him how my first week has gone.

Incidentally the Bloomberg building, where I’ll be based when not working from home, is the most sustainable office building in Europe. Well worth having a look here.

I should also add, as required by Bloomberg’s social media policy, that any views expressed on this blog are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as representing the views of Bloomberg or C40.

Anyhow, the other effect of getting the job has been to make me look around at the house and garden and shake my head in amazement. How did everything get so overgrown and grimy? I guess that’s what two years of neglect will do for you! What was most striking was that the garden was not only a jungle, but the oak steps to the shed were rotten through, with all kinds of interesting fungi. It was only a matter of time before one of us went right through the wood whilst carrying a laundry basket full of underwear, so it has to be fixed. As a result, the garden is full of piles of rotting wood, and I’m wondering where to put a woodpile.

On Thursday I got up early to open the side door so that the builders could get in, and came face to face with a very handsome dog fox. What a surprise! And what was even more delightful was that, after an initial bout of wariness, he decided to hang around for a chat.

Not sure….

He sat in next door’s garden for a while, making up his mind about my intentions.

And then he hopped back into my garden to check out the pond.

He has a little bit of an eye infection, poor thing, but is otherwise in splendid health. I suspect that he might be one of the foxes who has stolen a boot from a bag of rubbish that was put out last week, and which keeps turning up in the garden. I put it away, and the next night it’s back out again.

Fox play things

Anyhow, this chap was in no rush to go, and sat patiently while I took endless portraits. Sometimes, foxes that are this confiding have toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease which makes them bolder, but maybe he’s just learned that humans can be useful. It always feels like such a privilege to have a wild animal so close.

And then I decided to go back indoors, but as I went through the kitchen door I looked around and he was about to follow me in! Well, this was a step too far, as my poor cat would have been horrified. But I couldn’t resist him, and so I threw out a small handful of dried food for him. I might have made a rod for my own back, but we’ll see. Who could resist him?

And here is a short film of him in full-on chomping action. Goodness only knows what the background noise is, probably my fridge, though it sounds as loud as a leaf blower.

Events like this seem so magical to me. It isn’t the first time that we’ve had foxes in the garden, but to spend time with one feels such a privilege. For those few moments I’m not worrying or planning or organising, I’m just being. There are so many stories even in a suburban garden – animals going about their lives, plants growing, fungi infiltrating an oak sleeper one mycelia at a time – and they have the ability to make me forget everything else. Plus, just as I was hungry for connection at work, I feel lost if I don’t make time to get out into nature and renew my connections there. For me, it is the cure for most of what ails me.


22 thoughts on “All Change and a Handsome Visitor

  1. Anne

    What a delightful experience! I held my breath at your initial encounter and relaxed as I read on. I agree, it IS a privilege to get so close to a wild creature – a marvellous encounter. I wish you well as you ease your way into the world of work once more and hope that it will provide another kind of balm to add to that which nature has been providing.

  2. Neo Anderson

    Great article as always, congrats on your new job, hope you really enjoy it and try not to feel guilty, your Mum and Dad would be so proud but would certainly want you to get on with your life now 🙂

  3. Gail

    I wish you the very best in your work, I hope that it is a rewarding balance. I so enjoyed reading about your meeting with the fox and hope that is the start of a new relationship. Reading about his eyes reminded me of the ‘medicated’ jam sandwiches you used to leave for the mange-affected foxes in Coldfall Wood, I don’t suppose there is an eye equivalent.

  4. jentsplace

    Absolutely wonderful blog, as usual. Try not to feel guilty about your Dad, you need your life too & as long as he’s being well looked after you can do no more. Very best wishes.

  5. cilshafe

    What a heartwarming post. The re-connection with working life that your new job will bring (and it sounds a very worthwhile one) along with the strengthening of your relationship with your immediate environment of which Mr Fox is a worthy symbol – it all sounds very positive.

  6. Toffeeapple

    What a privilege to have a visitor who was so ‘at home’. And congratulations on the job, I hope you enjoy it and all the benefits that will come with it.

  7. Liz Norbury

    So glad to hear about your new job – it sounds as though this is an inspiring organisation to be involved with, and exactly what you need. I felt emotionally drained during the years I was caring for my parents, and in the months following my dad’s death – but since then, new paths have opened up, and I’ve had unexpected moments of happiness, like your encounter with this beautiful fox.

  8. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    He is the same one who visits us, with that small eyeproblem and the polite but insinuating behaviour. He would very much like to come inside but gets the message. He and the cat are mutually tolerant. Main disadvantage is that he makes the garden smell VERY foxy.

  9. Alyson

    Fantastic photos. I’m also really pleased to hear you are back in the world of work. Like you I ended up being unable to commit to a job for a long time as I had my mum and her dementia to deal with but am starting to think it might now be a possibility. Although she is in a care home I’m still heavily involved however and visit three times a week but perhaps I’m going to have to let go. The feeling of guilt never leaves but you just have to learn to live with it I suppose – Working on that.

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi Alyson, I thought I’d replied to this but maybe not….and yes, the feeling of guilt lingers, however inappropriate it is. But what helped me was the knowledge that Mum and Dad would want me to be enjoying my life, and that life does go on, however much we want to stay where we are. I’ve found that being part-time has definitely helped because I’ve been able to continue doing the things that matter to me most while easing back into the loss of free time that work inevitably requires. I’m lucky, though, because the financial pressures are not as intense are they are with so many other people. I never forget that it can be an extremely difficult time in every way.


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