Dropping wifey at the train station meant that me and the Olster got to visit the lake an hour earlier than normal. Unprepared, I did not take any food for my pal Sir Robin. Once at the lake, away from the lights and the rush hour hustle, the light changed to an enchanting moulin blue reflected, or perhaps glimmering, from the frozen surface of the lake. Snow crunched underfoot, the stark trees stood naked and still as stone. This was the stuff of Christmas cards and I’m sure if I’d listened hard enough I might have heard the tinkle of bells.
Ollie was first into the copse. He went straight to sniff at the bread tree. In seconds Sir Robin arrived, landing on a branch only three feet away. I said hello, and apologised for not bringing any food. Sir Robin took a spring forward then another until he was perched almost above my head and certainly within my reach. Sir Robin is small and fat with an orangey puff of breast and an intelligent face. Taking this opportunity to stare at the detail in this beautiful beast, something moved in my peripheral vision. Through the sticks of silhouetted trees and down the clumpy embankment to the frozen lake below, was a fox, a big ginger fox, and he was padding slowly over the ice, head swaying from side to side. The Olster was at my feet, too low to see the fox himself, but I knew if he heard or spotted it he would be off like a shot – and he would not stop. I had visions of him falling through the ice some twenty feet out, and me trying to save him. Now the fox was only three steps from the embankment, its breath puffing the air, and I knew it was coming to inspect the warren I was standing on intent on finding a nice bunny breakfast. One more step and the fox would touch snow, would start to climb the embankment – the Olster was still at my feet, Sir Robin threatening to poop on my head, and the amazing blue light brought magic to a scene which had to come to an end.
So I coughed. Mr Fox halted, looked up in my direction. I coughed again and he lurched away, scampered across the frozen surface and I watched him go. Sir Robin had gone too, to another tree, watching me. I promised I would return with food.
The walk back to the car takes us up a small rise where two old clay pits sit, each around twenty feet in diameter. As we passed the first pit, two smaller foxes – last year’s cubs I guess – were climbing from the second snow-covered pit. In the still half-light the Olster didn’t see them. The two foxes entered a shrub and I watched their little faces as they watched us go by. A truly magical start to the day.
We returned at twilight armed with bread for Sir Robin, and he was there waiting. As soon as I stepped up to the bread tree he came and sat in it. I wondered if he’d take from my hand and so offered my pal some crumbs along with some encouraging words. He came closer, took a good long look but would not take the final leap. Instead he looked impatient. So I placed the bread around the branches as usual and stepped back. Sir Robin dropped down instantly and began to feed. All well and good, yes? No! Suddenly there was a commotion, a flash of brown dart, twits and twitters and whistles and shrieks as a second robin was now dive-bombing Sir Robin off his perch.
That’s stupid, I said, there’s plenty room for both of you and enough bread to go around. So I went to the bread tree and the two robins scarpered. I took some bread, placed it in the next tree, and by the time I’d walked a few paces away the robins were back, each in its own tree, each scoffing heartily.
Returning to the car I spotted one of the smaller foxes climbing from the crater. It slumped away, watching us, and once again the Olster never saw a thing. Magic moments, called so because they are rare, perhaps? Magic times – when those magic moments stretch to minutes – even rarer. Yes, a very magical time.