A Fox, A Fountain and The Shard

On the rainy night before New Year’s Eve, at around 5pm, a friend and I  were hurrying to the station, past Victoria Park, when we glimpsed a weirdly poetic arrangement: just past the brim of my umbrella, a fox with a singularly lush pointed tail; in the middle distance, a silvery fountain streaming  opulently, and furthest away, the Shard winked at us in its elvish festive get-up. There are no photos of this fleeting composition. Would the fox have stayed for anything in the pissing rain? Would we? Would any Instagram filter have made up for the failing light? But you’ll  just have to take my word for it, it was magical in its own way.

Could have looked something like this: Hiroshige, New Year’s Eve Fox Fires At The Changing Tree, Oji, 1857

So close to the end of the year, I couldn’t help but see this trio as a kind of vision: the fox, the fountain and the Shard- all different and yet complementary- seemed like 3 wishes for the New Year.

The Fox

My friend, a Californian, told me that when she first moved to London and saw a fox, she initially thought she’d that seen a kind of cat with an odd-shaped tail. I laughed, but her comment made me see the fox with fresh eyes- it wasn’t just a mangy, flea-ridden dustbin hunter, but a tiger-coloured creature with a sly walk and an unearthly cry. Resourceful,  shabbily elegant and a survivor until something eventually kills it, the fox is a paradox. Its very purpose is survival in uncertain, precarious circumstances. It will go on the hunt in all weathers and eat anything given the opportunity. By night it will scream and bark to assert its investment in territory or a mate.  And yet it maintains that sleek, nonchalant boldness coveted by students of style…

The fox is a relevant symbol for the day-to-day aspects of 2016: earning enough to live, working towards a dream, having antennae for opportunities and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. The fox’s imagination is an earthly one; it sniffs out the way to the prize in the current situation, rather than dreaming up a realm of alternative possibilities. If the fox cared to counsel you, it would say ‘the answer is there… in that old contact/ that box under your bed/ the hobby you’ve been meaning to try for ages…but have you bothered looking?’

The Fountain

Anita Ekberg in Rome’s Trevi fountain, living, well, what else… La Dolce Vita, 1960

The fountain is life, abundance and the flowing of emotions. I hate that so many New Year’s resolutions are concerned with regimentation and meanness towards oneself or others. We strive to weigh less on the scales, restrict our social contact and give less to those who need it the most. We eat dull food, banish the booze and swap the glitter for grey. This is as close to being dead, while still alive, as it gets. I say that we should go the other way… Not that we should necessarily dissolve our livers in Scotch or buy the sequinned jumpsuit that bankrupts us, but just that we should be generous with our time, energy and resources. Keep giving to charity, go out dancing, share a beautiful meal, a household green initiative or a smutty joke. Above all, recognise that we live in a world of abundant possibilities and that generosity of spirit is rewarded in transparent and mysterious ways.

The Shard

The Shard in its fizzy Christmas spangles. Photo by Marco Uccelini on Flickr

To me, the Shard represents worldly ambition and achievement. Up close it’s a bombastic structure with lucrative views, but at night from a distance, it’s a mystical witness, with one eye to your dreams and heartbreak. I’ve noticed that when it comes to worldly ambition people tend to fall into two camps; those who build their lives around establishing structures and flaunting them, and those who think a life based on worldly acquisition is too bourgeois, restricting or impossible for them. The former risk having a life that’s overly Shard-like, all structure and gloss, but somehow devoid of heartfelt qualities; while the latter, whose lives are effectively written on water, risk depriving themselves from having anything at all.  I think it’s okay to have years where you focus more or less on ‘establishing’ goals. 2015 felt like a year when I experienced everything and built nothing.  Its overly liquid quality made it one of the best and most frustrating years of my life. This year, however, I’m looking to redress the balance – I’m not going to build another Shard, just plant a few landmarks in my water-garden…

Monet in 1919, knew that the only landmarks worth having were living ones