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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Parkin

Change The Subject Month (February), Clean Month (March), Foxy Vermin

February’s theme was a roaring success at H Ren’s suggestion: Change The Subject Month. As the name suggests, nobody noticed that it was, in fact, Change The Subject Month – because every time they did, we created a diversion or changed the subject. I also tried to harness the power of Changing The Subject in day-to-day life, when things were not to my liking or somewhat uncomfortable. Although I’m fairly good at that anyway, so the theme came as second nature.

My favourite moment of Changing The Subject was where H Ren – when asked the question as to the theme – feigned some crisis, looked panicked, ran out of the room (knocking over a chair) and then returned some minutes later. She was impressively non-specific about this ‘crisis’ and, duly, the conversation moved on to other Subjects and nobody knew about the theme. I’m all in favour of such sneaky themes as they turn life yet more into a game, which is surely the point of the whole venture.

After a discussion in the very wee small hours of Saturday morning, having been ‘night-clubbing’, Ren and I are still unsure as to whether we – in our inebriated state – agreed on a theme for March. However, neither of us could actually remember agreeing one, so we have accorded that, if one was agreed, it is now forever consigned down the back of the sofa on which it was (or was not) come up with. We don’t need it anyway, there are infinite Themes.

SO  it is with all due fanfare (perhaps a fanfare of vacuums) and pomp (feather duster feathers raining from upon high) that we declare March to be Clean Month. This is also to co-incide with H Ren’s venture to set up a cleaning company in Bristol. She and our associate, Mr Kevin Dennis, are to ‘clean up Bristol’ – but not in that horrible, racist way that Griffin and his bacterial cronies might use the term. Actually clean it, and leave it sparkling, ordered and divine.

March is also, of course, the month of spring cleaning for many. So get yer marigolds on and give everything a jolly good once over, eh? All other interpretations of cleanliness are to be encouraged (except the horrible ones, thank you) of course, so I invite any thoughts to do with ways to embrace CLEAN in March.

In other news, I have completed my 6th foray into the world of Vermin: cockroach/envy, or ‘Admiration’s Cloud’. I am going to commence work on the final piece – a slothful fox – and then want to start coming up with some costume ideas to take them to the Festival of Nature in June (this is not confirmed yet, but in discussion).

Foxes are usually associated with slyness and swiftness – qualities I do indeed associate with them. As with all the pieces, the cultural hotch-potch from which all these animals arise is quite an interesting part of the process for me; the animal in the imagination, as influenced by how it relates to anthropogenic activity. Certainly there are clear connotations in Dick King-Smith’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ or other children’s stories. One of my favourite uses of the fox was in the film ‘Red Road’: a direct parallel with the animal was drawn with one of the characters (the divine and excellent Michael Fassbender, in fact) who, when disappearing from view on the CCTV after an illicit liaison, appears to morph into a fox and reappear on the other side of the scrub.

However, I am now left – in my self-imposed ‘system’ – with Sloth as a deadly sin and feel like mammals are under-represented (rat is the only other piece with a mammal). I’m interested in why many consider foxes vermin at all. Personally, I love finding myself walking with one, when going home in the wee small hours. There’s something quite ghostly about them – not least in that cry, which all city dwellers know and some no doubt despise (maybe that’s it?). Like all animals I have written pieces for (and I would say ‘for’), they are survivors: abundant, resourceful and all too much a mirror of our own waste.

Of course, there is the class element as well – foxes are particularly verminous for people in the country where, to survive, they kill livestock (as is in their nature). My own view of the contentious fox-hunting debate has always been that it is not really to do with foxes: it is to do with class, the city versus the country, and our fear of being deemed ‘barbaric’. There is no doubt that foxes can cause damage to people’s livelihood, but to hunt them with such pomp, glee and gore does seem unnecessary. On the other hand, those ‘hunt sabs’ who take it upon themselves to inflict harm on humans, or to spend their lives in pursuit of the red-coated pursuers should really reassess their priorities: is it really the biggest problem that Britain (or any country) faces? I don’t think so.

So here’s a synthesis: let the Hunt Sabs be the ‘foxes’ in ‘Drag Hunts’, where the dogs, horses and haughties all chase something other than a fox – a person who lays down a scent for them (not, as I once thought, the hunting of glamorous trannies). Then, if you need to control the foxes, just shoot them. Or poison them. Something quick. That way, everyone’s busy, the foxes are controlled, the poshfolk get their pomp and the hunt sabs stop the ‘hunting’ bit – the dismembering, the stress, the gruesome blood-smearing. But then maybe that’s not the point. I’m just trying to be practical.

That was more of a ramble than I intended. But it might form the basis of some of the poem.

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