I saw a fox the other night. I was down in the kitchen at 4.00 a.m., marveling at how cold the tiled floor felt under my bare feet and how bright the moonlight was on the snow in the back garden. Then as I stared through the kitchen window I saw a shadow – maybe more an outline than a shadow – moving from the middle of the garden to the line of cursed Castlewellan Golds that separate my garden from the man next door’s. Two things told me immediately it was a fox: the low-slung movement of the creature – it went forward in an unhurried way, head thrust out, rest of the body following; and the tail, normally bushy but tonight, with the temperature around -10 C, the shape of a small Christmas tree. It wasn’t rushing but it wasn’t dawdling either – heading back to its den, maybe, after a night hunting for food. I imagined the bright eyes, the sharp snout, the small vicious teeth: a complex, ruthless, family-centered creature. The God who made this animal left no room for sentimentality or anthropomorphism. This was closer to William Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night’ – a thing of wild, untamable, dangerous beauty. In the morning I saw where he’d come into the garden through a small gap in the hedge between me and my neighbour on the other side. His tracks in the snow were small, measured, unstoppable.