Dear Reader by Harriet Cummings

  • Posted 10/11/2017

Dear Reader by Harriet Cummings

Dear Reader,

The summer of 1984 my parents didn’t get much sleep. Not only was I born that July but an unknown figure dubbed ‘The Fox’ was slipping into people’s homes. Finger smudges were found on photograph albums and back doors left open. Neighbours talked of finding ‘dens’ made from blankets where he hid to listen to the sounds of family life.
 
Amid the sticky heat of summer, hysteria broke out across the area. With only a weekly newspaper, people relied on hearsay to know where he’d been and where he might be heading next. But no one really knew what to do.

When the local DIY shop quickly sold out of locks, my parents borrowed a neighbour’s Samurai sword to hide behind the radiator and stashed a pick axe beneath their bed.
 
Of course I was oblivious to all this at the time. From a young age, however, I heard about the infamous Fox who’d caused such fear until he was eventually caught in September of that year. My older sister and I grew up fascinated by this lone figure whose presence was still vivid in people’s minds decades on. 
 
However it was only recently I revisited the story with a childhood friend and she told me what my parents omitted: that although The Fox did often simply watch and nothing more, on some occasions he raped people and one time shot a gun, injuring someone’s hand. Of course my perception of him greatly shifted but, at the same time, I still wondered about all the hours he spent in people’s houses without attempting any form of contact. Maybe a part of him was drawn to the intimacy of private family lives and he wanted to feel a part of that.
 
After all, our homes are arguably where we are most ourselves. They’re intimate spaces not only because of the way we behave but the things we fill them with, the trinkets we keep, even the dent in the wall from the time we threw open the door. They’re witness to some of our most tender moments and some of our darkest. 
 
It was this idea that got into my bones. The Fox seemed like an interesting way to explore the theme of loneliness. Many of us have felt alone at some point in our lives. But what if we felt like an outsider even in the place we called home? What might we be driven to?


BAMB Readers Awards

We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings can be purchased from your local bookshop and if you haven't voted yet in the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards yet, click here!

Grayson Perry

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