The Fox In The Sky

There it is, greeting passengers sitting on the ground-serpent trailing into London: an incomplete, jagged knife stabbing the sky above the Thames.

But despite its inhospitable aggression, The Shard – a 1,020 foot pyramidic structure near London Bridge- fascinates my eight year old son.

The boy who loves pointed sticks, trailing them after us through the forest; the boy with a passion for swords and pikes is in awe of this modern challenge to the London skyline.

And somewhere in among our frequent trips to the capital, it has become known that Felix’s beloved Bumpy the Elephant is set to have the highest office in the whole Shard.

It is not a whole floor you understand, as Bumpy is about half a foot high. When we go to see him we will not be all together comfortable because the ceiling will be excruciatingly low. Bumpy’s business power desk will take up most of the room.

But the views will be out of this world.

The grand plans for The Shard are the brainchild of Italian architect Renzo Piano, the man behind Paris’s Pompidou Centre. He is rumoured to have been inspired by the masts of sailing ships on the Thames; and by Canaletto’s depiction of the London Spires.

Pretty thoughts. But take a look at the visualisations on the spectacular website here. Our old spires are named for the old English word spir: it means a sprout, a shoot or a stalk of grass. they grow organically out of the London brick and stone. The Shard is named for a fragment, a broken, sharp thing.

See its finished form and you may think it is less of a shard, more of a shiv.

An ugly word. A makeshift thing, its sole purpose for doing grevious harm, Oxford DIctionary suggests shive – a razor – as its roots, while wikipedia cites the Romanian word chivomengro, a knife.

During the planning inquiry in 2003 local authorities, the Royal Parks Foundation and English Heritage all opposed the development: but they were all overruled by bluff John Prescott, outspoken deputy prime minister of the time.

So its building began, and it has risen  from the ashes of the 24-storey Southwark Towers since February 2009

This skyrender is the last word in luxury, its funding dominated by a syndicate from Qatar, its growing glass facade a constant talking point for the people of London. It will feature offices, a spa, an observatory and luxury apartments which have just been put up for sale for £50 million a piece.

Only the final floors will be entirely devoted entirely to the spire. And that, says Felix, is where Bumpy’s office will be.

In an unplanned change to project managers’ schedules, a resident has already moved in to the structure.

But the resident was found to have four legs. And his name is Romeo.

Builders will be builders, even on one of the most prestigious building projects on the globe. They take their sandwiches up with them to eat for lunch: it’s a trek back down to the shops on the ground from the top of the Shard’s almost complete structure, and London food prices are a crime. But being builders, there are always scraps left over.

No one has said anything about why the scraps were left behind when the builders left: but our working knowledge of these industrious souls suggests this is not atypical behaviour.

Anyhow, the scraps attracted a canny russet nose.

Romeo the Fox use the central stairwell to follow his sense of smell 72 floors , and when he got there he knew luxury when he saw it. So he set up house there,  the highest fox in history, living the high life in an apartment which will soon be costing millions.

The builders discovered him, and called in the local authority to evict Romeo. He was taken to Riverside Animal Centre in Wallington where he received a thorough medical and was said to be very well, thank you.

The BBC quoted Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for transport, environment and recycling at Southwark Council,as saying: “Romeo has certainly been on a bit of a jaunt and proved rather elusive.

“But I’m glad our pest control officers were able to help out.

“He’s obviously a resourceful little chap, but I’m sure he’s glad the adventure is over and hopefully he’ll steer well clear of skyscrapers in the future.”

So the first resident of the Shard has pottered off, released on the streets of Bermondsey shortly after midnight last Sunday (May 6). Romeo was reported to glance at the Shard and head hastily off in the opposite direction.

I wonder if they know about the small cuddly elephant with the power desk in the attic.







53 thoughts on “The Fox In The Sky

  1. Romeo, such a smart chappie, they should have a commemorative ‘something’ in the building about him. Oh no wait, modern developers are building for the short term and creating legends and stories aren’t their thing at all.

    long live Romeo, somewhere he can leave his mark on posterity

    Hopefully the attic will remain tenanted as planned

  2. Yesterday I went to a lecture called The Giants of High Tech Architecture which concluded with the Shard. No mention was made of Romeo or Bumpy! Thanks Kate, for putting the cherry on the cake.

    1. Ooooh, I’d love to hear more about that lecture, Rosemary! The Shard is one of the first buildings to be built under the new technological requirements for safety, following 9/11, isn’t it?

      1. Yes, the building has been designed to maintain its stability under the most onerous conditions. Apparently it opens in July and there will be a public viewing gallery located at the top of the tower. Will Bumpy and Felix be amongst the first to visit?

  3. Unbelievable – maybe one of the builders smuggled him up as a prank (or to get rid of the evidence of their littering ways) 😉 You’re a fountain of entertaining information Kate.

  4. I hadn’t seen that one of the news, urban foxes are proving very adaptable and resourceful as this high rise dweller proves. I do hope Bumpy gets his office. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. They are so clever, the urban foxes, aren’t they, IE? Whenever I stay in an established house in London there always seem to be foxes playing in the gardens in the early hours…

    1. Shades of meaning, Ruth 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting. I am afraid I am a little spoilt for choice: it is only a short time since our Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, rose to meet the skyline.

  5. I opened the link and it is indeed a very impressive place, it may not necessarily be a pleasing fit among the surrounding buildings, but, in and of itself, a rather amazing place. The story of Romeo the fox just makes me smile, they are so resourceful and I always love seeing the small red foxes in our neck of the woods.

    1. I know: the audacity of the red-brush, Lou: you have to admire it 🙂 We’ve had the Gherkin here since 2003: a kind, round building, a really spectacular new building. I guess the Shard is the new kid in the block. If a very lanky one.

  6. Try as I will to love to love the public masturbation of architects, I just think it looks f;;;;ing awful and it’s a disgrace that apartments in this shit are 50million. There – got that off my chest and made me realise how glad I am to live here.

  7. I thought Juliet was supposed to be in the tower and Romeo on the ground. I think this guy is confused! Or else Juliet is still in there somewhere.

    1. It would be just Romeo’s luck, wouldn’t it, Carnell? She’s late fixing her make up so he goes in after her; meanwhile, she’s split in the direction of Bermondsey. Let us hope they reunited eventually 😀

  8. In Newcastle, there is a new building on the quayside; I think it looks like a giant shiny slug: it looks magnificent and fits in beautifully. Old and new: side by side.

  9. After the building which rather phallically resembles a shimmery rocket caricature (does it have a lovely nickname I can tell Mark about?), can this Shard really be so bad?

    As to Romeo, for certain’s he’s skipping back to some vixen with tales of the city and his brave adventures amongst thugs and lawmen alike.

    1. He is, without doubt, Cameron. Ah, that lovely, shimmery building- I am thinking you mean our Gherkin?

      There is some extremely naughty modern folklore-spinning going on in the city. It centres around what would happen if a giant fell from the sky onto it, in a certain position. Needless to say ,no one has spun a sequel using the Shard. Ouch.

  10. My husband and daughter just returned from Scotland with a short stopover in London. They were in London just long enough to ride the eye and they were telling me about The Shard last night. She too was fascinated, and I am sure she will enjoy hearing about the four legged residents.

    1. Hi Alice- and what a coincidence that your family saw the Shard so recently! I bet the view from the London Eye was fairly spectacular! Do check out their site- they have virtual helicopter journeys over it. Visionary stuff.

  11. Yes. I can imagine Bumpy the Elephant conducting business high atop London, with Felix the mastermind of it all. As for Romeo; ah, Romeo, where forth art thou, Romeo. You know my love of red fox, Kate, so you know how I loved this story.

    Romeo and Bumpy at the Shard. Disney. I can see it now . . .

  12. You had me at “pointed sticks” – it reminded me of my own son on hikes – the sticks were a vital part of the journey.

    That is one adventurous fox! What a fun story – and what a surprise for the folks who found him!

  13. Dear Kate, . . . I went to “here” and saw the “ads” on the Shard, finished reading your text and met Romeo, and then read the comments and your response to them. Learned a lot and I’m left with only two words: Wow—Romeo!

  14. Oh this is wonderful to hear. I used to work on the 20th floor in the year they were going to pull down Southwark Towers. We used to get snails on the windows, but a fox on 72nd !

  15. Romeo – what a brave little fox! Curiosity is a powerful driver. Hope people left lunches out.

    If the tower leans, will Bumpy be declared responsible? 😀

  16. It’s a fantastic building-to-be, but it seems a shame to put it right in the middle of a perfectly perfect city. But I guess if Sir Winston can still look out and see St. Paul’s, it’ll be okay. Perhaps Romeo will return someday to show his former digs to the wife and kids.

  17. While looking at The Shard, I also found The Place — two side-by-side, very modern, sparkling gems juxtaposed on all that history. Wow!! Then, since reading comments here, I went back to look again and found the Gherkin; more wow! Maybe the developer could reconsider and create an urban wildlife refuge on that 72nd floor, reinstate Romeo and others of his ilk as residents, and possibly appease the Royal Parks Foundation? Bumpy could have his corner office there and oversee the operation. 🙂

    1. The Place has a place in my heart – contemporary dance has a firm foothold there 🙂 Karen, I think you may have the solution. I shall have Bumpy call the Royal Parks Foundation immediately.

  18. First, I’ll add my “like” to your new look! It is really smart and refreshing. I am so glad you put the link to the Shard…what incredible views. I hadn’t previously heard of it and I can see why Felix is intrigued! Of course! I hope Bumpy will be safe…not just from a clever fox. Those are some heights! 🙂 Debra

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