With a shrill, pre-dawn succession of barks, I would like to welcome you to the first edition of The Sniffer, the unruly younger brother of The Ballad of Cocky the Fox. Because installments of The Ballad only appear every two weeks, it was felt necessary to slake the vulpine thirst in the fallow days in between. And slake the vulpine thirst I shall. Each edition of The Sniffer will skulk around the edges of a large English meadow looking for small rodents, dead birds and the remains of family picnics. There will be: poetry, puzzles, commentary, conversation and trivia, all of it related, directly or indirectly, to Cocky and his escapades. So how did I come to edit this esteemed organ? Being a writer and being a friend of Cocky's creator would not have been enough on their own to guarantee my appointment. No, the publishers engaged me for a different reason: I was once a human fox. In the fifth and sixth years of the millennium, I lived on the estate of Viscount M. in the rolling greenery of West Sussex. The

estate was the venue for assorted sports that were focused on chase, track, bait and kill: fishing, pheasant shooting, deer hunting, beagling. The most popular of these pulled participants in from miles away: the monthly fox hunt. Red-coated riders would gather at the House, take a sip of something strong from the stirrup cup and, with a blast of the bugle, send the pack of hounds off on the trail of a plucky reynard. In February of 2005, however, the British government put a stop to it all. It now became illegal for more than two dogs to chase and kill a fox. The early days of the ban were a cause of depression for the hunters; they weren't able to squeeze around the edges of the law so easily then, as they can now. Houndsmen and huntmasters scratched their heads looking for loopholes and alternatives. One night, during a session of beerfuelled bravado with the local huntfolk, a sozzled somebody made a suggestion. «Patrick's a runner. Why don't we get him to


drag a foxtail soaked in piss through the woods? We'll give him a headstart and then set the hounds on him!» As stupid as this idea sounded, it was given sober reassessment the following day and all were in agreement that it might just fly. Above all, I was game. And so, for the few hunt meets that happened before I moved back to London, I became a human fox. In my memory, these meets no longer have their own narratives.

of it, once pulled apart, parsed and sensibly reassembled, may be of interest to keen followers of Cocky's trajectory. In each edition, The Sniffer will present a sniffet of this decoded babble. The Edit o r: You used to be a baker, which I'm guessing inspired the scene behind the bakery. Cocky goes looking for leftovers in the bins, only to find that a couple of other foxes have beaten him to it. Did you ever have any fox-related experiences when working in the early hours? Did you ever catch a Hughes or a Hayes out back having a nibble? The A utho r: Never. I've never seen a fox in Boston and I worked at the bakery for five years. I did see a naked girl jumping up and down on a mattress, though. I was standing by the bin holding a bag of rubbish in my hand and she was doing gleeful star jumps. I watched for a couple of minutes and then went inside. The Ed ito r: Was she eating macaroons? The Aut ho r: No.

In my time as quasi-brushed quarry, I learned to empathize with the common red fox.
Instead, everything merges into one mess of sense data and emotion. The sweet and sour stench of fox urine; the crack and rustle of the woodland floor; the distant, hungry baying; the tightening sphincter; the sting of nettle; the prick of bramble; the hammering of heart through ribcage; the dribble of human urine into running short. It was exhausting and terrifying. And I would do it all over again. In my time as quasi-brushed quarry, I learned to empathize with the common red fox. I bear his burden; I cry his tears; I know his mind. This is why I've been chosen to rabble-rouse and proselytize on behalf of Cocky, that princely spiv among furry urchins. —Patrick Cates, ed.

T HE I NFO XICATOR Cocky loves a glug of aftershave to spice up a night out. It seems fitting, then, that The Sniffer pay tribute to this predilection by recognizing the long-standing link between the fox and the piss-up. Each installment of The Infoxicator will breathe at the reader a boozy monologue about a different example of this connection, be it a pub, a beer, a wine or a hunting tradition. The series will begin with a trip to the appropriately named Intrepid Fox. The Intrepid Fox spent most of its life in Soho proper, nestled between the strip clubs, bondage shops and editing suites of

O V ER A P INT The author of The Ballad of Cocky the Fox and the editor of The Sniffer are known to enjoy a chinwag over a pint. Conversation hops between the literary, the musical, the geographical and the scatological with lubricated abandon. Most of this natter is unintelligibly slurred and repetitive. But some


Wardour Street. A few years ago, it moved half a mile east into the Stygian dinge of St. Giles, the scribble of shady streets tucked beneath Centrepoint. And some would say it

D EAT H S PEA KS TO C O C KY T HE F OX The .22 splits a grass-blade, half an inch from your nose: its sound, a second later, shakes the rooks from their cawing and their old-school jawing and scatters them into the sky like seeds. I had a taste of you when that pitbull chewed you up. And when the half-brick thrown by the loud girl clonked you into momentary satori I smiled at you, emptily. Remember?

fits in better here. St. Giles has always been the black sheep of London parishes, home to the homeless, back garden of beggars, boozers and con-artists; and The Intrepid Fox has always been the grubby, scuzzy destination pub for anyone who wants a deafening assault of old-school rock washed down with a few pints of cider. Sticky floors and postermosaic walls house a no-nonsense clientele of hedonistic pint-guzzlers: grubby Levi's, big belt buckles, Great Frog jewellery, tattoos of eagles. If you imagine, like I do, that Motörhead's Lemmy was never a baby, and popped, fully formed, out of a subterranean smokehole somewhere, then this smokehole would probably be hidden beneath the floorboards of The Intrepid Fox. F OX F A CT In 17th- and 18th-century Europe, fo x tossin g was a popular competitive sport. Two tossers would hold either end of a sling, wait for a newly released fox to cross it, and then fling the poor beast up into the air as high as possible. If not dead upon landing, the fox would be rendered so by a battering at the hands of bloodlusty spectators.

Other dogs have gone for you—some cats, too. The wheel of a shopping cart broke one of your ribs: a nudge from me, a hint. The pigeon with the poisoned breast, the snare where Agony makes her nest. Stand by, fox: I’m arriving. —James Parker

T HE C OC KY C O MPAN ION Cocky is an English fellow and, naturally, he sings his ballad in the Albion vernacular. Not all of the vocabulary he uses may be familiar to his globally dispersed fan base. Accordingly, each edition of The Sniffer will feature an extract from The Cocky Companion, a lexical tour guide that decodes and dismantles some of his barks and cackles. Q UAV ERS Curly, cheesy slivers of reconstituted potato sold in bright yellow packag ing to attract the attention of children. They are the English playground equivalent of Flaming Hot


Cheetos, coating youthful lips with a sticky mulch that is yellow rather than red. M E GA - PRAM «Pram» is short for «perambulator», a wheeled device for carting around babies and toddlers. The pram, once an elegant, fabric-covered chassis sitting horizontally atop spoked wheels, now often resembles a Landrover in size, design and complexity. B OLLO C KS A testicular expression of annoyance often drawn out by especially resentful Londoners into «Bollerrrrrrrrks!». (It can also be modified with the prefix «silly» or «soppy» and used epithetically, as in «Oi! Soppy bollocks! Gimme some of them Quavers!») J APES Pranks, high jinks and general tomfoolery (of the kind practised by the stalwart comic schoolboy, Dennis The Menace, and, most recently, by urban omnivores off their nut on aftershave). S HAT - UP While the directionality of «shatup» might imply constipation, it actually refers to an emotional state that stimulates the opposite physiological reaction. It can be thought of as a shorthand synonym for «scared enough to warrant almost crapping one's pants» (or, in Cocky's case, «scared enough to warrant almost crapping one's furry haunches»). S LA G O FF This has nothing to do with creating waste products in the metal industry and everything to do with being abusive. If one were to cloak the offensive term «slag» in euphemism, one might end up speaking of a «termagant» or coining a word like «vituperatrix».

G ET F O XED While the primary purpose of The Sniffer is to inform and entertain, it has another mandate: to infuriate, puzzle and otherwise befuddle the brainy reader. Get Foxed is the medium and «get your noggin around this conundrum» is the message. In the inaugural foxing, you are invited to consider the following formulaic opinion on how strong Cocky's two back-of-the-bakery opponents are: HUGHES + HAYES = BADGER Assign a number between 0 and 9 to each of the ten letters that appear in the sum so that sum is mathematically correct. The only prize is a cup of your own smugness. The answer will be published in the next edition of The Sniffer. And now I bid you Get Foxed.


Patrick Cates P U BL ISHE RS Matthew Battles & Joshua Glenn of I L LUSTRAT ION Kristin Parker W ITH THAN KS TO Generous backers of Cocky the Fox & please direct all enquiries to sn iffer@hi lob row.c om


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