Thursday, 21 June 2012

Frog O'Clock

I recently found out that my daughter and her boyfriend's mother both share the same intense dislike of frogs (we did wonder if Sigmund Freud would have anything to say on the matter).

My best friend when I was growing up was frog phobic. I remember a long and happy game we played by his grandad's pond with a dart tied to a piece of string planning to harpoon a particularly fine specimen that seemed to mock his irrational fear with every blink of its bulging amphibious eyes. The game ended abruptly when finally plucking up the courage to throw the dart, my friend ran in screaming, convinced that he had made a direct hit. He hadn't even got close but it was definitely Game Over.

We have two ponds in our garden and both are home to a number of frogs. Despite some casualties over the cold winters, the populations continue to thrive. This pleases me and my little boy who loves to look at the "flogs and flish" but is not such good news for my daughter.

Even worse news was a spectacle that I witnessed one evening as the sun was setting  - a time we now think of as "Frog O'Clock".

We have recently fenced off one of our ponds to make it safer for the little ones to play in the garden. The back of the pond is unfenced as a raised rockery area already provided a barrier.

I would never presume to understand the behaviour of another species or to judge their intelligence but it was hard not to think that the frogs in my pond were, to put it bluntly, a bit daft. As they left the water in the cool of the evening (perhaps in search of some tasty morsel), instead of taking the unimpeded rockery route, they opted to access the garden through the mesh fence. When they failed to make progress through it, they began to try climbing over it. Credit goes to the more tenacious of our soft bodied friends who made it about a foot up the mesh before falling backwards onto the rocks below.

Part of my daughter's dislike of frogs is rooted in their apparent vulnerability - their almost jelly like appearance. This idea was reinforced when one of my large Golden Orfe (now sadly deceased) bit off more than he could chew, so to speak, when it tried to swallow an adult frog. It eventually spat it out but not before the whole head area of the unfortunate frog had become the stuff of nightmares.

It was painful to see the mesh climbing frogs falling in ungainly heaps onto hard rocks (and almost certainly painful from a frog perspective). They recovered enough to have another go... and another. I was willing them to realise that this was never going to work. All they had to do was jump back into the pond, swim across to the other side and exit through the frog friendly terrain. Alternatively, hop round the edge of the pond to the point where the fence ends and away you go. As I stood watching, not one of the desperate creatures had their light bulb moment.

It was grotesquely fascinating but eventually, as it got darker and colder, I went inside and left them to it .

I did feel a bit guilty about putting the fence in their way but a few inconvenienced frogs is nothing compared with the risk of one of my children falling in the pond. Nature always finds a way. They'll work it out, hopefully before one or more of them becomes frog pulp.

If my daughter has the misfortune to find herself in the vicinity of the pond at Frog O'clock, it could be enough to upgrade her 'dislike' into full blown Batrachophobia. If she ever runs screaming into the house, much as my dart-harpoon throwing friend did so many years ago, I will have a pretty good idea why!

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