So there we were, minding our own business, eating Sunday lunch a cinq at our local munchery as the rain pelted down outside, when this frog flew in through the door at a rate of knots.
Breathless and death-defying, the little amphibian did not stop to appraise the audience which was gawping with mouths which were possibly a little too wide given the company.
Leaping in crazy-cornered directions he managed to develop a trail of flustered waiters and waitresses as he flipped and flopped under and over guest’s tables, threatening the very dishes the paying public were poised to eat.
It was all great fun. Here was chaos, not even organised. Somewhere in my head, the theme to Mission Impossible was playing.
This was Action Frog. Wadda Guy.
He flip-flopped around, leading his black-and-white entourage up-table and down-aisle until he reached the rustic stable-door exit. At which moment a flighty waitress opened the latch, squeaking uncontrollably, and the frog catapulted out into the great outdoors: namely, the Beer Garden.
How did he know it was there? We can never be sure. But my best guess is that he was dared by his mates to streak through a restaurant peopled with humans who generally eat the legs of his compatriots.
I never saw him again. But I did recall a scene I have seen of late, on BBC’s ‘Life’ nature programme. It concerns a frog of some considerable ability.
In essence, BBC editors and soundtrack maestros give the frog the Hollywood treatment. There’s this snake creeping up on this tiny toad/frog character, and the snake’s all flickering tongue and glossy wicked-black livery and you’re thinking how? How is this tiny warty chap ever going to get out of this?
And the music goes all tense as the frog comes eye to eye with the snake and we anticipate him shuffling off this mortal coil.
But the frog has other ideas. He flings himself off the leaf of doom and takes a suicidal drop, plummeting down through the greenery of a rainforest, gathering a lethal momentum until he manages, unbelievably, to grab a twig and haul himself to safety.
It’s beautifully done: worth the watch. An object lesson in how to handle a Bad Day.
Frogs and toads have hidden talents too: their skins can exude toxins, and even substances which could be used as recreational drugs. Licking toads, I am advised, can be extremely dangerous.
So: don’t try that one at home.
Because The Church Of The Toad Of Light recommended something similar, back in a 1984 leaflet which has found its doubtful way onto the global cyber highway.. You can find instructions for milking a toad and then using its venom to transport yourself, figuratively, to another dimension.
The pamphlet’s author tells us: “Within thirty seconds, there will be an onset of almost overwhelming psychedelic effects. You will be completely absorbed in a complex chemical event characterized by an overload of thoughts and perception, brief collapse of the EGO, and loss of the space-time continuum…..and, most likely, you will experience a euphoric mood interspersed with bursts of unmotivated laughter.”
All this from milking a toad.
Little wonder that they are the stuff of fairy tales.
It’s the Russian ones I like the best: raw gruesome tale-telling to unsettle the little ones before bedtime.
Once upon a time, three princes were sent out to search for a consort.
They all shot arrows out of the castle to find their sweethearts. Naturally.
The eldest found a noblewoman, the second a merchant’s daughter. But the third landed in a swamp, and the youngest, Prince Ivan, must marry a frog.
The frog, of course, was no ordinary frog. She was disobedient to her father, and he turned her into a little amphibian as punishment.
Deeply sweet-natured, the frog was ever patient with her husband. When his father set challenges for the three wives- bread-baking, rug-weaving – she excelled and outstripped her sisters-in-law. When the three wives were invited to present themselves she shed her frog skin, and filled the palace with grace and beauty.
Ivan saw the skin, and his chance, and he burnt it so she could never go back to her other form.
But enchantments are never straightforward: far from banishing the frog form, he perpetuated it, and his wife must leave him forever.
There began a romp which includes many of the Russian nightmare figures: Kostshei the deathless, that terrifying wizard-boyar; and Baba Yaga, the child-eating witch. Some versions of The Frog Princess even have a happy ending: some, not so much.
The frog is a most unlikely action hero: not handsome or significant, but plucky and honourable. He rivals Tom Cruise with his stunts, while the princess-frog enchants the highest in the land with her ingenuity.
But my favourite froggie action hero must be the character who took a bet with his amphibious mates and hared, for a few crazy minutes, around a Berkshire pub, in valiant search of a beer garden.
He has captured our hearts, spindly frogs legs and all.
Regulars will have spotted this repost……happy days.