A few summers ago I had a plague of frogs. Well, there were 8 frogs in total, and whether 8 frogs constitutes a real life plague is debatable but nevertheless, 8 frogs is more than I usually see in 8 years – so to me – it was a plague. 

I suspected that Timmy was responsible for the frog plague. He loves all wildlife. If he were a TV presenter, he would be David Attenbrough lying in the bushes somewhere whispering quietly as a column of ants march in file about its duties.

He’d be dressed in khaki shorts and hiking boots with a weatherproof hat slightly askew on his head. He’d look earnestly into the camera as he imparted some little known fact about his chosen subject and you, the viewer, would reel with shock at this new amazing information never before divulged.

On this occasion I think Timmy had been renting space in my house to poor refugee frogs that obviously didn’t understand English. What up-and-coming frog wouldn’t aspire to have his own room, with tv, video, remote control, extensive library, including self-help books, and self-advancement manuals? All they had to do was to stay out of sight, not cause too much fuss, keep the noise to a minimum and do a little light housework after dark. 

But frogs give off a pungent odour and I came downstairs one beautiful summer’s morning and nearly fainted at the stench of something quite disgusting. I stuck my nose up each tap in the kitchen sink – that wasn’t the smell. I tried sniffing the plughole in the sink – that wasn’t the smell.

Next I investigated the cats’ food bowls.  Cat food has to be one of the worst smells on earth apart from my bedroom slippers or my training (deck) shoes, but that wasn’t the smell, either.

I pushed open the swing bin but that wasn’t the source of the smell. However, I put a deodoriser in the lid just to make sure. I was fast running out of things to sniff but the smell was so overpowering in its pungency it made my eyes water.

While I was busy investigating, I hadn’t noticed Timmy looking furtively about the dining room to find the cause of the smell. For a temporary period I had swapped my dining room furniture with my lounge furniture and I had a low level seating arrangement which curved around two walls. It was made up of 4 units and it was moveable and interchangeable.

Acting on a whim – as one does from time to time – I lifted up one of the units and there it was! The smell – complete with frog attached!  The frog was quite small and leathery in countenance, which made me wonder if I hadn’t been a bit remiss in my housework duties recently. How long does it take for a frog to become like a leather artefact? I tried to think when I had last vacuumed the room and looked at telltale signs of dust on the mantelpiece. Hmmm. Seems like it had been quite a while and Timmy had capitalised on the fact that housework was not my strong point.

Timmy appeared like the weaselly landlord Mr. Rigsby in ‘Rising Damp’. ‘Leave this to me!’ he ordered before speaking a language not known to humans. Despite Timmy speaking fluent Froglish, the frog didn’t respond. Timmy looked at me. I looked at him. Then we both looked at the frog. ‘I’ll deal with this,’ he said, poking the frog. The frog remained where he was. Timmy walked around it a few times poking him from different angles. There was still no response from the frog.

‘Oh dear,’ Timmy said, worriedly, ‘he’s croaked it!’ Timmy was concerned about immigration officials descending on him and asking awkward questions about illegal immigrants, but he needn’t have worried as I picked up the frog in some kitchen paper and wrapped it up, before putting it into the swing bin. An ungainly exit perhaps, but all that could be provided for at such short notice. 

Over a period of a couple of weeks 7 other frogs were discovered under several of the units. Some were also deceased but some were very much alive. One such alive frog was quite large and terrified me when it hopped out from under the table. On hearing my scream Timmy leapt down the stairs in one gigantic bound and skidded to a halt by my side. He stared at the frog that was in clear breech of the tenancy agreement drawn up by Timmy, acceptance of which had been given by the frog’s untidy and unruly signature. Mind you, it’s hard to grip a pen with webbed feet and Timmy should have made some allowances.

‘What are you doing out?’ Timmy hissed at the frog. ‘You KNOW the rules!’ The frog shrugged his shoulders rebelliously. ‘I was fed up crouching under that chair. I wanted to see a bit more of the world.’ He said edging away from Timmy’s hot breath that was getting a bit too close for comfort.

I went to get another piece of kitchen paper and asked Timmy to watch that the frog didn’t go exploring. My house is quite small so that with one giant leap the frog would have seen all of it.

I came back with copious amounts of kitchen paper and tried to wrap it around the frog. It chose that moment to leap again. Timmy and I both jumped back at the same time but we both pretended we meant to do it and glossed over the whole incident without looking at each other. I managed to catch the frog and carefully wrapped it up in kitchen paper. I took it outside to the garden and let it go in my neighbour’s garden. ‘You owe me a month’s rent!' Timmy called after it. ‘Yeah, like you’re getting that now!’ exclaimed the frog waving his front leg in what can only be described as a frog-type ‘V’ sign. Timmy, who saw only good in everyone, was deeply shocked that the frog could make such a gesture and blushed.

The next day another frog came to light. I wasn’t sure if it was still alive and said as much to Timmy.  He looked at the frog and then back at me, then prodded the frog. It squeaked. ‘It’s alive,’ Timmy said, looking me straight in the eye. More kitchen paper was employed and it too, went into my neighbour’s garden.

Timmy had lost count of how many frogs he had rented the house to and he spent the rest of the morning on ‘Frogwatch’, which is a bit like ‘Baywatch’, but without the silicone implants. Detective Inspector Timmy Columbo from M.O.G.G.I.E.S. (Ministry Of Great Gruesome Interesting Events Sorted) sat glued to his post, drinking cold coffee from polystyrene cups and eating greasy cheeseburgers which Billy went out for on roller-skates.

In a shabby raincoat and chewing on a fat cigar he interviewed at length everyone in the house to see if they had seen any frogs lurking about, hiding behind or under things. Billy had seen one frog reading ‘The Road Less Travelled’ a few days earlier, but as he hadn’t been seen since, he deduced that the frog had moved on, making the road slightly more travelled.

Eventually, Timmy had to draw a veil over the whole event through a lack of creditable and reliable witnesses. His key witnesses had croaked it and hopped it, both owing a month’s rent and Timmy decided that being a landlord was too big a responsibility and more trouble than it was worth.

There must be other ways to earn a living, he thought to himself as he coughed on his cigar!

Copyright © 2003 by Pauline Dewberry


In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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