Today I'm doing housework.
Not momentous, you think?
Well you're quite wrong.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, I'm playing out-field for the atheists.
Being blessed with an astonishing tolerance for grime and clutter, and living alone, I'm happy to wallow in slovenliness. In truth, I simply don't notice the carpeting of dust, the haunted-house cobwebs billowing around the lights or the snowy drifts of dog fur under the sofa. It takes something unusual to make me stop and think, 'oh, I suppose I should clean up'.
Of course the most dreadful manifestation of this is the Unexpected Visitor (oh my God, oh my God...). But such ordeals are rare (thank Heaven) and my wake-up calls are usually more subtle. You know the sort of thing (well you probably don't, and if you do, it's best not to admit it): the computer refuses to type S and P because cat fur is sprouting from the keyboard, a procession of dung beetles trundles past on route to the kitchen bin, the dog starts licking random places on the floor, or a strange green fluid is seeping from the fridge.
Well today's wake-up call was a bit different.
It was uttered by a frog.
'A series of discordant croaks or squeaks', to quote my frog guide.
Not your usual call to dish mop, I admit.
But this is the call of the foam nest frog. To be precise, the foam nest frog that perches by day on the cupboard above my sink. Still don't see the problem? Then let me fill you in on the idiosyncrasies of foam nest frogs.
These attractive little amphibians, with their big round eyes and sucker-like toes, suffer paranoia. Rightly or wrongly, they're convinced that every body of water is brimful with ghastly predators whose sole purpose in life is the annihilation of frogs' eggs. To avoid this rampant egg-consumption, foam nest frogs deposit their spawn in trees. Courting males find themselves a romantic spot with a waterside view - preferably a branch overhanging water – and then tell the world about it. If a lady frog gives their potential nursery the thumbs up, she'll secrete a gelatinous goo which the pair treadle into foam. It's into this confection of froth that the female lays her eggs. Additional gentlemen will help in the arduous whisking operation, surreptitiously fertilising some of the lady's eggs while they kick up a storm.
|Southern foam nest frogs building the nursery.|
Photo by Arno & Louise Meintjes.
The meringue-like nest hardens on the outside, forming a crust that protects the little embryos from harsh temperatures and drying out. After 4 to 6 days the young tadpoles wriggle down to the base of the nest, where the crust softens, dropping them - with a plop - into the water below.
So the frog sitting croaking above my kitchen sink, believes he's found the ideal nursery.
OK, I admit that my sink probably does qualify as 'permanent water'. Filled with a clutter of encrusted pots, half-empty coffee mugs and milk-rimmed cat bowls, it does provide an alluring mosaic of puddles and pools. And while I realise that it isn't every day one gets the opportunity to witness the miracle of amphibian procreation in one's own kitchen, the prospect of 1200 tadpoles (no exaggeration, according to my frog book) plopping down among my dirty dishes is more than I can face.
So today I'm doing housework.
Starting with the washing-up.
|Foiled foam nest frog.|