Saturday 20 January 2018

Sometimes it's good to go back


The young lad was asking about frogspawn this week. 'Have you ever seen any?' he asked me.

And the rusty chains that hold my memory together started creaking. Spring, you see, is the time of year when frogspawn pops into my mind too. In fact, after the TV licence, property tax and annual certificate of road worthiness for the car are taken care of, frogspawn is usually next on my list of priorities.

'The last time I saw frogspawn was almost 25 years ago,' I told him, 'and that was in a bog near where I lived as a child.' I hadn't been there since.

He asked if I could take him back there, to see if the frogs were still laying their eggs. Always eager to embrace the Great Outdoors, I agreed, and on Saturday afternoon the young lad, younger lad and myself set out on our frogspawn hunt.

The good woman was excited for us, as she waved us into the distance. In the mid-1980s she remembers some frogspawn popping up in her back garden, though how exactly it got there has never been proved.

One day, she arrived home after school to find fully grown frogs hopping around her home and her mother swinging a sweeping brush trying to keep them away from her. Freaked out, the little good woman slipped some of them into her neighbour's home, preferring when they were cute little controllable tadpoles instead.

'There will be none of that business this time,' I assured her, 'frogs and their spawn are a protected species and there is a law against moving them. We'll simply observe.' Though in 2012, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht issued a blanket licence that allowed school teachers to collect the spawn to enable pupils observe the fascinating metamorphosis that results in the friendly frogs we know and love.

After almost a quarter of a century, nothing much had changed when we got to the bog. We waded our way through the marshes until we got close to where I remembered the spawn being, while overhead the skies darkened. At the first pool we found nothing, and the young lad's face fell. Then the heavens opened and we retreated to the haven of our car.

The shower only lasted a few minutes and then appeared a double rainbow, with its end literally two fields from us. Thankfully, the young lad was more interested in tracking frogspawn than a pot of gold.

We made our way back into the bog and wandered deeper into the abyss. And there, just as it had been 25 years ago, were thousands of tadpoles wriggling about. The young lad and younger lad were thrilled. But then came the icing on the cake. A few metres to the left was the frogspawn, perfectly preserved by nature's caring arms. 'It's really frogspawn,' yelled the young lad. While the younger lad asked if we could eat the jelly.

Then the owner of the bog arrived on the scene, taking his dog for a daily wash in the nearby stream. We shook hands, recognising each other after all these years and he remarked that it doesn't matter how many years pass, where you grew up always stays a part of you. And how in all of the world, there's no place really like it.

With our mission accomplished we headed for home, his words playing on my mind, and I made a note-to-self that another quarter of a century wouldn't pass before I return.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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