February 28, 2010

Unnnnh

 

Yesterday was a totally lost day.  Uggh.  From a sane, rational, grown up, mature standpoint that Cambridge at Friday tower practise which fried my eyeballs was a mistake.  You push something like ME, it pushes back.  Harder.  But I’m not sane, rational or mature (just old), and I refuse to see it as a mistake.  As I crawled around the house(s) yesterday in a grey fog of bleh I kept whispering to myself:  I ring Cambridge.*  The woman who didn’t go back to ringing a decade ago, after she got up off the sofa again after eighteen months horizontal with acute ME, because she was too stupid to learn to ring inside, is ringing Cambridge.**  Life is funny.  Leaving the old house nearly killed me, but the reason I started ringing again is because the cottage is two garden walls over from the church and its bell tower and I couldn’t frelling stand it.  I swear they were ringing about three quarter peals a week that summer, and you can’t escape the sound of the bells at the cottage.*** I know I’ve told this story.  Maybe someone else remembers how long I held out.  Six weeks, maybe.  And then I was on the phone to Vicky, asking if they would take on a recidivist beginner.  A stupid recidivist beginner.

            Well.

            The other thing about choosing to be unwise on Friday is that we don’t get a Cambridge band around here that often;  there are crack bands at some little distance but  I scare easily and I haven’t got the nerve or the time.†  And Anthea was going to be my minder.  Anthea is armour.  The Light Brigade would have come right out of that valley again if they’d had Anthea with them.  What noise is this?  Give me my longsword, ho! ††  We ring Cambridge!†††  But I’ve been whingeing in these virtual pages, I believe, not long ago, that one of the inevitable dilemmas about gaining competence in something obscure like bell ringing is that it becomes harder and harder to find the necessary band of adepts more competent than you to haul you on that next step, that next method, that next incomprehensible dimension.‡ 

            So I’m not sorry.‡‡  But that didn’t make yesterday any more fun.   And I clung, blearily, to the treble this morning for service ring:  No!  Mine!  That didn’t stop Niall‡‡‡ from fishing a small bit of paper out of his pocket and handing it to me however (as I held onto the treble rope with the other hand).  Did you see this in Ringing World? he said.  I didn’t want you to miss it. 

            Handbells for sale, said the little piece of paper, and a phone number.   

            HANDBELLS FOR SALE?  I DON’T NEED A SET OF HANDBELLS.  I ONLY RING HANDBELLS AT ALL BECAUSE NIALL IS THE IRRESISTABLE FORCE, AND HE HAS HANDBELLS.  HE HAS LOTS OF HANDBELLS.§

            I took the little piece of paper home§§ and stared at it for a while, thinking, if I wait long enough, and this week’s issue arrived a couple of days ago, the bells’ll be already gone by the time I ring up about them.  Yes. 

            Late this afternoon I rang up.  I’m third on the list. 

            Pray for me.  I don’t need a set of handbells. 

* * *

 * Almost.

 ** Almost.  

*** This is why I’m such a fabulously reliable Sunday service ringer.  Well, I’m fabulously reliable about being there.  

† This is not entirely my fecklessness.  Of the three local crack bands that I know exist, I have had direct experience of two of them, and you could cut their total indifference to anyone who isn’t as good as they are into large bricks and build an impregnable fortress with it.  I believe one of them is nice to its own beginners if they’re clever enough—so I would have failed there too—the other one isn’t even nice to its own beginners, how the hell do they think they’re going to keep their bells ringing?  Immortality?  A really good zombie spell?  The third one is supposed to be the friendliest, but they’re also the farthest away.

 †† Give me my bell of burning gold and something something something something, till we have rung out over England’s green and pleasant land.  With apologies to Mr Blake.  And Mr Shakespeare.  And Mr Lord Tennyson. 

††† Almost. 

‡ Speaking of incomprehensible. IMG_0200 This is the line for Cambridge—which you saw louring from under YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE the other day.  I’ve had it out because I’m supposed to be learning the frelling trebles—the one and the two—for handbells.  Handbells you ring by counting frantically and watching the treble like it’s your last hope, which it is;  there’s not a lot of physical skill in ringing handbells, although there is a right way to do it, and quite a few wrong ways.  Tower ringing is far more physical because of the size of the bells, and while again you ring by counting you also engage individually with the other bells:  you’re feverishly looking around for the bell you’re passing in seconds place, then the new bell you’re passing in thirds place, then the bell or bells you dodge with, which is where the line goes jagged.  Tower ringing is inevitably slower although it doesn’t feel like it—I’ve told you before you have about a third of a second to ring in the right place:  or of course the wrong one, always a too-attractive option—but you haven’t got time to look around when you’re ringing handbells.

            On the extremely unlikely chance you’re interested, what the one (the real treble) is doing is treble-bobbing:  treble bobbing is always that pattern;  in a treble-bobbing method, that’s what the treble is doing, whatever kind of mayhem the other bells are getting up to.  The red line is the mayhem that is particularly Cambridge.  I was ringing the two on Friday and the four last Wednesday:  all the bells (except the treble) ring the same pattern, they just start at different places.  So I was starting at the beginning on the two, but I started at the top of the fourth column when I was ringing the four . . . and then I rang the fifth column to the end (ignore the knitting to the right of the fifth column:  that’s one of the many superfluous forms of method notation I don’t begin to understand), then dropped off the edge of the universe and climbed back on again at the beginning.  And no, the bells don’t necessarily arrange themselves in order:  that would be way too easy.  The six starts at the top of column two.  Go figure.

            But.  Yeah.  You have to have the entire line memorised to ring the freller.  You learn it in bits, of course, and some of the bits, by the time you get this far in your method book, look familiar.

            Even so.  

‡‡ Although I’m going to be in a seriously bad mood tomorrow evening if I haven’t improved enough to go ring at Colin and Anthea’s home tower.  Did I tell you that Ditherington on Wednesday is about to go onto a fortnightly schedule?   So I have an excuse to go out an occasional extra evening a week.  Peter just needs to find a Monday bridge club.

 ‡‡‡ I’ve finally figured it out.  Nothing stops Niall.

 § He has about twenty.  Most people who change ring (as opposed to ring tunes) on handbells have six or eight or maybe ten.  Even twelve.  Not twenty.  Niall has twenty. 

§§ Peter has been laughing like a drain.  Even my own husband doesn’t take my agonies seriously.

Guest post by ajlr

Learning to play the piano when one is over 50 (Part 1 of 2) 

How – and why – do people learn new things? I started learning music theory, as a total beginner, about three years ago. Ben, our next-door neighbour and a music teacher, agreed that he would take my husband and me on as pupils and so in April 2007 we started our first music lessons – for me, the first since the year I’d had at school when I was 13, for my husband, the first formal classes in the subject ever. 

I think I was – still am, in many ways – the musical equivalent of a brick. I like many forms of music but I’m not pretending that it has ever been a pivotal element in my life. I think in some ways I distrust, even while enjoying, the emotions it can evoke and it has been a world I have never had much involvement with. Coming from a family with no background of playing or performing music probably has something to do with it too. I wouldn’t have thought to start having music lessons if it hadn’t been for our wanting to do something new we could share and remembering afresh at that opportune moment that we’d been living next door to a music teacher (and a very nice man) for 12 years… 

We started with theory because…well, just because; it seemed simpler. My husband has a guitar that he occasionally picks up and tinkers with (and which his elder son, Glenn, makes wonderful music on when he comes down on a visit), and he also has a poor un-used violin, lying in a forgotten corner somewhere, that he picked up in a junk shop many years ago. But the only instrument Ben tutors in is piano (oh – and organ: we didn’t, though, want to have the house sound something like the Adams family mansion from the outside, quite apart from the practicalities) and we didn’t (then) have a piano…so it was theory for both of us to start with. I rather liked the idea of understanding first, practice second (little did I know!) and my husband went amiably along with this. 

The first few lessons – an hour shared between the two of us, one evening a week – were enjoyable even while they also reminded us that my husband and I have very different learning styles. I’m comfortable with text and theory, Ray prefers the practical application of theory and is good when it comes to the hands-on stuff. Ray is also more innately musical than I am, I think. He has a good voice (if untaught) – he can sing, on key, for example, and follow things easily by ear, whereas I…can’t. Ben coped with us both in saintly fashion, although I suspect he was slightly boggled by the naive questions that a musical ignoramus such as myself could keep coming up with. Why do we (in Western music) have things based on octaves, for example – who decided that they should be such an integral part of the system and why is it eight notes and not some other number? And just why are key signatures necessary? And how (apart from the fact that he’s been learning and teaching music for 50 years) could Ben tell from two bars of music what key it was in…? What makes one note dominant and another sub-dominant (nothing to do with black leather, I learnt). How could one recognise a composer’s style? And a lot more like that. It’s a good job that we’ve been friends with Ben, and Pat, his wife, for so many years – he must wave goodbye to us on some evenings and then go back in to say ‘You’ll never believe what I was asked this evening…!’. Anyway, Ben was very encouraging, reassuring us and encouraging exploration of ideas even while trying (with some difficulty, sometimes) to keep the two of us focussed on learning the basics we’d asked for. Learning things in a sphere which is so completely new to me, I often feel something like a caver breaking through into a previously-undiscovered underground cavern and being amazed at the sheer size of it and the fact that it is obviously just the first in a series of such spaces. There’s so much to know and try to understand. (Mind you, it’s a very useful reminder for working with the learners I have in other areas, being such a newbie in this one.) 

After a term of (total beginner level) music theory, it became obvious that we needed at least a piano. Using Ben’s piano once a week, and the little keyboard he lent us, was fine for working on elementary theory but wasn’t really going to get us anywhere beyond that. Besides which, we both felt more optimistic by this stage that we would eventually be able to play a little, even at our respective advanced ages… So, with Ben’s help, we acquired a (second-hand) piano in November 2007. On the evening that it arrived at our house I felt rather as though we’d brought a unicorn home with us. There the piano sat, beaming goodwill and readiness to be made use of. There we sat, staring back at it in bemused wonderment. Having been told by my music teacher at school, back when I was 13, that there was no point in my trying to learn to play a piano as my hands would be too small to reach a reasonable span of notes, I also felt rather defiant. Shall so! See!! 

Making our first, tentative contact with our own piano (Our! Own! Piano!) it was strange to feel how different ours was to Ben’s, the only one we’d known till then. His feels looser, somehow, and there’s a minute fraction of ‘give’ in the key when one first touches it that ours doesn’t have – something to do with his having been used every day for years, I’m sure. His also has a slightly clearer tone, I think, than ours, which sounds very slightly smokey to me. (I’m sure ‘smokey’ isn’t a correct musical term but it’s the only one I can come up with.) However, the piano tuner we’d booked as soon as our piano had got its wheels over the doorstep and taken its coat off assures us that ours is a nice little thing (it has a compact keyboard, just six and a half octaves) and will do us well. We love it dearly – I have given it a name, which I use when the two of us are alone together. My husband says this is appalling anthropomorphism – and furthermore, how do I know I’m not offending it by using the wrong name… I can only say, in my defence, that the piano doesn’t appear to be sulking about the matter at the moment. And with all the interesting research news coming through about the value of music, and singing in supporting both physical and mental health over the years of one’s life, I’m hoping that our partnership will prove productive in many ways. 

To be continued…

Redux, various

 

 I WANT MY WOLFGANG.  WAAAAAAH.

            The good news is that Peter got out of Scotland about thirty seconds before they closed the border.*  He came home this afternoon and instantly began reorganising my life.**  This included ringing up the garage which, to my amazement, seems to think we can have Wolfgang back tomorrow morning.  Fourteen year old cars and MOT tests are not usually a happy merger and I’ve been bracing myself for the conversation about the new car again.***  Even if we manage to limbo under the government bar however and get our sticker I imagine there will be a little list.

            Meanwhile today would be the day that I started to get out of bed and the ME sighed and stretched luxuriously and said, are you sure that’s what you want to do?  Oh.  Frell.  You again.  Well, yes, I do want to get up.  I have hellhounds to hurtle and a piano lesson this afternoon and bell tower practise this evening.††  And no car.

            I know we did this trooping up and down main street thing during the snow, but I’m not in the mood when I’m trying to hold it together with the ME riding me like a bulldogger with spurs.  I am also reminded of how forcefully I object to walking anywhere without the hellhounds in attendance—two hours a day of hurtling is enough of the shanks’ mare option.  Hey!  It’s ten minutes to walk to Oisin’s from the cottage and back . . . having been back and forth to the mews to pick up my music and have a bit of a go at the piano.

            Anyone who is paying the wrong kind of attention will have ascertained by now that I’m not posting the lullaby to PEGASUS this Friday either.  I finally managed to get the freller printed off so that Oisin could actually see what he was playing . . . and he made several Small But Excellent suggestions††† that I now want to incorporate and I still have to relearn how to make dynamic markings on dranglefabbing Finale and then I will finally post it here.  No, really.  It exists.‡  It even sounds reasonably lullaby-ish.  In fact I like it well enough that I’m going to ask Peter if he wants to write another verse so I can compose some variations.

            I felt fairly dire while I was with Oisin although as I said to him I was expecting to feel suddenly a great deal better as soon as I left and any danger of my having to sing was past till next week.  Sigh.  I sometimes think I got into composing as a way not to have to perform.‡‡ 

            I had already had an email exchange with Niall about tomorrow‡‡‡ and had warned him that I was feeling like something that ought to be pickled in formaldehyde in a jar on a mad scientist’s shelf but that I’d probably just about make it to tower practise, since we’re usually short handed these days and I ought to be able to manage rounds and call changes for our beginners.   And then we had a funny band—three beginners and six hot bananas.§  And me.  I was helping hold up one of the walls in a semi-comatose state while one of the beginners wrestled with ringing rounds on four, five and six §§ bells and then Niall made one of his passes round the room as a good ringing master will do and when he got to me he said, Are you ready to ring Cambridge?

            Am I frelling whatNo I am frelling not frelling ready to frelling ring frelling Cambridge.  Am I clear?

            Okay, said Niall.  You can have a few minutes to look at the line.

            Ah, adrenaline.  What would I do without it.  You know that’s one of the working definitions of ME?  Exhausted adrenals?  Yes.  Well.  At this point—Niall having passed on to fresh victims—I could feel my eyeballs throbbing to my suddenly heightened blood pressure.  So I got out my diagram book and began staring at Cambridge while it went all glmxxxxxx on the page.  Anthea came over to be supportive—two of our hot bananas tonight were Colin and his wife Anthea, who is one of my favourite people.  You look at her face and you know It’s Going to Be All Right.  Possibly Even When It Includes Ringing Cambridge.   She is also a completely brilliant minder, which is a significant gift.  Just because you can ring something doesn’t mean you can boost somebody else through it—especially boost them in a way that they learn something rather than merely collapsing into blindly doing what they’re told, which is probably more demoralising than breaking down.  Anthea got me through my first couple of goes at Kent and it’s a lot of thanks to her that it began making sense to me as soon as it did.

            I really did think that Cambridge was a bridge too far however.  You don’t ring your first surprise method after a couple of sudden unexpected ten-minute cramming sessions because your ringing master(s) is/are wholly effing mad and your adrenals aren’t quite exhausted.  Roger on the five was complaining that he didn’t feel like ringing Cambridge tonight and I said, don’t worry, this won’t last long, and Colin on the three, next to me on the two said, oh, yes it will.

            And it did.  We got through an entire plain course of Cambridge.  I do wish to emphasize that this is absolutely due to Anthea’s crack minding . . . but I’ve been here before, learning something with Anthea at my elbow.  We got through it.  And I knew what I was trying to do even when I wasn’t seeing the bells to do it with.

            I can do this.  I am going to learn Cambridge.   

            Maybe I’ll even sing for Oisin next Friday.§§ 

* * *

*Joke.  But apparently it’s pretty vicious up there.  Our lot still have electricity and can feel their way through the snowdrifts, but a lot of people don’t and can’t.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/scotland/7325843/Wintry-weather-sweeps-Scotland.html

And then of course there’s New York.  http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119564&sectionid=3510203

And I was complaining earlier about being pummelled by a little hail.  I’m such a wuss.  But look what came in the post for me today from Hannah (in NYC):IMG_0298 crop

 

 

I’m trying.  Clearly my solar capacity isn’t quite up to 3500 miles.

(Yes.  That’s what you think it is, underneath, on the table.  I’ll give you a better view one of these days.  I know, you can hardly wait.)

 

 The thing that amuses me even more about this item however is the tag:  IMG_0303 crop 

Post consumer material???

 

** It’s shocking how much disorganization can creep up on you in a mere day and a half. 

*** No.  But I admit if we have two winters in a row like this one, this time next year I will be thinking hard about a new four-wheel drive car.  With waterproof locks. 

† Frushipergug rods and bistamudze belt need replacing.  Gradundabble connections should be tightened.  The whimmerwhammer needs realigning.  And while you’re at it you need a new engine, four new tyres, and a CD player. 

 †† And a novel to write. 

††† I asked him if he wanted credit and he said no, no, no, just keep writing the stuff. 

‡ So do the little flute piece I promised Jodi and the truly tiny violin piece I promised violinknitter.  I’m just . . . a horrible coward.  And I keep thinking I want to twiddle them a little more. . . . 

‡‡ I wonder if it would work with Blondel. . . .  I am such a hopeless case.  I’m afraid to sing for Oisin, and I’m afraid to take one of my songs to Blondel.  What do I think is going to happen?   The end of the world?  

‡‡‡ The other reason the ME was kind enough to come back today, aside from not singing for Oisin, is being able to say no I am not going handbell ringing Saturday morning.  Although . . . sigh.  I would like to ring with Titus and Rupert. 

§ So to speak. 

§§ One of the reasons ringing seems, when you’re first learning, to be coming at you from all directions is that the eenie weenie difference in timing and rhythm between, say, four and six bells, which when you’re learning to handle you have no sense of, makes a drastic practical difference in keeping your place.

 §§§ Or take one of my songs in to Blondel.  Maybe I could get him to sing the lullaby.

Cambridge

 

I rang Cambridge last night.*  My first surprise method, that holy of holies and scary of scaries.

            Well.  A little bit of Cambridge.  But even that is a substantial miracle, like . . . managing to sing for Oisin tomorrow afternoon, supposing I do.  It was also an excellent example of Wild Robert at his maddest.  I think I wasn’t blogging yet when he pitched me into Stedman after I’d been ringing about a year and a half and could just about struggle through bob doubles on a good day.  Stedman was like yanking the toddler off her tricycle and entering her in the Tour de France.  Gah.  However, the grind mechanism was engaged and I did, in fact, learn Stedman.  Grind, grind, grind.  Eventually. 

            Ditherington has been going through a bad patch for practise night ringers and Wild Robert clearly had a rush of blood to the head when there were more ringers than bells last night . . . and the fact that only three of them could ring Cambridge—himself, Niall, and Ditherington’s fearless tower captain Marilyn—he waved airily aside, and told Michelle and me to learn the line.  Now.  Right then.  This moment.  When we weren’t ringing little stuff for the learners, that is.  GAH.  Do you know how long learning a complex line takes?** Gerald, it must be said, should have been learning the line, but he is one of these people—all occupations have them***—who fancies himself a good deal more competent than he is, and I only mention it because his unique contribution makes our eventual semi-success that much more heroic.  We got through about half of it, and since the standard means of learning surprise† is by individual lead, of which Cambridge minor has five, we obviously all get medals. 

            The other interesting†† thing that happened last night is that I had to call some bob doubles.  You hardliners who actually read these posts when they’re about bell ringing may recall that Wild Robert informed me, like a clap on the ear, about a fortnight ago that I was to call a touch of Grandsire.  I did this successfully, to everyone’s amazement††† . . . but I could do it because for this particular touch you the conductor, by the calls you make, are calling yourself through a very easy sub-pattern within the entire method.  The other ringers are performing the sweaty bits.  Last night Wild Robert, grinning maleficently as he snatched my diagram book out of my hands, open, as it was, to Cambridge, stated that for my next trick I would call a touch of bob doubles.  Oh, I said warily.  I’ve been reading up, you know‡, and I ventured a remark about having perhaps some clue about the bob doubles equivalent of that Grandsire touch the other week.  No, no, said Wild Robert, grinning even more maleficently, Denis gets to ring that bell.  You have to call it from an affected bell . . . in other words I would be ringing all the sweaty bits and trying to remember to shout BOB at the correct intervals.  And learn Cambridge in my spare time.

            I admit that my calling was not quite the clean victorious sweep that it was for the easier Grandsire touch.  But we got through and I shouted BOB and . . . and I can learn this.  I really can.  I understood what I was supposed to be doing—I understood the concept.  How did this happen?  It’s a bit like realising a few months ago that I was, in fact, going to make it to ringing surprise—how did that happen?  And while I have thought that I ought to learn to call something, I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect with any enthusiasm.  So the second thing about the experience is that . . . calling is actually kind of cool.  So, yeah, okay, I’d like to learn to call a few touches. . . .‡‡

            I blasted out of bed this morning still slightly overheated (morally anyway) by last night’s unexpected manifestations of ability.  Which doubtless explains why today has been one long downhill skid.  Sigh.  However it began at the beginning of the month with me remembering that Wolfgang’s annual road test is due in February and dutifully booking in at the garage . . . who couldn’t fit us in till tomorrow.  Arrgh. ‡‡‡  And then Peter also wanted to go visit Luke § and there was some backing and forthing about this and it turned out to suit them if he went up for evening visiting hours today, and comes back tomorrow.  Which left me dealing with Wolfgang.  In the sluicing rain—usually I use either picking up or dropping off Wolfgang as an excuse to hurtle hellhounds in the other direction.  And because I don’t wake up anything like early enough to get him out there tomorrow morning for 7:30§§ I was going to take him in tonight.  Okay, I thought, we can hurtle back in time to let Colin and Niall into the cottage for handbells at five, handbells at 5 o’clock being my usual Thursday excitement . . . until I noticed that we were ringing at four and at Niall’s house, which is about a twenty-minute walk from here . . . and did I mention the rain?

            And then we couldn’t ring anything.   Toward the end of our two hours of self-immolation Niall looked at the other two of us and said, We aren’t usually this bad, are we?  Noooooo.  Sometimes we get through entire minutes without going, CrashFrell!  Sorry! 

            And have I told you we’re trying to learn Cambridge

* * *

 *Translation:  I won the lottery.  I was crowned Queen of England.  They just gave me the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I discovered the Elixir of Happy Creative Middle Age that Lasts Longer Than a Few Decades.^  I found the answer for world peace.^^ 

^ See previous blog posts for remarks about how old is better. 

^^ It was behind the sofa.  

** Hint:  it took me months to learn Stedman.  Although that was my first diabolical method, and nothing can be quite that diabolical again.  It’s like learning to ring inside for the first time.  You will never learn it and furthermore it is going to kill you.  And then it doesn’t.  Oh. 

*** I find the level of self-delusion rather interesting.  Lots of people think they’re, oh, say, better, ahem, writers than they are.  But bad writing does not literally go CLANK. 

† Which includes knowing in advance so you can have studied the line before you came to practise 

†† I am so living in interesting times 

††† And then Niall the Ratbag made me do it again at New Arcadia 

‡ Steve Colman, The Bob Caller’s Companion, http://www.ringingbooks.co.uk/     No self-respecting Deputy Ringing Master would be without. 

‡‡ WHAT DID I JUST SAY????

‡‡‡ Note to self:  next year remember in January.

§  No real change.  Please keep those candles burning.

 §§  AAAAAAAUGH

Guest Blog by Black Bear

Frogblog Part Deux: The Return of the Terrarium

Who wants to see some pictures of tiny cute frogs?  YOU do?  Well, then I won’t stand in your way!

little guy

You might remember I bought the Amazon triplets back in November at the annual reptile/amphibian show.  These are my second foray into the dart frog hobby, the first being my bumblebee frogs, Norman and Saxon.

Norm and Sax were ready to move to a larger terrarium right around the time of the show, so I cunningly planned to shift them over to a 10 gallon tank I just happened to have lying around, and put the new guys into the 5 gallon that the leuks were vacating.  It’ll be like pie.  Like really, really difficult pie….

Frogs aren’t cuddly.  It’s not just because they’re small and sticky; in their natural environment, all sorts of things can squash or eat them, so they’ve evolved to be very skittish and easily startled.  So handling them is pretty much a no-no, as it stresses them out big time.  I try not to even put my hands into the tank very often—since it’s a terrarium it doesn’t really need cleaning in the way a hamster cage or a catbox does.  But to get the frogs from tank A to tank B without risking escape or injury, I needed some sort of failsafe to ensure that if the frogs flipped out and managed to exit the terrarium, they wouldn’t get hurt or go missing. To this end, I formulated a plan which involved the bathtub.

So we’ll just put the frog tank in the—hey, wait a minute!

dan peeking

Nice try, you!  Out of the tub.  No frog-flavored snacks today.

So I put tank #1 in the tub, and got a small Tupperware container to put the frogs in for transport.  (Tank #2 is a LOT heavier than tank #1, and since the bathtub is downstairs and the frog shelf is upstairs I didn’t want to risk carrying the 10-gallon tank full of dirt and rocks and live frogs over the distance—it just seemed like borrowing trouble, especially if you know my reputation for clumsiness.)  I was worried that I might have to actually grab the frogs in some way to get them in the transporter, which was a little terrifying; they’re so delicate, and I was petrified I’d injure them somehow.  But as it turned out, one of them hopped directly into my hand and was easily dumped into the Tupperware.  (For the curious—Robin—they weigh about as much as a couple pennies in the palm of your hand, and they feel just ever so faintly sticky—tacky, really.)  The second one followed, with only slightly more hassle, and I thought hey, this is easy!  I’m like some kind of Frog Professional!  I had visions of myself in a whole new career:  “‘Scuse me, ma’am—you got a frog there what needs handlin’?  I can put him in a Gladware box faster’n you can say lickety split.”  “Oh, thank you, Frog Handling Professional, thank you!” So I was feeling pretty good about myself when I got things set up to introduce the Amazonian triplets into the now frog-free Tank #1.

Overconfidence has been the downfall of many far greater folk than I.  But I have to say that after a year’s familiarity with D. leucomelas, I was completely not prepared for the experience of D. amazonicus.  These little guys are, you recall, smaller than a dime; they came sealed in little plastic cups with a bit of moss for moisture, and I figured I’d just pop each cup open, shake the frog+moss out of it and into the tank, then move on to the next one.  That’s how I did it with the leucs last year, and it worked just fine.  So, popped open the first cup, shook the frog gently into the tank, started to open cup 2, and–*holy crap he’s making a break for it!!!* Turns out that while Norman and Saxon react to a strange situation by hopping around on the floor of the tank and hiding under leaves as fast as possible, this new species apparently is a bit more strongly arboreal, and the first thing they do upon being released from plastic prison is to leap onto one of the walls of the tank and begin a mad climb to freedom.  So I dropped the as-yet unopened cup with the second frog in it, and cupped a hand over the spot where the frog was about to hit the rim of the tank while my other hand scrabbled frantically for the tank lid.  I expected that when my hand approached him, the frog would retreat—but no!  Fearlessly he cut sideways and was nearly over Cemetery Ridge before I got the lid closed (which was also frightening, as I didn’t want to accidentally smash him with the lid.)  I swear I heard a tiny voice mutter “Curses!  Foiled!” as I knelt next to the tub and waited for my heart rate to return to normal.  While it probably wouldn’t have been a tragedy for him to escape into the tub, my fear of accidentally hurting these critters is tripled with the thumbnail frogs, because they are so ridiculously tiny I can’t even conceive of how I’d pick one up safely.

mac and can

The rest of the operation was fraught with tension on my part and wild energy on the part of the frogs.  Pry cup almost open, lift lid slightly, hold lid up while shaking barely open plastic cup frantically over the rim of the tank.  It was hellish, and somewhere in there I became convinced that there was no chance all three of these frogs would survive my ineptitude to reach adulthood…

Now I’ve had them nearly 4 months, and I’m pleased to say that they are not only alive, but gorgeous frogs, enthusiastic hunters and eaters, and have staged down the escape attempts to only-once-in-a-great-while.  They still don’t really have names, which is at this point less because I don’t want to get attached (too late) and more that I can’t tell the little boogers apart.  Two of them are perfect duplicates of one another; the third is slightly different in his/her markings.  So I’ve been weighing possible names, to be used interchangeably for the foreseeable future.  Suggestions are welcome…

mac and mike

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