Can you spot the tiny little frog in the photo?
Many of the people walking around on the Heath today certainly couldn’t. And that photo is the best of many, taken in macro. The frog itself, one of many, is tiny. So tiny. Tiny tiny tiny.
First there was a storm. Huge flash storm. Bing bang wallop. “Hi there, it’s nature, remember me?” Great fat dollops of water like sacks of custard, splatting us. For the humans it meant “HIDE!”
For the tadpoles of Hampstead, the bugle was blown. “Amphibians! Transform! Now is the time to use your LEGS!”
Suddenly, after the storm, hundreds of miniscule frogs were wandering all over the place.
“We have legs and we must use them! No more will there be the oppression of the water. No more must we submit only to the swimminess. We amphibians must rise now and take our rightful place in the middleworld!”
“Great! I’m with you. But … where are we going?”
“We go to where the legs take us. We can go left, we can go right – look, I’m going left! Now I’m going right! With legs!”
“Up and down seems more restricted though, more so than it was in the down world? We were very good at up and down there. And we could do left and right…”
“SILENCE! We can jump, can we not? In which action we achieve both up AND down. And we have a whole new world to explore.”
“Yes, but… I mean the birds? They seem to want to eat us. And … the big clumpy boots … ?”
The paths of Hampstead Heath ran red today with the blood of tiny frogs. Trampled by heedless feet, picked up by magpies, rolled on by bicycles. Evolution in action. And where the hell where they going, with their new legs? Some seemed hellbent on escaping the pond, others hellbent on returning to it. All of them, tiny tiny animals, complete but so impossibly small. Just moving because they could move. Like all of us. Hacking it together with no real clue and hoping it lands well.
“We have legs now, so we must use them!” That’s the evolutionary signal that takes them to their deaths in droves. But some of them live. Some of them are lucky and go on to be big fat happy frogs with their very own pile of leaves.
“How did you survive the spawning?” “Oh I was better than all the ones right next to me who were picked off.” “Are you sure it wasn’t just you desperately and aimlessly banging around thinking of nothing but self preservation and just somehow … lucking out?” “No. I’m a special frog. My survival is down to frog-genetics. I’m a special frog.” “Great, so you must have some advice for the frogs coming after you as to how to survive the spawning?” “Yes! Just … put one webbed foot in front of the other! And if you come anywhere near my little froggy leaf hole then so help me I’ll eat you myself you little bastard. This is MINE! I got here first. Fuck you. Fuck. You. Fuck you.” “Ok, thanks Mister frog. That’s all.” “Fuck … oh sorry. I got carried away. Good, so you’ve got it all. You’ll cut the bit at the end though. And make more of how special I am, ok? Great. Thanks.”
Bless the little critters though, before they get fat and slow. It’s raining again so they won’t dry out. Statistically with low footfall on the Heath today and loads of rain, I reckon they chose a good day to come out in numbers. The ponds of Hampstead will be well stocked and croaky in late summer. And the herpetologist that heard me hungover yarking the other day and thought it was the rare Hampstead Shouting Frog will be so busy and happy finding interesting variants of real frog that the froglike noises I was making will slip from his memory. Unless I’m foolish enough to get drunk like that again.