What does the word ‘mermaid’ suggest to you? Andersen and Disney sweet young girl, giving herself to the man she loves? Or else the seal-women of Scotland, or the sirens of Greek legend, luring unloved men to their deaths?
The Mermaid rose is s beautiful as any of those, but has more in common with the sirens. Get too close to her and you won’t escape easily from her sharp, backward-facing thorns. But she’s lovely enough, if handled with leather gloves. She’ll grow 4m plus high and those buds will open to creamy yellow single flowers. The deep red berberis leaves set her off well.
Abel was riding behind Grandad, across his favourite bridge in the old Tannery housing estate. A few yards on, he announced, ‘I saw two baby ducks.’ Grandad did not see them, but Abel missed out on the grey wagtail chick with its parents, (or was it two chicks with one parent?) by the Glebe. He missed our blackbird cock feeding a chick as big as himself on the scraps of fat fallen from the fatballs that the starlings have been telling their chicks all about, very noisily.
But we’ve all seen the baby robin who is already as tame as its parents, here perching on the bike’s handlebars. Spring is fun when you are nearly four or even nearly 70.
The Butterflies’ teacher came round after school to bring the ex-frog spawn which was ready to leave school. (The Butterflies can look forward to another eleven or twelve years of it!)
Some of the former little black dots were now hopping on and off the big flint in the middle of their tank, and the rest had legs and were losing their tails. All of them seemed happy to dive into the pond where they were laid. I’m sure more survived into froghood than if they’d stayed in the pond. Mrs Turnstone cannot blame the goldfish for predation after she took ours to her pond at work.
Mr Blackbird discovered this source of protein last year and was keeping an eye this, till the duckweed covered the surface. Now the fish ate most of that, when we had fish. As well as the weed, the frogs of all sizes have logs and rocks to hide themselves away. But can you spot the frogs in the bottom picture?
A message just came from the Butterflies class, who have been observing and caring for some of the frogspawn in this picture.
There are five froglets and a few tadpoles with legs! Great excitement in the classroom, but the children know the froglets and their brothers and sisters will soon be coming back to their native pond. For certain sure, more of them have survived than if they had been in the pond at the mercy of Mr Blackbird.
Thank you Butterflies class and your marvellous teacher!
Mrs T’s reading before going to Venice was the guidebook and Salley Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel. I’m not sure which was better preparation for our visit. My book made more sense once we were in the city, and helped make sense of the city. Ellis Peters, best known for Cadfael and all things Salopian, wrote Holiday with Violence soon after the Second World War, during which Venice escaped bombing but endured great hardship. There are glimpses of that poverty, of the rundown buildings, and also of the precious green spaces:
She saw in the drowned shade of the little waterways, narrow between high palace walls, the occasional green of trees looking out from secret gardens, in a city where all the rest of the spectrum was spilt recklessly, but green was jealously hoarded.
Such a secret garden can be seen on the background to this picture. Some of these plots had walls surmounted with a hedge of Canary Ivy, home to blackbirds which had their singing posts nearby to celebrate the dawn and dusk chorus, all the more audible with the lack of motor traffic.
Miss Turnstone teaches the butterflies, a reception class of 4-5 year-olds. and every year takes some spawn to school so they can watch the tadpoles develop. The frog spawn comes from her mother’s pond.
Hoping to get a photograph for them, I found myself beset with reflections wherever I squatted myself down. Having rejected my snaps altogether, I tried for just one more. This frog chose that moment to swim across the mass of eggs in the bottom of the pond, and gave us an action shot. Not great, but good enough.
The clear water in the pond suggests that it is more than good enough; there’s plenty of weed to start the tadpoles off in life, but we do need to keep a weather eye out for frost. Once the eggs are afloat we could lose a lot to freezing conditions. We’ll live in hope and be ready to help.
The first frog I saw this morning was flattened on the street, possibly en route to our pond. But there were two in there this morning, and a splash and a croak when I went to lock up. Let’s hope they are not deceived by the warm weather into laying eggs that will be killed by the frost. This one met Abel’s mummy a few years ago.