Sunday, 21 July 2019

Beneath the surface....issues among tadpoles

Beneath the surface

a tadpole's life is not always a happy one....

latest Telling Toads contributions

Life in a toad pond or a frog pool is not always easy. Even getting there after a winter of deep dreams in a cold rocky hollow is fraught with peril (and if you humans would ike to help, look for a local
Toad Crossing team, or check out Froglife’s “Toads  on Roads” page). As tadpoles grow, in a warm wet summer, a pond may be a good place to be but if there is too muhc sun and too little rain and the water begins to go…..Natterjacks in their rainwater hollows on heaths and dunes aim to grow fast and start hopping soon: their water is supply is precarious. Our amphibians don’t have those magnificent African Bullfrogs Dads who guard their squirming tadpole swarms (they have even been known to make lions back off, more, i suspect, from confusion than from fear) and who will dig channels from a drying puddle of ‘poles into the deeper, if more precarious, waters of a bigger pool. Our amphibians have to sit there and sing for the rain....

And all that is a longer introduction to the next two Telling Toads contributions…..its summer, I hope you get a chance to sit around somewhere enjoying the season…why not put pen to paper, pencil to note or finger to keypad and send us your own toady contribution….don’t know where to start? See the suggestions that are coming in on the Whispers pages. To read more of our Telling Toads pieces simply search this blog for Telling Toads!

Susannah Violette
All sizes they bloat their night-bodies.
With their bulimic tongues, belch
their language of tadpole begetting,
of water seeking,
of climbing damp belly
to warty back
and thrusting
whilst asking:
Is this our puddle?
Am I home yet?

999 Tadpoles
Rosemary McLeish
I can't tell you how awful it is in this pond.
It's a heaving, seething, struggling, lumpy
milk pudding of a mud-hole.
I am surrounded by brothers. 
All they do all day is push and shove, making
more room for themselves. I sit tight
in my tiny space ignoring their jostling.
I keep myself small.

Somebody prods us with a stick.
Alarm stirs the pool into a whirling chaos of
brothers fighting to get out.
A lot of casualties.
At least the gruel thins.

Some of the brothers are growing legs.
They're eating the little ones.
But there still isn't room enough and now
they can kick, not just squirm.
They leave me alone, I don't know why,
so I can swim around a little, stretch.
Some great bird swoops down every day,
scoops up a beakful of us -
you can see them kicking as he glugs them down his throat.
He never comes near me.

Now we're all getting bigger, some are taking off,
jumping out of the pond, disappearing into the long grass.
The water in the pond is clearing,
I can tell apart the ones with boring brown blotches now,
some long and thin,
some chubby, some tough and mean,
some cheery and silly.
Still fighting from time to time.
Some days I think it must be the weather.

I begged them to stop but they cold-shouldered me,
preferring fights to rational discourse.
I asked why they didn't like me,
but they looked at me as if I'd crawled out from under a stone.
Once in a while they suspend hostilities, all join
together to raise their voices in harmony to greet the dawn.
It gets on my nerves.
I tried to join them but they don't want to hear
my rusty burping voice, say I can't sing their tune.

They've all gone now. Left me behind.
I've got the whole pond to myself..
Nobody croaking, nobody quarrelling.
I can swim from one end to the other
and across from side to side.

At first it was just what I'd wanted.
The space to breathe,
so still and quiet I could think my own thoughts.
As much food as I could eat.
But gradually I began to miss them.
All that pushing and shoving, something happening
all the time.
Now it's just me and the pond and the weather,
it gets very boring. I'm lonely.
Wonder why they all left, why nobody ate me.
Wonder what's the matter with me.

The duckweed has been cleared,
so when the sun came out I saw myself reflected,
long and deep in the still water.
I looked over my shoulder,
nobody there but me.
No wonder they left me alone.
What a freak!
Yellow speckles, exopthalmic eyes, warty chin.
I should find a large broad leaf
to squat under.

I'm a toad, not a frog! 
But those are diamonds in my eyes.

Originally published in Artesian magazine in 2002, reprinted with poet’s permission

the perils of the deep
Thank you to today's poets, Susannah and Rosie and to Shaun Waters for the rising newt

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Voices from a field

our solar system

 Rock-weigher, field-ruler

words from the Whispers 

"Whispers in the Grass"

9th July 2019

We started on a day that promised brightness and threatened rain, cooler than some this summerthe high dales of the Staffordshire Moorlands. This was a day for words, and wandering, and wondering, for drawing, scribbling, sketching and eating picnics and the partaking of cake. It was a day to simply enjoy being there, being here, in Dove Valley Centre in the Upper Dove ValleyWe started on a day that promised brightness and threatened rain, cooler than some this summer in  at the Dove Valley Centre in the Upper Dove Valley

Whispers in the Grass was a free, public event as part of the Buxton Fringe Festival, supported by Buxton Museum and Art Gallery as part of its BM125 series of events, celebrating the museum’s 125th birthday, and by Borderland Voices (BV) from Leek

And we talked, scribbled, thought, laughed, ate cake and talked some more

A lot of our BV visitors are experienced poets and needed very little to set their thoughts to paper but for others we suggested structures, starting points, inviting people to simply sit and have a go.

Haiku, by Mary King (BV)
1. Pink petals,
Drifting to earth,
Childhood gone.

2. Solid five bar gate,
Courage will open it up,
A haze of flowers.

Have a go yourself?
A quick haiku activity: go outside and sit down on the ground if you can. There, a) look at the sky above, b) touch the ground below, c) reflect on how these sensations make you feel. Turn those three thoughts into 3 lines. You mght use the syllable convention ( 5 syllables, 7 then 5 again) but you don’t have to! Go for short, clear images and hold onto room to breathe….(Looking up, reaching down are a good pair of sensations, you coud use others!)

Or maybe you fancy wrapping your vocabulary around a Kenning or two: sometimes riddles, sometimes praise-poems, sometimes just word-ripples of humour and imagery….These stem from Anglo-saxon tales and explore a person, object or even an idea through slightly sidelong descriptions

KENNINGS (answers at the foot of the page)


Each spring, returner

There are more to follow but I hope these leaves from our word-tree have entertained and that you will join us for some more whispers from the grass soon!

Thanks to all our visitors on the Whispers in the Grass day and thank you for your generosity in letting us post your words in blogs like this!

Kenning answers: Drystone waller, Buzzard, Plough

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Bumblebees on the Buxton Art Trail

Bumblebee Art

 2 days of art and bumblebees

Serpentine Community Farm, Buxton

6, 7 July

What bumble would you bee? 
A humblebee? a grumblebee? a fumblebee? 
Or maybe just a Bumblebee?

For Buxton Art Trail this year, Creeping Toad is working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Pollinating the Peak project to offer a different perspective on our invaluable Bumbles.

We are running 2 days of art, gardens and Bumblebees at the Serpentine Community Farm in Buxton. There will be an exhibition of paintings and pictures, mostly by local artists. There will be a chance to add your own quick pic to our wall of postcards, building a picture of a bumblebee’s world.  You can make your own bumble-badges as well or use the opportunity to talk to people about your garden – what can you do to make a home more bumble-welcome?

Join us at the Farm and enjoy art, gardens and bumble-buzzing conversations!

Our Bumblebee Galleries will be open both days from 11am - 4pm. Admission is free  and materials are provided for activities

Paintings in this post are by Ruth Evans whose work will be included in the exhibition this weekend. Ruth's work also features in another garden conservation project: We Are The Ark so why not drop in on that as well for still more ideas about garden, wildlife and wonder?

Photos: an Orkney Bumblebee above...and below a Dovedale Bumble....

Monday, 1 July 2019

Rock Star frog

a new poem for Telling Toads

The Rock Star
Ruthie Starling 
rocking mildewed leathers,
he lumbers to the poolside
seeking refreshment.
This is his favourite shady dive.

Rana. Prince of the Pond.
He’s so cool,
has all the hip-hop moves
flexes clawed gauntlets
revs to leap from heron-shadow.
boomerangs to his stony bar-stool
hungry for a piece of the action.

A squint of liquid darkness
apertures his goggling gaze.
Flirt of lacy wings zooms into sharp focus.

Damselfly, beware.

In flash and snap
his tongue will flick you straight to Heaven.

With satisfied shrug
frog slides off into the blue.
Now he is in his element.

First published Fairacre Press in their Maligned Species series in 2016.

Telling Toads is a Creeping Toad initiative inviting people to submit poems, anecodtes and short stories celerbating our amphibians. More details here 

Photos by Jane Millum (first and last pics) and by Daniel Bran Griffin. More of Bran's work can be seen, here