The Weekend Australian - Review
THIS (CROAKING) LIFE
My husband Mike and I were inside our house when we heard a loud and repeated drawn-out squawk. It sounded like a creature in distress, so we went outside to investigate.
The noise was coming from the garden behind the house, about 30m away. It didn’t take long to pinpoint the sound to an exact spot under the lip of a retaining wall that joins the stairs beside the garden.
We found the source: a green tree frog. We could just see the tip of its face, peeping out from under the lip. I thought perhaps it was stuck, with some of the small rocks on the edge of the garden preventing it from moving forward and out, unlikely as that seemed. With no better plan, I removed a few rocks and the frog moved a little further forward. Then with another squawk it appeared to slide backwards.
The back-and-forth motion continued, together with long, loud squawks. Eventually on one of the forward thrusts we could see that one of the frog’s lower hind legs was in the jaws of a small snake, probably a whip snake, not uncommon in our rural environment. We couldn’t see more of the snake than its head; its body was below the lip and probably below the garden edge of the wall.
As I was bending down to peer at this distressing stalemate, the frog’s face was upturned towards mine. I fancied that we made eye contact, with the frog pleading, “Save me!”
What to do? Neither frog nor snake was making any progress. If we left nature to take its course, we could have heard that awful sound possibly for hours. It was not going to end well. I know snakes have their place in the ecosystem, but I like frogs more, and I was on the frog’s side.
I thought of the garden hose. Water cannons can break up rioting crowds. A blast from a hose can end a dogfight, and maybe a tussle between two drunks. Water would not bother the frog, but a hard squirt into the snake’s upturned jaws might upset it. So Mike turned the tap on full as I adjusted the hose nozzle to jet and I took careful aim from about a metre above.
It worked! The frog jumped free, then stopped above ground about 15cm away. I urged it to go further because the snake was not far away, though no longer visible. I guess the frog needed to recover. After a few minutes it hopped off into the garden and its leg seemed to function just fine. We didn’t see the snake or the frog again, but we do hear some contented croaking on rainy days.
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Waiting for a win
I hope that when Stephen Romei wins the Lotto (“A Pair of Ragged Claws” 6-7/2) he will not deprive us of the pleasure of reading his literary output. Last year, after Romei had written about Julian Barnes’s The Man in the Red Coat, I wrote to him to say that I had recently read this book and that it had prompted me to read A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Well, I finished the three volumes in the Gallimard edition (over 1000 pages in each on bible-thin paper) in mid-December. As I read, I gained the cumulative sense that I was reading a great writer and a great mind but I needed a guide to help me understand why. So now I am reading a very big, fat study of Proust by Jean-Yves Tadié that I am very excited by because he is the perfect guide – to Proust’s life, his characters and his literary theories. Tadié calls Proust the greatest writer of the 20th century. Proust himself had many guides, the most long-lasting of whom was Ruskin. I like this idea of having a guide. Speaking of Lotto, Proust was a gambler both at the casino and on the stock exchange and practically ruined himself in unwise investments, not to mention the lavish gifts to his various Albertines.
Anne Di Lauro, The Gap, Qld
It’s very churlish of me to be glad Stephen Romei didn’t win the lottery over summer, and is back in The Australian. Please ask the marvellous Adrian McKinty to write another book soon – I have The Chain but can’t bear to start it until I know there is another to look forward to. I also loved Richard Ford’s Sorry For Your Trouble, but haven’t checked whether Be Mine has been published yet, finding the prospect of confronting Frank
Bascombe’s death as painful as that of any old friend.
Bobby Tatlow, Warragul, Vic
Love of languages
I read with interest the review by Peter Boyle on Doctor Pascal by Émile Zola (“Complex love story retains lyric quality” 30/1). He notes the quality of the translation by Julie Rose and I would agree though I have not read the book. My reading of Les RougonMacquart series has taken me over three years and I am seven books away from Le Docteur Pascal. On Amazon kindle, these are my go-to reads when I am sick of hearing and speaking English. Let us keep up an interest in languages, Aboriginal, Maori, Indonesian, Tok Pisin, Chinese, Japanese, etc. This country deserves to be served with classics. I have Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra on my kindle and get a thrill with the words I don’t understand, having read it in English, knowing I am with the author and not his translator. I wish I had some Russian language knowledge.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky direct would brighten my days as well.
Martin Kerr, Atherton, Qld