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Just when I think the Mother Country has flat-lined, I come across something like this:

This month, Froglife, the charity dedicated to reptile and amphibian conservation, is launching a Tuppence a Toad campaign to raise money for patrol equipment – torches and high-visibility jackets and highlight the plight of these slow-moving creatures.

In so doing, the charity hopes to recruit more volunteer toad patrollers, a role which involves carrying toads in buckets across roads at night to nearby breeding ponds. So far this year up to 65,000 toads have been thus airlifted to safety.

As Mr. Churchill so famously said, “Never, never, never, never croak!”

In his homily yesterday, which was devoted to the history of the rose and its associations with the Catholic Church, Father McA mentioned a story involving the adjoining rose gardens of Cicero and Nero in ancient Rome.

This puzzled me mightily, since I knew perfectly well that Cicero was murdered a good 80 years before Nero was even born.  However, it didn’t really have anything directly to do with the theological point Father McA was making, so I refrained from bringing it up when I said good morning after Mass.  Nonetheless, I couldn’t quite let it go myself.

A very little digging reveals that Father McA seems actually to have got himself caught in a little harmless fun.  According to Wiki, the story of Cicero’s and Nero’s roses was actually a drawn out pun told by Frank Muir on “My Word” (a Beeb radio series to which I used to be passionately addicted) by way of explaining Gertrude Stein’s line, “A rose is a rose is a rose.”  It goes like this:

Nero and Cicero had rose gardens next to each other. The tender of Nero’s garden had a mishap and destroyed a whole row of roses. So he sneaked over to Cicero’s garden, stole a row from there and replaced the ones missing in his master’s garden. However, they were white, while the ones in Nero’s garden were pink or “rose-colored”. When Nero saw this he wrote a punning note to the gardener: “Our roses are rose. Is a row Cicero’s?”

(Feel free to groan here.)

I’m glad that I was able to get to the bottom of this little mystery, because it’s exactly these bits of historickal trivia that can get themselves lodged in my brain like grains of sand, causing irritation out of all proportion to their size.

This past Saturday morning found Robbo over at St. Rita of the Misunderstood Adolescence getting some of his mandatory “volunteer” hours out of the way by helping to spread fresh mulch on the playground and cut brush away from the back fence.

Mulching is one of those yardwork tasks that I thoroughly enjoy because the aesthetic result of all that labor is immediate and obvious.  I hate the sort of chores that are equally laborious but produce results not so readily apparent.

Yes, I’m kind of shallow that way.


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October 2010