The Frog in the Throat of the Bloke on Speaker’s Corner

sun2Elements of the following short story are based on true events. My dad took me so Speaker’s Corner when I was circa eight-years-old (1978-ish), and there I heard a man give a speech exactly along the lines of that described below.

In the unlikely event I ever end up with a pub or bar of some sort, ‘The Frog in the Throat of the Bloke on Speaker’s Corner’ is what I’ll name it; which reminds that I did used to frequent a place called ‘The Frog and Nightgown’ on the Old Kent Road, while sometimes before Chelsea games I’d pop in ‘The Ferret & Firkin in a Balloon Up The Creek Without a Paddle’ (said to be the longest pub name in the world at the time) on Lots Road.

Indeed, two Firkin franchise pubs were called the ‘Frog and Firkin’ (no relationship to the Nightgown).

My local was the ‘Phoenix and Firkin’, the old ticket office at Denmark Hill train station that had burned down before being turned into a pub. I quaffed many a pint of Dogbolter (brewed on the premises) there before the favoured drinking haunts of many got bought-out by a of corporate entity that wrecked them with arrogance and stupidity (such as no longer brewing Dogbolter) to the point of the franchise ceasing to exist bar (excuse the pun) a few names still being used, and even then only in part; such as ‘The Fleece’, Bristol–the first Firkin out of London and currently an integral part of Bristol’s live music scene–that today no longer uses the Firkin part on its name/branding.

While the below has nothing to do with pubs Firkin or otherwise, it does abound aplenty with corporate arrogance, greed and inanity. 

With thanks to D. D. Buck^ for use of the header image.

* * *

Walking through a wood today, I came across a sick looking frog sitting on the bank of a river.

“You okay?”

“No,” it croaked in reply. “Poisoned.”

Poisoned?! Who on Earth would do a thing like that?!”

The frog tilted its head, eyed me from one side. “On Earth? . . . No one but one of you lot. Well,” it croaked on, “ironically, some frogs can too, and a few snakes, a couple of spiders – . . . but this making me sick is in the water, not part of the survive and procreate process making me someone’s dinner or vice versa. Distinction, there is one!”

“So . . . you’re going to croak for real?”

“Oh, how very ROL!”


“Ribbit out loud. Yes, all of us; everyone in the river – even me, believe it or not!”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

The frog nodded a deep, thoughtful acknowledgement . . . “You remember, don’t you?”

“The man in Hyde Park at Speaker’s Corner? Hard to forget.”

“Well, guess what: everyone else there did!”

“I think possibly because they all died already.”

The frog’s throat bulged. “That may well be . . . Anyway, none of it was true.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Well, some of it was.”


“I am a frog, after all. And we did meet, just like this; though I wasn’t sick then. What he said I said to him – that’s where it all goes skew-whiff.”

 “The stuff about women coming from other planets and all that?”

“Exactly,” replied the frog. “I said nothing of the sort. I told him that they way you lot carried on—polluting this, dumping in that—wasn’t going to end well and that something very serious needed to be done about it. Into the World to spread the message I bid him go, but he—typically for you lot—took my endorsement and bent it to a personal agenda. And here we are: too late!”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“That’s another thing I don’t get about you lot; how ‘too late’ translates to plenty of time left!”

“I’m sorry our second meeting has come under such dire circumstances,” I said. “Would you like me to call a vet or -“

“You didn’t see me the first time!” the frog interrupted. “You saw some mad bloke talking about me in a park, and what’s more telling lies to boot, so not actually talking about me at all; even though he was right about the frog bit, I must concede, otherwise I must concede.”

“Why must you concede twice; is it a frog thing?”

“No!” The frog gave a little hop. “Apart from his saying I’m a frog, I’ve got him bang to rights when it comes to all the other stuff being lies; if having someone bang to, only to then start adding this and that to the truth of a matter, one would no longer have them bang to and have to concede the fact. It’s not rocket science!”

“I wish it were; then we could build one and fly away from this mess and start afresh somewhere else. You can grant wishes, can’t you?”

“So you lot can start ‘afresh’ with the carnage? You’ve got to be f-ing kidding, mate!”

I looked at the frog . . . “But you can do wishes, right?”

The frog said nothing and wasn’t so forthcoming with the stare.

“Wow,” I said. “Things for you really aren’t as great as everyone likes to think!”

The stare was back. “Tell me something I don’t know!”

“Okay. I wasn’t going to invite all and sundry, act-ually.”


“Just nearest and dearest, you know, of you and me. And maybe some of the people from the local takeaways. It would be terrible to go all that way only to find nowhere to get food.”

The frog looked thoughtful. “Places to be allotted by weight, not equal number?”

“Oh . . . that would mean a lot of frogs.”

“You got a problem with that? If you have, maybe you shouldn’t have eaten all the pies! Do you have any idea how many tadpoles we have at once?”

“No. How many?”

“Lots! More than it’s possible to count!”

“I’m not sure that’s true.”

“Not sure or have me bang to rights? It’s no good being the first when flying a rocket into space. As Dennis Hopper once famously said, though I recall from memory, not verbatim: you can’t land on the moon with three eights of a fraction, there’s no possiblys or maybes, half on, half off, tailpipe in the air, when it comes to landing on the moon . . . You either do . . . or don’t.”

“Hopper didn’t say something similar to that; it was a character he played in a film.”

“No,” said the frog sternly, a big bulge of the throat. “I think you’ll find he was adlibbing while in the guise of a character.”

The frog looked very pleased with itself.

“You look very smug,” I said. “A smug frog despite the sickness. Right now you could be a poster boy for capitalism.”

The frog’s eyes bugged. “Flattery! Flattery! Flattery will get me everywhere! Don’t you know you should never flatter a frog; we spread out all over the place and make a terrible mess!”

“I think you mean flatten.”

“Ha!” the frog hopped. “And I bet you think you’ve got me bang to rights! I think, being as who I am, I know what I mean and I mean flattery – it’s your stories, after all, that have princesses kissing the likes of me, only for the likes of me to then take the hideous form of the likes of you. Oh, you might like to see it as ‘handsome’, but that’s just a word invented by you lot. Suddenly being changed from frog to that sprawling mess! Think of it from the frog’s point of view; I did tell you about how many tadpoles we have at once, didn’t I?”    

The frog winked.

It was long past time for me to cast a sceptical stance and eye back the winking frog’s way. “The amount of tadpoles a lady frog has isn’t dependant on the number of times man frogs have frog sex with them.”

“Oh yes it is!” the frog chuckled with a croak. “It’s also a frog secret otherwise everyone would want to be one. Instead, because of your stupid words, they want to be a prince!”

“How would it work anyway, this weight for weight thing? We’d only be able to offer . . . six spaces max to the elephants.”


“Yes; and all the other animals that’d need to come with – their ratios need to be worked out too.”

Other?! This isn’t a dinghy like Noah’s Ark – this thing’s got to fly through space numerous light years, not float on water until a bit of rain stops! Just how big do you think it can be?! Fuck the other animals, I’ll invent some more when we get there – better ones too, nothing scary or dangerous unless it’s some part of a heroic act. You know, something like leopards that hide within the aisles of supermarkets waiting to jump out anytime anything is dropped like a jar of jam so as to soften the blow with their soft furry back and prevent any breakage.

“Yes,” the frog continued in a deeply pensive fashion. “I’ve always regretted the role given the big cats. Majestic beasts that really could’ve done without all that having to keep gazelles and what have you in check by ripping them to shreds. ‘Springboks should be doing it for themselves’ would be my motto now if doing it all again. Which we are, so I can. It really will be good to get the lions and tigers doing something positive for a change; a natural penchant for sweeping streets with their tails, perhaps. See, I never saw the roads coming: with hindsight it makes perfect sense! Do you have a pen and paper?”

“Of course not, I’m walking in the woods!”

“A pencil and pad then; perhaps even a paper and pencil or, for that matter, pad and pen? The combination really doesn’t matter. Unless it’s pen and pencil or paper and pad, of course. If you don’t, then you’ll need to go get one—a usable combination, that is—for there’s a very long list of things we’re going to need to build this rocket and I’m quite sure, especially what with the numerous technical aspects, you won’t be able to commit it all to memory.”

“I’ll be back,” I said, before adding: “Arnie!”

“No,” said the frog. “Once again the wrong way round.”

“Actually,” I said.

“No,” said the frog. “I have you bang to rights, no two ways!”

“And I have –”

“No,” said the frog. “I just told you: bang to rights!”

“A pen and paper,” I finally finished, fishing them out of a pocket.

“Oh,” said the frog. “Why didn’t you say? It doesn’t count; you can’t have someone bang to rights by tricking them that they’ve got you. I should know, being the frog that started the movement in support of those from bang to. And more so why? – you’re taking a walk in the woods!”

“Poetry if you must know:

As I wander
Here among the trees
I think of thee
And how much
Your brown hair
Reminds me of the edge
On the mighty oak
While your blue eyes
Sparkle with the life
Of the brook’s tumult -”

“Enough! Enough!” cried the frog. “Bravo! Bravo! If you’re intention is to convince someone their hair is like bark, and you do remember where we started with all this, right – you do realise what that water’s full of? I’m sick, dying! Then again, whoever might well need shit in their eyes if that’s your choice of attire for a walk in the woods!”

“Precisely why I didn’t want to mention it.”

“Well, I can’t blame you there,” said the frog. “No one likes poetry. Not even the people who write it. It’s like a virus that compels the carrier of to try spread to everyone else. Roses are red, violets are blue; will you get lyrical if I cough on you, kinda thing. And there you have it – you get a couple of lines of yours out and now I can’t help myself!

“Unfortunately there won’t be enough room,” the frog continued. “Especially after you wrote all that psychopathic nonsense trying to lay down the law to someone else about their hair being made of wood. But even if you hadn’t, I realise now a mere piece of paper would never be enough given how long and technical the list needs to be, but I could make a start on what’s left of it while you go and get sufficient supply.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll – . . .”

I let the sentence hang to see what the frog would say, and it said, “Fucking don’t or I’ll have you bang to rights again!”

Which is when I said, “I’ll see you a little later, alligator; in a short old while, hippopottymouth!”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” said the frog. “Even the bits you think are right aren’t!”

“Have a pizza on the Swiss piste, baby!” I said, turning to walk away.

I went and got a pad plus another couple of pens in case anything went wrong with the one I’d left with the frog. When I got back to the river, though. I found that in my absence the frog had become so sick it had died; but before it had, had used the left pen and paper to leave me a note:

‘Dear You,

To call the man in Hyde Park a liar would not do justice to truth. He did lie, of that you can be sure, but his lie is no more greater or less than any other told about me, of which there have been numerous and many. Even if each and every lie conspired to the same point of me stepping in to save things, it would still only be in the imagination that I did so.

Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not in my remit to save the World. In reality I’m only for providing somewhere for hopes to be directed and fingers of blame pointed. It’s really not all it’s cracked—or croaked—up to be.

This might well be considered a terrible shame, for it means the planet will continue the direction it’s currently going before finishing in a big heap of mess. There is no one, frog or otherwise, with a magic wand to save the day; and neither, despite the claims of people who look slightly frogish in some photos, will there be a magic rocket built to get everyone somewhere safe.

Soon all the frogs will be gone and you’ll be next.

P.S. there might be some other species to go between frogs and you; last thing I need in the imaginary after world is you turning up claiming to have me bang to rights!’

* * *

Thanks for reading 🙂

N. P. Ryan

To receive notifications of future posts of poetry—be they happy, sarcastic or sad—music history and reviews, the odd bit of this and that plus the occasional stab at promoting my books, please enter an email address below.