To misquote either Winston Churchill or Oscar Wilde**, some are born brave, some become brave and some have bravery thrust upon them.
We are too modest to plot ourselves on this continuum, but after surviving a near-death experience with a Brazilian frog we are probably going to be nominated for Family Explorers of the Year.
Let me explain.
We live in the Badlands of South England and have been brought up in the school of hard knocks, dealing with daddy long legs and house flys, ants and bees. When these killers strike we have a clear strategy, proven through times good and bad: scream as loud as you can, scream until you cannot breath properly, scream again for your father / husband, and then shout at him when he proves to be too scared to catch the winged or eight-legged assassin.
It is failsafe.
With a sufficient level of screaming you may find that Social Services then rings on your door, and this is very useful as you can ask if their public sector development and training plan has included pest control, namely catching the spider / fly / ant in question. Sometimes the insects get over 10mm.
Armed with this level of insect jujitsu training, we set off from Heathrow with 6 bottles of mozzie repellent, a track record of instant hysterics that would impress an Oscar winner and bundle of fears which coalesce around words like arachnophobia.
Our skillset was always going to be tested. We thought Costa Rica will bring out the best in us, famed as it is for the biggest insects on the planet, yet our first challenge came on Day 6 in Brazil.
We have been admiring gekkos and lizards all week. They are ubiquitous here and quite cute.
We return to our room after dinner and Lola says ‘Look at that big gekko on the wall’. This is odd, as we haven’t seen one inside our room all week.
‘Er, that’s not a gekko, its legs don’t look right’ says the wife.
She is right. The legs look too long and bendy*** (the gekko’s, not hers) and the soles stick to the wall too much.
So what is it?
And why the hell is it now trying to move from the wall to our ceiling?
At times we ascribe too much intelligence to animals, not realising they are as capable of poor decisions as Teresa May in office, Hugh Grant in Hollywood or the American electorate in November.
So this little animal – which we think is a little frog – is making an official Bad Decision and starting to eeeease its way across our ceiling.
The ceiling is 10 foot above the floor, the frog’s body is two inches long.
The frog starts to struggle. Whatever training and development courses it has been on certainly didn’t include ‘Upside Down Traversing of Human Ceilings’.
It looks as nervous as it pads down a spongy foot and hesitantly moves its body across, like a climber unsure of the next hold.
We are on our beds as the unthinkable happens. We see a scared amphibian but surely it knows its limits? Right.
The frog falls off the ceiling.
Three females scream in a way not seen since the Beatles hit America. Two young tones and one older one. Larynxes split and ear drums crack..
DON’T JUST BLOODY SIT THERE DAN GO AND DO SOMETHING.
My only response is to laugh.
At the frog, my family and my own inability to catch tree frogs. I haven’t taken that course either.
This frog has just fallen 60 x its body length and it recovers well, perched on a bed. Which is like us falling ~300 feet.
CATCH IT FOR GOD’S SAKE JUST DO SOMETHING. NOW.
I grab a cup. That’s how you catch things, right? Except it’s a useless trendy cappuccino coffee cup the size of a thimble – no frog is going to be trapped in there.
GET ON WITH IT DON’T BE SO USELESSS.
The younger daughter starts crying. Proper distressed tears designed to trigger a parent to take action.
As I get near the frog it jumps with a talent which makes Carl Lewis look sluggish, clears two feet in a millisecond and lands straight behind the bedhead.
Now do you see it? Tiny, right?
FOR GAWWWWWD’S SAKE DAN DO SOMETHING.
So I go into the zone.
I summon up all my 44 years of experience, I put my ego to one side.
I reflect on how to deal with the most talented long jumping tree frog that Brazil has ever produced, a wife who suddenly wants to kill me and two children who are very, very upset and scared.
I decide to do the right thing.
I decide to do the intelligent thing.
I decide to call Reception.
SCUZI, WE HAVE PROBLEM WITH ANIMAL IN THE ROOM.
20 seconds later the charming young female receptionist arrives, expecting to find a killer spider or snake or blood-sucking daemon. She is psyched up to deal with a REAL PROBLEM.
We point out the killer tree frog and our helper can’t help but laugh at us, before remembering that humiliating the guests wasn’t part of her training either.
I have never felt so useless.
She knows the score. And pay attention if you ever need to catch a similar frog: you get a napkin and sneak up on the critter from behind. Then you pounce.
It is unclear if the tree frog survived, but we did and the shame is ours with more to come no doubt.
** Most quotes can be attributed to these two.
*** Not our best biological description.