It’s that time of year when driving home in the dark takes nerves of steel and the reactions of a fighter pilot. Between the main road and the cluster of houses that shelters in the intellectual shade of The Grannary lie two lochs and a boggy bit, separated by said road from the quaggy and splashy bogs of the sloping bits known in these parts as “the hills”. For this is toad-squashing time.
Little toads, driven by instincts as old as time, and certainly older than roads and motor vehicles, take it upon their little gonads to leave the familiar surroundings of their small patches of boggy hillside to go down to the water and make friends with other little toads, preferably of the opposite sex, for the purpose of recreation and romance, leading hopefully to strings of spawn.
Unfortunately, to consummate their passions, the toads must first cross the road. Here they resemble not so much as occasional leaves blown onto the road, but mark – autumn is far behind us and the gales and frosts of winter have made short work of all remaining leafy protrusions on the bare fingers of the trees – and these are no leaves, but eager toads with but a single thought in mind.
And now, thundering out of the dark upon this congregation of regeneration comes a blue beast of two tons, spitting diesel fumes into the darkening clouds and from which emits a powerful glare in which are caught our amphibia amorata. The driver can only weave a line of best fit between the alert, white bodies in his path and steel his nerves against the inevitable casualties that must result from his passing.
The bloody gauntlet is short, some half a mile or so, but the consolation for the toads of the small numbers lost to the cars is obliterated by the many that fall beneath the unswerving wheels of the timber lorries that herald the dawn with their passing, and the passing of so many small hopes and desires.