Toad Patroller

‘Hello’, a man with the dog said breezily as we passed each other on the narrow country lane. I fixed my eyes on him. Did I know him? I don’t think so. Why’s he talking to me? Having lived in London, I knew that strangers who talk to you are either mad or dangerous. Sometimes both. My heart started beating – is he going to attack me? I glanced around for a suitable weapon. Nothing. I felt in my pockets. All I had was my AirPods. I’ll fend him off by throwing them at him, one by one. Maybe avoidance would be better. I crossed the road and walked speedily away from my would-be assailant.

I recently watched a documentary on our new near neighbours, the Beckhams, to help me understand country folk. It seems that building a 5-a-side football stadium in your grounds is the thing to do. Ros vetoed the idea.

I’m worried about Ros. Whereas I’m a country lad at heart, she’s unashamedly urban. Will she be a fish out of water without her tube trains, her restaurants and her museums?

She repeatedly, and uncomprehendingly, asks me what I will do when we live in the country. There’s an obvious answer to this question. Watch TV. But, instead, I say ‘go on brisk walks and breathe in fresh air’.

We went to stay at my cousin’s the other weekend to help prepare for our imminent conversion. He has a large house in a rural village. We had roast pig for dinner and walked through waterlogged meadows in the afternoon. Hearing the squelch of my sodden designer trainers, my cousin recommended I get a particular brand of walking shoe. These have become my first item of country wear. I’m transported to the countryside as I stride down our London street in them; I can almost hear the sweet sound of birdsong over the police sirens and smell the acrid stench of manure over the exhaust fumes.

You have to pay attention to different things in the country. While our local WhatsApp chat in London recently warned of a man with a machete in our street, an equivalent post on the Duns Tew chat read ‘Frogs in the road in Hill Farm Lane… please don’t run them over’. The post went on to include a link about Toads on Roads, a project that recruits toad patrollers to help them cross the road. Apparently, toads are very particular about where they breed and follow the same migratory route every year, even when it involves crossing a road.

This could be my next career move – adman, entrepreneur, novelist, toad patroller.

Toad Patroller of the Week

Last month’s story about toad patrollers produced quite a response. One friend told me how she had been driving to a wedding when she encountered a long traffic jam. They got out of their car and found the cause to be toad patrollers at work. She and her daughter, dressed for a wedding, ended up helping some toads cross the road. Another friend proudly told me how he had been voted Toad Patroller of the Week in Ham and Twickenham for saving three toads.