The Corfu Blog by Hilary Paipeti

Loads of Toads

There must be a mass population of toads sneakily inhabiting this little valley, though I never see a live one. Just ones deceased.

Every morning another two or three squashed bodies lie on the road, so that nowadays our walks are punctuated by my roars of ‘drop it!’ as Bruni or Bramble go to gobble up another flattened, leathery corpse (goody-two-shoes Lulu wouldn’t dream of such naughtiness – at least while I’m watching). Considering the tiny number of vehicles which pass this way at night, toads must be suicidally crouching verge-to-verge for so many to be squashed.

Talking of toads, Kenneth Grahame, in his Wind in the Willows portrait of Toad behind the wheel of a car, showed remarkable prescience in his description of the character’s attitude and behaviour, which could be valid for some of today’s drivers. ‘The poetry of motion!’ declares Toad on first seeing one. ‘The REAL way to travel! The ONLY way to travel! Here to-day – in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped – always somebody else’s horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!’
The ‘motor-car’ was quite new when the book was published, and few were on the road. Yet Grahame unerringly identifies the typical conduct of some folk when they are behind the wheel. Toad himself characterises the feelings of invincibility, arrogance and rashness that some folk acquire on getting into a ton-weight box of sheet metal and plastic: ‘A]ll sense of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences, seemed temporarily suspended. He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.’
… and Grahame shows up the hubris of drivers who are convinced of the excellence of their own driving skills – ‘Sit still, and you shall know what driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous, the skilful, the entirely fearless Toad!’ – even when Toad’s friends know that ‘[H]e’s hopelessly incapable … he’s convinced he’s a heaven-born driver, and nobody can teach him anything.’
… and the author highlights their disregard for other road users: ‘O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way!
What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!’
… and he exemplifies those who think that the Highway Code does not apply to them (for example in the use of mobile phones whilstdriving): ‘[Toad is] quite regardless of law and order.’
We are all acquainted with a Toad.

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