The doorbell rang, and outside stood a nearby, Chinese neighbour in “all of a twitter”. He was in urgent need of help, and needed me right away. What terrible matter had occurred?
Outside his front door and hiding beneath the drip was a toad – a smallish one and in a state of semi-hibernation. Could I deal with it. The neighbour rushed to stand on the other side of the road from his house with his eyes closed behind shielding hands, and stood there until I had taken the toad away.
I have always been fond of toads, ever since we, as children, were friends with one who lived in a hole outside a wood by a path to the Roman walls of Silchester. We took it flies to eat.
I placed the toad on a hand, which must have been very warm to this cold, hibernating creature, and took it to our small garden where there are lots of flower pots resting close to each other on the ground and on oculoni (?) – those hollow, hyporcaust bricks that the Romans used for central heating, and are still available in Italy.
I found it a dark and damp place, out of the reach of predators that might disturb its winter rest.
Toads eat flies, grubs, worms and suchlike. And there are plenty of those in our spring and summer garden. So future food supplies will not be a problem.
Returning to view its resting place an hour or two later, it had gone – gone, I had hoped, to find good cover and safety for the rest of the winter months.
Although not visible, it is lovely to have a wild, ground-living pet in the garden to share with our local birds. But we will now have to be careful where we tread.
Mr or Mrs Toad we don’t know, but it has been christened Bufo – part of its true Latin name. And we will presume it to be male until otherwise indicated.