"Back off and leave me and my family alone in peace!"

I gardened yesterday morning at a house in Patcham. It is a particlularly lovely 3-tiered garden with a pond full of fish and some nice plants including some large conifers. I was asked to level off two large heaps of garden refuse at the back of the garden, remove the green waste at the top and put the rich compost at the bottom on the borders. And so I did.

But amidst all the refuse I kept disturbing toads! Suddenly, they'd just appear at me, in the refuse bag, creeping out of the leaves and greenery all day until finally I disturbed a toad family with my spade by a wall, covered in brown leaves. I discovered it was a family when I used my spade to move leaves away from the said wall to put them in the refuse bag. I heard this screeching noise, from the area and out popped this toad. Then, I saw a baby toad and another big toad leaping around a bit.

It quite freaked me out, at the time, to be honest. So, I decided to leave them be and come back to the area later, since there was plenty more to do. So, later on when it was time to put the dark compost I'd unearthed onto the borders I went back to that area, actually making some effort not to disturb the family again because the last thing I want to be taken for by the toad community is some kind of home wreaker or kind of toad social worker, splitting toad families apart and the like.

So, there I was, using my spade to get at the soil about a yard from where that incident took place and suddenly a toad, either mummy toad or daddy toad, I presume, unless it was a friend of the family, leaps out of the leaves and stands there, looking directly at me with a fixed stare as if to say, "Back off, gardener. I don't know what your business is here, but we've been living here for months now. Me and my wife are under these leaves here and you're going around with your spade destroying our habitat. We're trying to raise our baby in peace and you've already upset him. You could have killed him and us, for crying out loud. You come over here, with your spade and your foreign gardening ways and change the whole landscape with your incessant interfering. So, take my advice, son, back the f*** up, back off indeed, leave me and my family alone in peace and piss off. Go on! Sling your hook! On your bike!"

At least, that was how it felt. There I was, a 6 ft man, something of a giant as far as toads are concerned and he's standing his ground, utterly intimidated basically saying, "Come on, then! You and me, son, you and me. Right here, right now."

So, obviously, I watched him for a while, felt a little sheepish and followed his advice. The lesson is this: Don't mess with nature, don't mess with toads, don't mess with their families, don't mess with their young and don't think that toads will not defend themselves because believe me, they will...



Anyway, I had 'Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything there is a Season)' by The Byrds in my head for much of the day and remembered that The Byrds were pioneers of that much-loved 'jangly' guitar sound which became their motif, later to be rediscovered and re-presented by jangly guitar genius, Johnny Marr, so I've worked out the chords on my 12 string. It's basically D, G and A. There is great beauty in simplicity, which is helpful, since simple guitar chords are all I do. Here is Roger McGuinn of The Byrds showing you how to play it. Enjoy. Oh, what I'd do for a Rickenbacker!

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