Toad in the hole is a popular pub game in East Sussex, involving throwing brass coins at a lead topped table with a hole in the middle. There’s a country league with three divisions, involving roughly 21 teams based in pubs around the county. There is also a major “International Competition”, run by Lewes Lions Club and held in Lewes every year. Some workplaces regard the game so highly that it is provided for the employees.
The game itself involves throwing four brass coins or “toads” from the same distance as a dart board, to a square toad table, made of wooden legs and with a lead surface. If a toad goes down the hole it scores 2 points, or if it lands on the top it scores 1. If it hits the back of the table, or falls off it is void, so a grand total of 8 points per turn can be scored. Scoring is performed in darts fashion, playing from 31 down. The first competitor throws 2 toads, with their opponent then throwing 3, and from then on they throw all 4, until they reach scores of less than four, wherein only the number of toads equal to the required finishing score may be thrown. Like darts you must finish exactly – scoring more causes you to “bust”.
I found myself playing in an impromptu team game of toad in the hole at the LewesTweetup last night. Unbeknownst to my fellow competitors, on the way over to Lewes I’d ripped the material in the crotch of my trousers. Not deliberately – let’s make that clear. I was rather self conscious of the tear and was desperate not to enlarge it by over stretching throws or repeatedly bending over to pick the bloody toads off the floor. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Basically I’m rubbish at the game but that doesn’t account for me managing to bounce a toad off the table and into the kind of oblivion that would defeat seven searching men for nearly half an hour. Three times I suggested to our leading twitterer, Matt Holland, that I just go downstairs to the bar and confess my sin. Each time Matt just shook his head urgently. The stress was palpable. All of us scrabbled about on the floor, employing our phones as temporary torches. Various cracks in the floor boards were declared toad sized, carpets were turned over and people’s pockets rechecked. We found various other long lost objects: an old crayon, a jigsaw piece, a black pawn from a now ruined chess set and, most peculiarly, a tag announcing that the belt to which it had once been attached had been made from used bicycle tyres “collected within walking distance of this shop”.
Eventually the toad was located by the eagle eyed Richard Wiles, who has generously allowed me to reproduce his photographs of the toad table in this post. It had wandered farther than any of us imagined possible – approximately four times further than the distance I had originally thrown it. As the game was completed, there could never have been such keen attention paid to the destinies of toads!