I had been in my local pub watching the now legendary 1979 Silverstone 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix and I was on my way home on my Honda CB250 doing my very best impression of Barry Sheen chasing Kenny Roberts. I was laying the bike into a long sweeping left hand bend on a road I knew well, hanging off the side just like Barry, when I saw something that Barry would never have seen; a sheep standing in the road. It’s amazing how fast the human brain reacts in a situation like that, sending automatic instructions to certain muscles while at the same time making instant life and death decisions. In a millisecond I soiled my underwear and decided that my best option was to straighten up a bit and try to go round the sheep, then lay the bike down hard again and attempt to make it round the remainder of the bend while hoping there was nothing coming the other way. My heart was in my throat and my lunch was in my pants.
I flicked the bike upright and made it round the sheep, but I couldn’t lay it down again in time to avoid the hedgerow on the other side of the road. I left the tarmac still in the upright position, and the nice smooth curve of earth where the road met the countryside converted my forward motion into vertical motion very efficiently. My trusty steed and I went straight up into the air, I fell off the back, and as I lay on my back watching in horror the bike seemed to hesitate in the air above me for a second before crashing down on top of me. The speedometer unit lined up perfectly with my face and smashed straight into my nose. I got soaked with petrol leaking from the fuel tank and I really thought the heat from the exhaust pipe was going to ignite the fumes and save my parents some hefty hospital and crematorium bills.
I pushed the bike off me with a grunt and stood up slowly, dazed and bleeding. I looked back up the road to see the sheep staring at me, ears forward with a slightly surprised look on its face while still rhythmically chewing grass. It hadn’t moved. I heaved the bike upright and put it on its stand, then removed my helmet and looked in one of the mirrors to assess the damage to my face. My nose was on my left cheek and I was bleeding profusely. I gingerly gripped my nose between the fingers of both hands and slowly pushed it back to roughly the middle of my face (anyone who knows me will tell you my judgement was slightly off), then I gently squidged it into a sort of nasal shape like it was a piece of clay. I had many other injuries of varying severity but I had survived remarkably well in the circumstances. Believe it or not the bike was rideable even though the handlebars were no longer at right angles to the front wheel and the front wheel itself was no longer circular. I ignored the urge to light a cigarette and headed for home.
A week later I was getting a lift to the pub on the back of my mate Noggin’s bike when I saw the same sheep standing in a field. Well they were definitely related anyway. I signalled for Noggin to stop so that I could have my revenge. I climbed quietly over the gate and crept up slowly behind the grazing sheep. I broke into a trot for the last few yards like a rugby player about to convert a try, and as I reached the sheep I wound my foot back and kicked it as hard as I possibly could in the rear end. This turned out to be a serious mistake. I was only wearing training shoes and it was like kicking a large woolly rock. The sheep trotted forward a few paces then looked back at me unperturbed before calmly dipping its head again to graze. I swear its eyes turned red for a second before it looked away. I fell to the ground clutching my right ankle and rolled around in agony screaming my entire vocabulary of profanities. When I opened my eyes Noggin was standing over me ready to deliver the coup de grace. “You know you’re rolling around in sheep sh*t don’t you?” I was, and I had torn all the ligaments in my ankle which meant I spent the next 11 weeks on crutches. Beware the woolly demon.