Mirth and Woe: Killer Sheep
Sheep! Beware the vicious man-eating sheep!
Sheep, as we all know are possibly the least threatening life forms on the planet. People, as a rule, don't get murdered to death by hideously-fanged homicidal sheep. Except in the strange other-world in which I grew up.
You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?
Our Scout leader had set us a little challenge.
"This weekend", he said, "I'm going to drive you out into the middle of nowhere, and then, using your map-reading skills, you'll have to find out where you are and walk your way back to the Scout Hut."
As chat-up lines go, I bet he uses that one on all the girls. For mad-keen Scouts, it seemed the ideal way of spending a weekend. I was, despite appearances, anything but a mad-keen Scout. In fact, I was hoping that there would be a railway station or a handy bus stop somewhere on the route which might save us all a great deal of effort.
"You'll need a tent because it'll be a two-day journey."
Now, that was just cruel and unusual punishment, and almost certainly a plot hatched between parents and the Scout Association to get us out of the house for several days at a time. Or, if they were lucky, forever.
So, come Saturday morning, we piled into Skip's car (or, as everybody else called him - "Nigel") and he carted four of us off to our mystery destination, warning us to avoid looking out of the window, or it would spoil the entire exercise.
He dropped us in the middle of Didcot.
"Didcot! We're in fuckin' Didcot!"
This did not bode well.
As his car disappeared into the distance, I unveiled my plan to hop on a train back to Twyford, spend the next day in the Golden Cross getting blasted, before turning up, triumphantly at the Scout Hut the next day.
I lost, the mad-keen bastards.
And so, we headed up towards the Chilterns, the Ridgeway, and the route home. Me mumbling under my breath and hating every step as I followed the signs pointing us towards Henley-on-Thames, the others doing pointless exercises in map reading and compass work. I looked forward to running out of bog paper and using the map for a purpose to which it wasn't designed.
The next day was more of the same, only colder, wetter, and much more miserable. Even my none-more-keen companions were beginning to wane, and I decided that now would be the time to strike.
"Lads! If we cut across this field, we end up right next to the Bath Road. We'll get a bus back EASY."
There was a brief, pointed argument, which I won.
We hung a sharp right and headed across some fields in search of our goal and my salvation.
It was hard work. Off the beaten track, the mud squelched underfoot, and our progress slowed to a sodden crawl. And then we reached a gate, and beyond it, one last field before, in the near distance, the roar of heavy traffic. Saved!
"Uh, Scary," said one of my companions, "Sheep?"
Yeah? What about them?
"The field. It's full of sheep. They belong to someone."
And they're going to tell on us? Don't be such a girl.
Manfully, we drew straws, and decided, when that failed to provide a clear loser, that Greebo would go first. Just in case the sheep told on us and some red-faced farmer would spring out of nowhere and shoot us all to death with his twelve-bore.
"Go on, boy," we urged him, "nothing to be scared of."
And there wasn't. He trudged off across the field to the muted baa-ing of the inhabitants, his boots disappearing ankle deep into the mire.
"See you lot on the other side," he called, and went his merry way. "Sheep? What could they possibly do to me?"
At was at that point that Cuddles, Killer Sheep noticed Greebo entering her domain.
"Baa!" she said, obviously short for "Baa-stard!"
Greebo watched open-mouthed as the sheep gave that whole grass-eating business a rest and charged. Straight at him.
There was a distant scream, and he fled. Fled for his life.
He might have made it too, if it were not for the fact that the mud made his progress something like wading through treacle, while Cuddles seemingly flew across the sodden meadow.
Then, he went down, and Cuddles was upon him, giving him the bleating of his life.
Alas, the other sheep thought this was an excellent idea, and poor, dead Greebo was engulfed in a white, fluffy tide.
Sickened, we were. What a way to go.
Eventually, a mud-spattered and bruised wraith eventually appeared out of the setting sun, dragging the remains of his rucksack behind him, covered head to toe with sheeps' poop.
It was a dead loss. No driver on God's Earth was going to let us on his bus.
"No, you're right. Best stick to the footpath."