What do a fish supper and a motorbike have in common?
Precious little you might think but in my case both are proof that like one of Lionel Messi’s mazy dribbles, life can suddenly veer us off at a tangent into unexpected territory.
The secret I’ve discovered is not to resist but to allow myself to be swept along.
I was a vegetarian for more than 30 years.
Pies, bridies, and sausage rolls were strictly off limits after I stumbled on a television programme on the brutalities of factory farming.
It changed my eating habits dramatically.
Like most Scots I was raised on a carnivorous diet.
I could scoff mince and tatties, pork chops, and black pudding with the best of them, and yet a gruesomely grainy picture on the newly launched Channel 4 changed my dietary habits overnight.
Never again would the flesh of an animal pass my lips.
Or so I thought.
Until one fateful Saturday night not long ago, when a young relative visited and I suddenly and unexpectedly fell off the vegetarian wagon.
Led astray by a youngster
It happened to be the night the mobile chipper does a roaring trade just a hundred yards from our front door.
I was no stranger to a white pudding supper, animal suet-free, and one of the few
choices available for the non-meat eater.
I sat down to my usual while our young visitor plumped for the fish.
After just one bite, she went off the notion, abandoned her meal and left the table to watch TV, as kids do.
In a fateful moment of wicked temptation I was overcome by the powerful and irresistible smells of my youth.
The aroma of vinegar wafted upwards, stimulating my olfactory senses and sending my taste buds into a tailspin.
The crispy batter gleamed gloriously, like Pharaoh’s gold under the kitchen spotlights.
Resistance was useless, and in one bound I was suddenly free.
The forsaken fish was scoffed in a blur of unrestrained gluttony as I threw off the chains which had shackled my taste buds.
I realised I had been a prisoner, not of Zenda, but of soya, as my meat-free years disappeared.
Another turnaround – and on a motorbike
Which brings me in a circuitous way to the motorbike, something for which I previously never had the slightest inkling.
My historical attitude to them could be best described as ambivalently sniffy.
Noisy, smelly, and attracting a certain kind of clientele.
But just as the irresistible temptations of the fish supper snared me, I have also, like Paul on the road to Damascus, been recently converted.
Some of you will know I own a scooter, and enjoy weekend ride-outs out with the local A92 club.
Last rideout of the year with the A92 lads and lasses. pic.twitter.com/ufjJj5VxyR
— Jim Spence (@JimSpenceDundee) October 3, 2021
The cool mod retro scene was always much more appealing to me than the leather jacket look.
But having driven a car for more than 40 years, I always felt irked that I was required to scoot around on my Vespa displaying L plates, like an overgrown schoolboy.
To get shot of the learner signs I’d have to sit a test. And the easiest way to do that is to sit it on a motorbike.
So with gritted teeth, I embarked on lessons.
Modern scooters are very simple twist and go affairs. The thought of trying to coordinate my brain with my left wrist and foot to get to grips with the motorbike system of clutching to change gears was anathema to me.
But then just as with the fish supper, the scales fell from my eyes.
From terrified rookie to Easy Rider
My very first outing on the bike started with brief moments of terror as I bucked like a bronco trying to exit on to Dock Street amid a blur of speeding traffic.
By the end I was hooked.
A woman who recently took up motorcycling aged 55 said something which has clung to me like a limpet.
“Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.”
Her poetic words turned out to be surprisingly true for me.
I certainly never saw myself as an Easy Rider, but then I never thought I’d eat fish again.
Sometimes though, as I’ve found out, you just have to go where the path takes you when the moment presents itself.
Last week I sat and passed my driving theory test in a room full of nervous youngsters.
Once I get through my motorbike road tests my new unexpected path will be on two wheels.
And my first stop?
That will be Arbroath harbour for a freshly caught fish supper.
Sometimes in life you just have to go with the flow and let it take you where it will.