Gary Grace: If We Hadn’t Taken the Detour We Wouldn’t Have Found It

The best fish and chips in Scotland the sign said. I wasn’t convinced, raising an eyebrow but my brother who lived only a few miles away had assured me that the sign really wasn’t a load of bollocks. I was visiting from Ireland, hungover and hungry.

“The difference is that it isn’t cod they use. They use hake and when you’re queuing up in there, they’ve a TV on the wall replaying this video about the chipper’s history with Grandfather so-and-so’s commitment to changing the oil frequently, looking severe as fuck with a handlebar mustache explaining that he’ll be taking the secret family recipe for their tartar sauce to his grave and all that. Back in Sicily this. Back in Sicily that. He’s dead fuckin’ right though”.

My eyebrow lowered. It still hurt and I was conscious of the funny looks little old people passing kept giving me, like I was some gurrier or something. Dry blood.

The seaside town of Anstruther is idyllic and the sun was shining. Unlike the kip of a hun-riddled town we’d been in the night before. You’d think that a town claiming to be the beginning of the Whisky Trail would be a bit more welcoming to tourists like us. But I suppose it’s really only the yanks they’re after.

The sat-nat my brother had needed to be updated. He was too stubborn to accept that it was rerouting us all over the gaf and we were never going to get back to his place if he kept obeying the squiggly purple line and your one with the BBC English accent.

“We’ll take a detour,” he said and soon we were cruising down an unmarked country road cutting through expansive plots of land growing something I could not recognise. We could see the sea sparkling down below and then I was calm, feeling how close we were to battered fish and sweet salty vinegary fat handcut tender chips.

“That’s what you said yesterday and we wound up in that hell hole” I responded, slightly delayed having been distracted by the abundance of beauty filling my eyes and dripping coolly into my mind.

He had wanted to watch the match. UEFA Cup final. I’d said it might not be such a good idea. He said I was being paranoid. When we turned around to face the screen we were met with twenty stern faces. A load of cunts in Rangers jerseys hawking us out of it. I knew a scrap was imminent. Your one had already thrown us on our pints of Guinness and I’d opened my mouth. There was no hiding my accent. It had been heard. It had been too late to roll back down my sleeves. The celtic knotwork snaking around my forearm had already been seen. The celtic cross on the other had induced a ripple of grimaces down along the bar.

 I envisaged my head cracking off the concrete curb outside. I could see my mother’s tear-filled eyes and feel my father’s dry throat as he gave my eulogy. I escaped that fate but my eye is still fuckin’ sore. Lads at home in Ireland wear sovereign rings too. Just green and white jerseys, the difference I suppose.

My brother’s a fruit loop but he is a tough bastard to be fair to him. When your man with the rings spat and threw the first dig, he split me open. The chap was my dad’s age I reckon. The bro saw my blood trickling and went into berserker mode. It wasn’t the first time he’s saved me from a pack of wolves. We managed to scramble and dead-sprint the fuck out of Dodge. It was grand in the end once we got back to the B&B. The muppet had not booked the distillery tour in advance like I’d told him he needed to do. They were sound and let us at least buy a nice bottle in the gift shop even though we weren’t on the tour. You can only bring a hundred mills on the plan so it made sense practically to finish the bottle before I’d have to fuck off back home to dear auld dirty Dublin. Maybe I’ll at least look a little harder back home if the scar bubbles up.

The tartar sauce looked a bit of a mad colour but it was whopper. I don’t know why I don’t drink Iron Brew back home. It’s not like you can’t get it there. The hake really does taste a million times better than the cod. They lads are onto something there for sure. It was a nice accident, the auld detour. It’s just a pity we had to eat it in the car.

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