We can never predict when a sudden insight into the workings of our innermost selves will light up our consciousness like an 11 Watt low-energy bulb.
We imagine that such events occur in mysterious places such as Ayres Rock or the luminous bowling alley at the Codonas funfair in Aberdeen.
But in my experience, the location of your average flashbulb moment will be as ordinary as chapped tatties. A place like the freezer cabinet of my village shop last Thursday.
I was leaning over the rim of the cabinet contemplating what life must have been like in the days before we could blast freeze our garden peas within ten seconds of hauling them out of their pods. I was considering whether to go for the leading brand (‘satisfaction guaranteed or your money back’) or the Value Pack (‘please see rear of packaging for list of disclaimers.’).
The Value Pack was a pound cheaper but the contents even when defrosted had the density of buckshot. I reached for my choice. And that’s when it happened.
I first became aware that something wasn’t quite right with the world – well, with my trousers actually. I looked down to discover that in my haste to get to the shop before suppertime I had pulled on the wife’s tracksuit bottoms instead of my own (why, oh why are pastel shades so unbecoming to a man in his late fifties?).
The realisation that shunted into the rear of that first thought was that not only were the leggings incongruous, they were outside in!
This would never do. I live in the heart of a rural community. It is a place where a man is a man and is expected to behave – and dress – like one. Let me explain.
Imagine this: A farm worker with a dodgy watch relaxes behind a hay stack during a lunch break. He sucks on a chut (singular of chutney) from his ploughman’s sandwich. Suddenly he realises that his watch has stopped; that he should have been back in harness twenty minutes ago. He leaps to his feet and bolts off spitting Cheddar. He is thrashed to the ground by the mercilessly flailing blades of a combine harvester which breaks both his arms like cheese straws.
Now, in an episode of Casualty, an air ambulance and a battalion of parachuting para-medics would descend fom the sky and the lad with the two broken arms would be whisked off to the heli-pad at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. But you would be hard pushed to find anyone within a thirty mile radius of my village shop who would not expect that lad to get on his bike with a wobble-free lip and pedal to the ARI using the ‘Look-Ma-Nae-Hands’ technique.
How, I thought, could such people ever look favourably on a middle-aged man wearing his wife’s jogging bottoms inside out in close proximity to their rural community’s only freezer cabinet?
And that’s when the 11 Watt low-energy bulb came on. And I released that, actually, I didn’t care what they thought.
I was flying without wings – despite having a bag of Albanian peas under each oxter. I strode flamboyantly to the checkout with pastel pantaloons ablaze. I was free, free, free at last!
Next week I plan to push the envelope of my new found freedom by nipping down to the village shop for a copy of the Turriff Advertiser wearing my wife’s bra around my head in the semblance of a Spitfire Pilot’s headgear.
That’ll separate the men from the boys!