Hairy Biker Dave Myers' zest for life is touching
“The Hairies are back on the road again!” said an ecstatic Dave Myers as he and best mate Si King rode their motorbikes off the ferry from mainland Scotland. The TV chefs were on a gloriously sunny Isle of Bute, but The Hairy Bikers Go West wasn’t just the latest of the pair’s 20-odd BBC series (and numerous specials) since 2006 – it was also the first since Myers underwent treatment for cancer.
Their recent, very moving, one-off special, The Hairy Bikers: Coming Home for Christmas, was more a celebration of the duo’s friendship than their usual fare of two-wheeled culinary travelogue. But this was business as usual, albeit invigorated by Myers’s new-found lust for life.
The 66-year-old Lancastrian’s chemotherapy has understandably left him looking like he’s been through the wars. But where his flesh has been weak, his spirit was roaring like the BSA motorcycles he and Kingy rode around the island. In fact, having lost his sense of balance during treatment Myers, was just happy to be back in the saddle. He still had his foot in a splint to help him change gear, but otherwise he declared himself “as sound as a pound”.
They started in the island’s principal town, Rothesay, buying picnic provisions from a local deli (King wasn’t sure about the idea of roast grouse flavoured crisps). They also dropped into the town’s last remaining butcher and watched haggis being made (top tip: simmer, don’t boil, or the sheep-intestine casing will burst).
Bute’s declining population has been boosted by the arrival of 30 Syrian families fleeing the war in their country. One had opened a patisserie that was also on the Hairies’ itinerary, along with a community market garden. Back in the kitchen, they paid tribute to both by making Middle Eastern lamb flatbreads with salad made from ingredients gathered from the community garden.
Other recipes demonstrated were chicken Balmoral (haggis wrapped in chicken breast) and salmon en croute (the salmon shop-bought because they failed to catch anything while fishing on the local loch).
This sequence felt like a homage to Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing – but instead of two ageing celebrities discussing their ailments, it was just Myers reporting back from the medical frontline. He revealed that he lost so much weight that at one point he was diagnosed as anorexic, and that from now on he was determined to seize the day.
“I didn’t appreciate the normality of what I had,” he said. “I was a stupid worrier”. King concurred with this last piece of self-analysis.
TV shows with comedians of a certain age discussing mortality are having a moment, Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s programme being joined later this month by a new Channel 4 series, Perfect Pub Walks with Bill Bailey. This sees Bailey goes hiking with fellow male comedians in the hope of “finally getting men talking”.
There’s no need for any such extraneous prodding here as Myers and King are thoroughly relaxed in each other’s company – kissing and hugging each other in a way it’s impossible to imagine other middle-aged men ever doing. And, not being a professional comedian, Myers felt no compunction to try and be funny.
There was something altogether touching about the way he enthused about the world as if seeing everything through new eyes, from haggis to spring onions, by way of vegan honey and lemon-flavoured tartlets. It was Dave Myers’s freshly discovered zest for life that was the essential ingredient here.