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As I settled down to my hearty bowl of porridge the other morning, my eyes strayed casually to the cereal box in front of me. As I fixed my gaze once again upon his taught torso, I experienced the sudden realisation that the The Scott's Porage Oats Man and I, actually go back a very, very long way.
You see it all started in the small Cotswold town of Witney in 1976, when I got my first job at the ripe old age of 13, a paper round for which I slaved for the princely sum of £1.25 a week. Occasionally, if they remembered, I also got the odd 25p tip from the farm over the hill, an added bonus which I would add to the box containing the little brown wage packets. My challenge was to save them in a box until I had £10 and then see how many items of clothing I could get for my money in Chelsea Girl in Oxford. Those were the days, of course, when kids worked for their money and could get themselves out of bed in the morning but that's another discussion.
You see, back then, my dear old mum was suffering with the harsh realities of Multiple Sclerosis, so it was up to me to get myself up at the unearthly hour of 6 AM and in order to set myself up for the grueling task that was the Oxford Hill paper round, I used to fill myself up with porridge. On my return, I would then have another bowl before walking another mile and a half to school. It was good stuff porridge, it always kept me going until break time. And that was how my relationship with the Scott's Porage Oats Man really began, for in the loneliness of a cold kitchen on a dark winters morning, I used to stare at the box and wonder just what Scotland was really like and whether all men were gladiators, throwing things from mountain tops wearing white vests and kilts. In the dim kitchen light, Scotland looked a beautiful place, with mountains, lush grass, lakes (I didn't know they were called loch's then) and beautiful sunsets. I used to stare at him and wonder what his name was, whether he was married and where the hell he was trying to throw that shot putt. I mean there was no one watching, it was just him and the mountain. Was he practicing for something or trying to kill a haggis? Back then I thought that haggis (or is the collective term haggi) actually existed as I'd read about them in the Beano. Anyway, at 13, I had absolutely no idea what he was up to, up there, alone in the mountains and I also never thought to question why porage was spelt funny. I just knew that I loved him, well him and a boy called Andy, who wore double denim, loved AC/DC and splashed Brut literally all over.
Now don't get me wrong, I haven't always been loyal. I was faithful in the early years, bravely fighting off my mum's attempts to introduce me to the more sensibly clad Quaker Oats man. I even rejected her purchase of that sad excuse for porridge that is commonly known as Ready Brek. I think she really believed the whole orange glow thing, bless her. Advertising is a powerful tool. But I am proud to say, I held firm. Not for me, the jolly looking Quaker, I was sticking to my man in a kilt.
But then, of course, the big bad world beckoned and I started to experiment with more exotic types, firstly going off-piste with Swiss Muesli and Alpen, then moving on to the good all-round, regular American granola. We actually hung out for quite a while, right up until I entered my dark period, the celibate years when carbs were entirely banished from my life. They were dark and fruitless times indeed but fortunately, like the force, the pull of the porridge was strong and Organic Jumbo Oats became my new crush.
And now, suddenly, the kilted man and I are reunited, as being the only oats available in the local Spar a few nights ago, I welcomed him cautiously back into my arms and back into my life. 40 years on and incredibly he hasn't changed a bit. Strong, wholesome and reliable as ever, no plastic packaging, just oats and cardboard, as it should be. But as I sit once again in my kitchen with SPOM (probably not the nicest abbreviation), I have a feeling that my destiny has been fulfilled. For not only did I eventually make the Highlands of Scotland my home but I also bagged myself a real Highland Scotsman. Ok, he doesn't walk round in a vest and kilt on a daily basis, but he does have a kilt and so do my three strapping Scottish sons. Scotland, with its mountains, lochs, beautiful beaches, big skies and sunsets, is now my home. I know now, of course, that the haggis doesn't roam freely on the hillside, that a lake is a loch, a stream is a burn and a valley's a glen. I can Strip the Willow and flirt with a Dashing White Sergeant and I have also come to appreciate the poetry of Robbie Burns, despite him being an obvious, womanising philanderer. I'm quite sure Jean, Elizabeth and numerous other poor souls would have been brandishing the #MeToo hashtag should it have been available 250 years ago. I now also support Scotland at Rugby, much to my dad's annoyance but I'm also a very firm believer that the Loch Ness Monster does, in fact, exist. Who would have thought it?