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Sunday, 9 February 2014

A big boy did it and ran away

Stout denial is one of the first survival tactics you learn as a kid growing up in Scotland. "It wisnae me" is an ancient cry that can still be heard in our streets, homes and schools.

It rarely worked when I was a boy, since parents and teachers then had no qualms about punishing the innocent and often used a deterrence method from the football field, known as "get your retaliation in first."

But it can be effective in soft modern times, as my son demonstrates over a late breakfast in Charlie Rocks, when Rachel starts talking about the time he spent, on first moving to the city, as a tenant in her Glasgow flat. 

"Do you remember leaving that half-eaten meal in your bedroom drawer for weeks?" she says. "We got complaints from all the neighbours and a bunch of cats camped outside your window and partied all night long." 

"It wisnae me," he tells her firmly. 

"Of course it was and what's more ... " she says, then shakes her head and takes a diplomatic tack. "Did you know they've found a connection now between creativity and poor memory?"

"I didn't," he says. "But it makes sense. They tested me at art school and said my short-term memory was crap. Can't remember what they said about my long-term memory."

"They also said you were highly intelligent," I say. "So what do they know?"

"Yeah, yeah," he says. "Can I borrow your vacuum cleaner? Mine's broke."

"It's not Spring. Why do you need a vacuum cleaner? You having guests?"

"Might be," he says, looking away. 

"Who?" I say.

"None of your business," he says.

"Is it a woman?"

"No it's a Thai lady-boy. Of course it's a woman. You think I'm going to hoover my flat for Michael Gibb and Jamal Khan?"

"I was only asking. Tetchy little bugger, aren't you?"

"No I'm not," he says. "I just don't like being interrogated about hoovers, women and old breakfasts. How's your porridge, by the way? It looks kinda camp to me."

"I was thinking that," I say, lifting a sprig of green leaves from the centre of the summer fruits the Charlie Rocks chef has sprinkled over the surface of the good old Scottish staple. "When I was young, porridge was a much more manly meal."

"You and your ten brothers share a tin bath full every morning, before going out to fight the Vikings?" he says.

"We did. And if it turned out too thick to eat, because my mum never looked at recipes, we'd fasten it to the end of a hazel branch and use it as a club. The vikings never stood a chance. Versatile stuff, porridge."

"That is true," Rachel says, bringing us back to a reality neither of us has much time for. "Oats are a kind of superfood according to the research. They help prevent cancer, regulate your immune system and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels."

"That's interesting," he says. "I know I feel a lot better if I eat oats instead of wheat." 

"They're also great if you're trying to lose weight," she says. "They release energy slowly in the body, which makes you feel full for longer. A lot of the benefits come from a soluble fibre called beta-glucan."

"Fascinating," I say. "When my Dad was a lad, Scots mums in the country, he used to tell us, would fill their dresser drawers with porridge and cut big slices off, for the men to stuff in their pockets and take to work in the morning."

"Aha!" Rachel says, turning sharply to my son and making him jump. "That must have been what you were doing with your breakfast in my flat."

He meets her gaze with studied calm. "It wisnae me," he tells her.

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