There are many subject on which I have pondered over the last 65 or so years
and I thought it might be nice to share some of them with you.
They might not make you any the wiser but I hope they will leave you better informed

On Learning a Skill

One of my mentors from apprentice days once commented that welding was not a skill but a habit. A spiteful comment but it holds a ring of truth for all skills in that they consist of much practised manual operations (the habit) backed up by technical knowledge. I am going, in this essay, to concentrate on the practised manual skill and hope that you will keep in mind that the techniques I am laying out can only be regarded as true skills when combined with technical study; how else can the true craftsman understand what he is doing or why?

Some years ago I remember having listened to a radio program in which a master archer described his technique for training an archer with the intent of them becoming world class competition winners. Firstly he needed a pupil with some basic aptitude, steadiness and enthusiasm to say nothing of dedication but preferably, one who had never picked up a bow and therefore had not picked up any bad habits either. The process went as follows:-

1/ The pupil would place two markers on the ground on which the big toes of his bare feet would always rest, a couple of coins would suffice, but they would always be the same, measured, distance apart and set up on a string line to be perfectly on the line to the target. The pupil would then stand side on to the target and raise his left arm, fist clenched, lined up with the target. For weeks the pupil would do no more than this with his master watching till he was satisfied that the stance was always the same.

2/ The pupil was now given a bow and shown how to draw it with the string touching the tip of his nose and index finger, crooked, under his chin, left arm straight, right eye sighting between string and bow above the left hand. Further weeks would pass till the master was, again satisfied with the pupils ability to replicate the same stance every time. At no point was he allowed to touch an arrow.

3/ The first arrow would be knocked to the string and drawn back till the precise draw length was reached and then the tension slowly let off the string, without loosing the arrow; hundreds of times this process was repeated with the master watching for consistency of stance and aim but never allowing the pupil to get the satisfaction of shooting at the target.

4/ When and only when, the master was satisfied with the pupils ability to replicate this procedure accurately every time did he allow him to loose that first arrow, what a joy that must have been! The work of judging distance, wind strength and many other factors could then begin and with the sound knowledge that the basis of a good shot was firmly cemented in the new archers very being. What is most important to realise is the reason for the broadcast in the first place , the masters latest prodigy had won an Olympic gold medal , proof of the pudding!

So it is with all skills, take the process apart, learn each component till it is second nature and then put it back together to achieve the final goal. In other words, learn the skill without thought of the end result, learn it for it's own sake, for the love of the work and most importantly, for yourself.

My first job as an apprentice was the block, We were lined up outside the apprentice workshops and told to select a brick from a wall of cast iron blocks. It should be noted that they were kept outside because cast iron weathers and develops a hard skin, useful in some applications but a downright nuisance in others. Our first week of our apprenticeships was spent with hammer and chisel, removing that weathered skin; it was not possible to file it off, it was too hard! The Block was 6.25 inches square and 1.25 inches thick. The finished workpiece was then filed and scraped to make a perfect, 1 inch thick block 6 inches square. We then cut out a square corner, radiused another corner, cut a 1 inch square hole in the middle, drilled two holes one reamed and one tapped and to finish off, from mild steel, made a 1 inch cube to fit all six ways in the hole in the middle. There was no question of making a mistake and you were not allowed another piece if you cocked it up. 8 weeks later, (yes, two months of filing scraping, drilling and sawing) our pieces were judged by a committee comprised of the training workshop foreman, the refinery chief engineer and the training department manager. One hundred different dimensions were checked for accuracy of plus or minus one and a half thousandths of an inch; every dimension outside of that tolerance dropped you a point. Fitter and turner apprentices were those who got 97 or more right, I just scraped in! If you got 93 -96 you would be a welder, motor fitter, electrician or one of several other trades not requiring the same degree of accurate hand work. Anyone getting less than 93 would not be taken on as an apprentice. The apprentice workshop foreman was our tutor and good at his job , no one ever failed. Then came the real lesson, we were not allowed to keep the block, it was scrapped! The lesson being that one had to do the work for the love of it not for the end product. One learned to get things right because there was absolutely no other way acceptable to oneself.

101 Ways To Prepare Porridge

Well, nearly

Tip - Use water saved from cooking vegetables in your savoury recipes for that "fresh veg stock" taste.

75 grammes is a big man size portion 50 grammes for the average appetite and 25 for those of you who enjoy the taste but prefer to finish up with a slice of toast perhaps? All of the following recipes are assuming 75 grammes so divide the other ingredients accordingly if you are using less. To simplify things a bit, if you use any cup or mug three quarters filled with oats and add the same cup full of liquid it will be about right. A coffee mug is about 200 ml. and so will produce one man size portion if used in this way.

Basic Porridge

The Scots are the originators of porridge and have a somewhat different take on it from the rest of the world. On hearing what is done with this delicacy North of the border most people pull faces say rude things and reach for the milk and sugar; how wrong they are to dismiss so automatically some of the wonderful variations in the use of this versatile foodstuff.

Traditionally, the Scots housewife would use the drawer in her fine old deal topped kitchen table but you can select a square or rectangular cake tin, non stick if you must, or lined with greaseproof paper.

Put in a saucepan as much porridge oats as is needed to fill your container about half way to the top and add one and a half times as much water. Bring to the boil and simmer for between three and five minutes depending on the coarseness of your meal. Rolled jumbo oats will require the longest and finely ground oat meal will require much less cooking time. While simmering add salt and pepper to taste. It should be noted that this will produce a rather bland base for your dishes and you may choose to add further seasoning in the form of herbs, spices or maybe soy sauce at this stage, although you will be able to add what you like later as you use up your stock. Pour the cooked porridge in to your porridge drawer or cake tin and allow to cool and solidify.

When you are ready for a treat be it at breakfast time or later in the day cut a slice of porridge and drop it in the frying pan liberally oiled with good quality extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping as would have been used to get that extra taste, if you need the cholesterol! At this stage you can add more seasoning or press in extra ingredients such as some olives, seeds, nuts, left over veg or anything that takes your fancy. Fry till brown and heated right through as should be done with any re-cooked food. The slice of fried porridge, well seasoned, can be eaten on its own, with a fried egg on top, topped with cheese, as part of a full breakfast with egg, bacon, sausage tomatoes and mushrooms. You might want to use it with the roast beef of old England, smothered with gravy. It will make the base of a fine toad in the hole with tasty Cumberland or Lincoln sausages and onion gravy.

Porridge dumplings

The pre set porridge from your porridge drawer can also be used to make dumplings; this is one of my favourite ways to use it. Add cubes of pre set porridge to any soup, stew or broth near to the end of cooking to stop it breaking up too much.

Easy olive soup with porridge dumplings Take a slack handful of Pitted olives and warm them in a vegetable stock made with a stock cube or Swiss bouillon, then put in the cubes of porridge and season with black pepper. Simmer till the porridge has started to thicken the soup and is well warmed through. Serve immediately.

Sweet recipes

The simple English recipe.

Take 75 gm. of porridge oats and put in a pan of 200ml. 50/50 milk and water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes, serve with sugar and extra milk to taste.

Chocolate and nut porridge

To 75 gm. Porridge oats cooked in 200ml. of Milk and water add two squares of good dark chocolate and a selection of nuts. Stir till the chocolate is fully dispersed and be careful not to let it burn on the bottom of the pan; you may need a little splash more milk as it thickens up quite a bit. You will be surprised how far a little chocolate goes. I think you might like to bookmark this one!

Honey and banana delight

To 75 gm. Porridge oats cooked in 200ml. of Milk and water add a good teaspoon of honey and then slice in a banana keeping the slices thin, continue to cook till the banana softens Mmmmm.

Tangy Orange and Apple

Cook 75gm. Of porridge oats in 200mls. of fresh orange juice being careful not to burn it on the bottom of the pan and add a small desert apple cut into cubes or sliced ( apples stewed before hand are best so hang on to the left overs from an apple dessert) add some raisins, cinnamon and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.

Christmas Porridge

Cook 57Gm of porridge oats in 50/50 milk and water and add a good desert spoon of mincemeat and stir in well, continuing to simmer for a minute, I use the vegetarian mincemeat as there is no doubt about the cooking of the suet. Serve topped with a knob of brandy butter, a sprig of holly and a desert spoon of brandy which you can set fire to if you wish.


ingredients:- 75 gm. Porridge oats, 150gm raspberries, 600mls double cream, 4 tablespoons each of honey and malt whisky,some brown sugar.
Take 75 gm. Of porridge oats and toast till brown either under the grill or in a good cast iron frying pan, sprinkle on a little brown sugar at the end and allow time for it to melt but not burn in the pan. Whip 600 ml. of double cream till stiff. Blend 4 tablespoons of honey with 4 tablespoons of Scotch whisky ( you might appreciate your favourite single malt here) and stir them into the cream. Blend 50gms of raspberries with a tiny splash of scotch whisky and a teaspoon of honey. Fold the raspberry mix and the toasted oat meal alternately in to the cream to form a rippled effect. Serve topped with the remaining raspberries tossed in a little whisky and honey. Good shortbread makes a nice accompaniment to the crannachan

Savoury recipes

Palestinian bitter olive porridge. To 75 gm. Of porridge oats cooked in vegetable stock add a heaped teaspoon of za'atar, stir in well and add ten chopped green olives, salt and pepper to taste. You might prefer to add the za'atar afterwards, sprinkling an amount, to taste, over the top; this gives a stronger flavour of the za'atar but only in selected bites!

Cheesy porridge

To 200ml. Of simmering water add 50gm. of grated cheddar cheese and stir till the cheese just melts; do not wait till the cheese starts to ball up in the middle. Add 75gm. Of porridge oats and keep stirring over a gentle heat till the oats are cooked. This one gets sticky and the cheese will burn on the bottom of the pan so keep the heat low after the initial boil. You can grate a little more cheese on top if you like. A couple of olives or a sprig of parsley on top will make for a good looking savoury treat

Carrot and pea porridge

Keep a small portion of carrots and peas from last nights meal and add them to your porridge just before it is fully cooked so as to warm them but not over cook them; they are best if still a little crunchy or “al dente” as they say in Italy. Do they eat porridge in Italy? The longer alternative is to cook your peas and carrots first and then carefully measuring the water from the cooked veg make your porridge with this and add the veg back afterwards. As with so many porridge recipes – think left overs.


Never store mixed muesli with dried fruit in the same container as the porridge, being very absorbent, will dry the fruit till it is like bullets! Always store the fruit separately and add in just before eating.


Brose, in it's simplest form, is porridge oats steeped in water overnight and eaten cold with salt and pepper. Carried in a rucksack while steeping gets it all mixed up and good and mushy. Fortunately there are many ways to improve on the original idea and the following recipes will give you a veritable cornucopia of delightful summer dishes to choose from and not just for breakfast either. Simple fruit brose

Take 75gm. Of porridge oats and leave to soak overnight in 200ml. Of fresh orange juice. In the morning, stir in any combination of chopped fresh fruit to taste. Top with a little greek style yoghurt if you wish.

Fruit and nut brose.

To 75 gm porridge oats add a tablespoon of dried fruit, steep overnight in fresh fruit juice and add a selection of chopped or whole, if you prefer, nuts just before serving. The steeped dried fruit will swell up and somehow be more tasty.

Really creamy brose

Having steeped 75gm. Porridge oats overnight in fresh fruit juice, add a tablespoon of natural yoghurt and stir it in well. Fruit and nuts can be added to taste.

Brose smoothies

Steep 75gm. Porridge oats overnight in 250 ml. Of fresh fruit juice of your choice and in the morning add some yoghurt before putting it all in the blender till it is completely smooth. Serve in a tall glass topped with a scoop of ice cream, a straw and a small parasol!

Atholl Brose

Take a quantity of brose prepared by steeping the oats in water overnight as above and put it through the blender. Strain the resulting mix through muslin and add an equal quantity of scotch whisky (personally, I would not waste a single malt on this ) add some fresh cream and honey to taste. Serve chilled, clink the glasses together and enjoy!

Nettle top brose

Pick fresh nettle tops, nettles are best gathered before the flowers appear Pick young nettle tops and use either fresh or dried. Once the plant flowers, leave them until the seeds ripen to a dark green before picking.
Cook till soft (15mins) and add to brose steeped in a weak veg stock.

Oat bread recipes

These sweet and savoury breads can be used in place of wheat breads and if you make them exciting with juicy fillings can be eaten on their own - especially good for picnics and when out walking.

savoury bread

Take 150mls of porridge oats and add vegetable stock so that it is all absorbed and no more - keep folding in a bowl till you feel the consistency change to a dough like mix (5 mins ) Add herbs salt and pepper to taste. Add an egg mixing it in well - at this stage decide if you want any fillings such as cheese - olives - nuts - mushrooms ( fried in advance ) and stir them in well. liberally oil a baking tray and spread the mix about an inch deep and bake in a pre heated oven at about 200 degrees or till the top starts to brown. allow to cool for a few minutes and tip out on to a bread board. If you intend to keep it for a few days wrap it in a clean cloth and store in a cool place - plastic bags cling film and other such nonsense will promote the growth of mould - avoid.

your bread makes a good accompaniment to soups etc and can be used in the place of wheat breads and toast - fry it up a little if you want it hot.

The meat eaters among you might like to add a sausage or two in the baking tray for a toad in the hole or maybe try little pieces of pre fried bacon - yum. The bread can be used in place of potatoes with gravy or other sauces as an accompaniment to meat and 2 veg of with fish in place of chips.

Sweet and fruity breads

Take 150mls of porridge oats and add fruit juice (I prefer orange) so that it is all absorbed and no more - keep folding in a bowl till you feel the consistency change to a dough like mix (5 mins ) Add an egg mixing it in well - at this stage decide if you want any fillings such as Fruit - nuts - dried fruit and stir them in well. liberally oil a baking tray and spread the mix about an inch deep and bake in a pre heated oven at about 200 degrees or till the top starts to brown. allow to cool for a few minutes and tip out on to a bread board. If you intend to keep it for a few days wrap it in a clean cloth and store in a cool place - plastic bags cling film and other such nonsense will promote the growth of mould - avoid. Ideal with a cup of tea In place of conventional cakes and biscuits - a good base for deserts such as trifles etc.

Both the sweet and savoury bread mixes can be fried in a pan to make small oatcakes to use in place of biscuits to accompany cheese or just as an aperitif with a glass of wine or beer.