At the hostel where I’m staying this week, each person is assigned jobs to do to help with the housekeeping and preparation of meals (as is often the case in places like this ).

Yesterday, my job was to make porridge for the group of 50 or so people. Simple! Just boil 10 litres of water, add 2 cubic litres of oats, add a bit of salt and keep stirring. At least, according to instructions on the oats packet (which appreciating a need for order and precision, I followed exactly).

After 5 minutes or so, I started to realise that something was wrong. The gooey mix that I was expecting to form was nowhere near appearing, and worse-the whole concoction started to brew over, making a decent mess on the hob.

The poor cook desperately took over a rescue operation and suggested that I retire to the refectory, where I might be less able to cause trouble.

When it arrived, the porridge was perfect. But I pondered with my breakfast companions why I’d been capable of making such a hash of the cooking.

“Simple,” said my neighbour, who was from Glasgow. “Never trust an Englishman to make porridge!”

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