Okey-dokey folks, we're risen, shiny and zingy; let's now pile into our frukost. It's Day 13991 (for at least one of us) and another breakfast in Stockholm is delightfully imminent. Orange juice (with 'bits' of course: the smooth variety carries unpleasant reminders of orange squash, the additive-ridden mainstay of childhood), and a generous bowlful of Quaker Havre Fras, bobbing about in a milk-bath. That will set me up for the next four hours or so.
"Havre Fras, Paul? What's that all about then?"
Well, for those of you unacquainted with Swedish living, Havre Fras is a Nordic-specific variant of the Quaker stalwart, Oat Krunchies. And for those of you unfamiliar with juvenile breakfast cereals, Oat Krunchies are basically little brittle cushions of air, made mainly from wholegrain oats. The only essential difference between Oat Krunchies and Havre Fras is that the Nordic version contains much less sugar. The nationality of the air trapped in the cushions might also be different, but I'm not privy to that sort of information.
There's a nice circularity about my choice of breakfast food here in Sweden, because I'm revisiting, in effect, my favourite cereal of exactly 30 years earlier. Back then, Oat Krunchies were it: no Oat Krunchies, no comment, as it were. And of course --- then as now --- the consumption of breakfast cereal was only half of the story, because not only did you have the foodstuff to savour, you also had all the extraneous gimmickry: free gifts inside the box, or various games and activities printed on the back.
Circa 1967, Oat Krunchies were running the best cereal-box campaign I'd ever known: a series of dioramas based on notable people or events in history. You basically had to cut out a series of illustrated shapes, tuck a few tabs into a few slots, and hey presto! you'd made a little 3-D tableau. It might not sound so impressive to anyone born after 1995, but believe me, in a Britain yet to be 'blessed' by mobile phones, home computers, the internet, DVDs or even colour television, these dioramas were things of quiet beauty.
Not to mention the educational angle. My junior school was a pleasant, unthreatening place, but I wasn't actually learning a heck of a lot, least of all any history: consequently I owe Oat Krunchies many thanks for imparting to me the following facts (among many):
- a chap called Bonnie Prince Charlie did rather well for himself at a place called Prestonpans;
- another chap named Wolfe once did something military at a place called Quebec, and got killed;
- there was a battleship called Scharnhorst in the Second World War, which got sunk;
I was going to say "you can't buy those sort of insight moments", but of course we could, couldn't we? And did, for about half-a-crown a box (two shillings and sixpence, or 12.5 pence of today's British fake money).
Anyone who remembers these dioramas with affection will be pleased to learn that there's a website just here, which is an immense resource of all things related to cereals promotions, and which actually features scans of the Oat Krunchies dioramas in their original, uncut, uncreased form. I've added direct links to them at the foot of this post, because you really should feast your nostalgia-steeped eyes on them!
Meanwhile, I can't stand about here all day, going misty-eyed and reminiscing; please excuse me while I take my bowl of wet cushions and glassful of 'bits' to the dining-room.