The absence of a crowd for the rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium left visible the logos that are displayed across ranks of seats. Conspicuous among the logos was that of Johnnie Walker whisky. There was an unexpected sense of reassurance in catching sight of the logo, as if there were the awakening of some long lost memory of security, as if there were echoes of a moment of contentment. Never a Scotch whisky drinker, it seemed odd that the logo would have found a resonance.
The Johnnie Walker figure found on countless bottles and on the optics behind countless bars wears a red coat, top hat and black boots. He strides along in a determined manner.
Perhaps it is the cheerful disposition of the figure that makes him memorable, but would that arouse feelings of being secure, of being content?
It seems more likely that Johnnie Walker’s association with happiness is that he would have been sighted on special occasions.
Public houses were less welcoming in former times, licensed premises were strict in adherence to the law. Children were forbidden to enter many establishments. If I had encountered the figure of Johnnie Walker, then it would have been sighted at the bar of an hotel, or at a bar set up for a special occasion in a village hall, or some similar building.
Why would the logo for a Scotch whisky have lingered in the consciousness, though? There would have been other logos, certainly not as many as fill a bar now, but labels and trade marks, that might have made an impression. What was it about Johnnie Walker that made such an imprint?
Perhaps it was the figure itself, the black hat, red coat, white trousers and black riding boots would have prompted thoughts of the local hunt, the gentry and the farmers who hunted foxes in our district, but it does not seem likely that a huntsman would have had much appeal to a child whose sympathies lay always with the fox.
Perhaps it was the context in which Johnnie Walker was sighted that made his figure memorable. There cannot have been many moments when the red coat would have been seen. There would have been no money to spare for casual visits to hotels, so it must have been at a family celebration, a wedding or a party to mark a birthday or an anniversary. The red coated man would have been a companion in happy moments, the printed figure would have been present at those moments when a child would have been alive to every image, even if he could not fully understand them.
The child would never have anticipated that his sixty year old self would be filled with a sense of the warmth of those occasions.