Matthew's got the Bishop's finger ...

11 July, 2008

We sometimes think of Matthew Hughes as the spiritual leader of the off-licence world and evidently the Church Times feels the same way.

The Bargain Booze boss was recently quoted (as indeed was OLN) in the leading article of the paper, much to St Matthew's amusement. His comments that the government should tackle demand, not supply, in the fight against binge drinking caught the paper's eye, and he receives some praise for his stance, even if the article didn't quite capture his actual views on the subject.

Responds Hughes: "As a devout atheist - note the deliberate oxymoron - I wasn't actually aware that I'd been painted as an industry turncoat by the church. Still, I suppose that ever since that bearded guy did the old 'water into wine' trick the church has had a bit of a relationship with the demon drink, so they are at least nominally an authoritative source on the subject of booze.

"I'm flattered to be quoted in, and patronised by, such an esteemed church organ, even if the holy ghost-writer did decide to put some words into my mouth at the end of the article. Would that count as speaking in tongues, do you think?"

Banged up, not bailed out

A Liverpool man stranded in Edinburgh hit on a novel way of travelling home for free. Paul Quirk, 33, had been released from jail in the Scottish capital and had no means of reaching his native city. So he walked into an off-licence, stole two bottles of wine and waited to be arrested. The idea was that he would be released with a travel warrant.

Instead, he was sentenced to a further four weeks in custody, according to the local press report.

The story is made mildly more comical by the paper's misspelling of the store in question as "Freshers". Perhaps that would be a good brand name for our friend in Welwyn to use on their student union stores?

Crash course

Picture the scene. You're quietly running a liquor store in southern California when a 1988 Cadillac comes crashing through the front window and ends up halfway through the shop. The driver doesn't run away in panic, or point a gun at you: it's a 74-year-old woman, who attempts to buy a six-pack of Budweiser she takes from the chiller.

"I don't know how she managed to walk," said the store owner - who, incidentally, refused the sale and called the police.

Water into wine

The moral majority are getting all steamed up about off-trade prices, but perhaps they should make a field trip to Australia, where the Dan Murphy chain is selling wine cheaper than water at Aus$2 a bottle. That works out at about 96p.

The major retailers and suppliers are also rejecting any suggestion that warning labels prevent binge drinking. We suppose that if you can buy a case of wine for about the same price as a CD, a little sticker urging you to go easy may well go unnoticed.

Model citizens

Can't afford security guards to look after your shop in the small hours?

Your budget might stretch to a mannequin.

Retail display company Displaysense has recently taken an order from a ­Swindon factory for the supply of three mannequins, which will be dressed in uniform and fitted with MP3 recordings to make it appear they are coughing, whistling and making those other little noises people tend to make when they're alone.

With the cover of night, it is hoped that the shady silhouette of the display mannequins and the sound recordings will prevent people from approaching the site and breaking in.

Displaysense marketing manager Steve Whittle says: "Not only will the site be protected, but the mannequins won't need to take a day off for sickness or require any holidays."

Greener than green


covered in our Wine Report this issue, wine suppliers are doing more and more to help the environment and nature. But no one is doing more than Alan Nordberg of Great Western Wine, pictured here beckoning a rare and endangered species of goose, whose silver egg he is incubating in his own hands. If only more suppliers could take a leaf out of his book. Don't drop it, Alan!

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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