Stocking up for the kids

05 September, 2008

Admitting to buying alcohol for your under-age daughter will only go one way

A bloke walks into an off-licence. Bear with me - it's not the set-up for a joke, but there is a nice punchline coming. He's a chap I recognise, a fairly regular customer

who buys either a bottle of chilled white wine, or a four-pack of cold beers, or sometimes both. This time, he buys both, and then pulls out a shopping list, which is unprecedented for him.

"Right," he says, "I need to buy some drinks for my daughter to take to the Leeds Festival. Now, she wants some Malibu - Christ, that's expensive . I don't know where they get a taste for this stuff. She's only 16, you know."

I look at him, biting my bottom lip and raising my eyebrows all the way to Full Incredulity Mode. "So is that a shopping list for her and her mates, then?" I ask. He confirms it is, and I explain the niggling technicalities of the law, and how he is about to commit an offence.

He seems a bit flustered. "What's the legal drinking age, then?" he asks. I suppose it's just about conceivable that a chap in his late 40s might not know the law, so I patiently

explain it all to him.

In a way it's a pleasure, as he just stands and listens politely to what I have to say. There's no abuse, no false ID, no spitting, just a rather sheepish admission of guilt. "I shouldn't have told you that really, should I?" he ventures, and I tell him that while I agree he might've managed to make the purchase, he would still have been committing an offence.

I sell him the beer and wine, which I am confident is for him, and he compliments me on my ethics. I explain that we take that sort of thing quite seriously, and he responds: "I guess I'll have to go to [major supermarket chain, name deleted] then." I recap the law once more, and he leaves with a sly grin.

Where to start? Is it shocking that he was buying alcohol for his under-age daughter to take to a music festival? I guess it's a bit surprising, but maybe they have one of those wonderfully modern and trusting relationships

where she would also be sent off with a pack of condoms and some disposable toilet seat covers. I find his ignorance of the law more surprising, but perhaps he was just playing for time, hoping

I'd find his cluelessness endearing and make the sale. And I'm certainly not blaming [major supermarket chain, name deleted] for anything. After I appr ised him of the law, I suppose I sent him away well-equipped to break it.

The interesting bit for me : "I don't know where they get a taste for this stuff."

I

do, because I went the same route. I remember my family's Christmas drinks stash , including bottles of Landlord and

tins of Ind Coope Burton Ale . I

found them too bitter for my pre-teen palate.

More alluring was the rum and

cola

my mum would drink: it was sweet, and didn't have that grown-up bitterness. As a result of this, I believe that very young drinkers don't really like beer, and certainly aren't attracted to craft beers by any snappy name, iconography, or description on the bottle. These beers are mature drinks for the mature drinker. We should be more worried about drinkers who think that " blue" is a flavour rather than a colour.




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