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Danny Wallace on why rationing out wine is no way to treat British parents

We are nearing the end of our holiday, and after a fraught day, my wife and I have managed to sneak away from the kids for a meal. By which I mean wine. Wine, accompanied by the plates of food they make you order to make it OK that you have the wine.

I hurriedly order a bottle and the man unscrews the cap with a flourish that I feel is unnecessary. Waiters have fewer opportunities to add flourish since the cork found a rival. “So that was some queuing we did today,” I say to my wife. “And some driving too!”

Small talk over, I can study the man again. He starts to pour a little wine into my glass. Just a little. Just a hint. Just a rumour of wine. It must be for me to taste. I don’t know why. Wine with no cork is highly unlikely to be corked, and I say that as a man who wouldn’t know if his wine was corked even if it was called ‘Corked – the wine that’s corked’. So I pick it up but before I can taste it he just fills my wife’s glass with the exact same amount and says, “Shall I keep the bottle for you?”

“That would be great,” I say, which is the opposite of what I want to say, which is “NO!”, and he does a little half bow and sweeps away with our bottle and puts it in a stand in the corner. I look at my glass.

“He really didn’t put much in,” I say, horrified.

“And then he took the bottle away,” says my wife, and now I’m worried you think we’re the sort of people who just spend our time endlessly recapping small moments that have only just occurred. But this is serious. I know you’re not supposed to glug wine, you’re supposed to sip and savour it, but we’re gluggers. One glug and this glass will be glone.

I pick it up and try to sip it, but that brief moment just makes my love sweeter, and before you’ve had the chance to read the end of this sentence I’ve cracked and glugged. My wife’s eyes widen, impressed. She sips at her glass. But now this is unfair because she’s got wine and I haven’t. I look at the bottle.

The man grabs it and is back within moments, pouring a little more into my glass. But again – only a little! Well, I must be a sipper and a savourer. I must not a glugger be.

I glug it!

It’s not my fault! It’s like giving a starving man a cocktail sausage and expecting him to nibble at it.

Now my wife’s finished her thimbleful of wine and the man comes back and refills both our glasses, though he seems to be sticking to his own definition of ‘fill’.

“We can’t go on like this,” I say. “He’s back every 60 seconds, this guy.”

“Why doesn’t he just leave the bottle?” asks my wife. “Surely he can see that would be better?”

I hold my fresh glass of nothing to my lips. No. I must resist. “Do you think we have a problem?” asks my wife. “Do normal people just nurse
a shot of wine all night?”

“You said ‘shot’ of wine,” I say. “That kind of language implies you might have a problem, yes. Maybe he doesn’t realise we’re British.”

The man breezes by, throwing a glance at our table, but this time our glasses remain essentially rinsed with wine, and so on he walks.

“There, we’ve shown him we’re mature now,” I say, picking up my glass. “We’ve proved we can resist glugging.” I neck my shot of wine and a second later he’s there again, ready to refill.

“Thank you,” I say to him. “It’s nice wine.” He smirks and walks away. I take this as an accusation of alcoholism. “Everyone’s going to look like a drunk if you only put a tiny bit in and then hide the bottle!” I say, determined to defend myself. “What’s he doing? We’re parents! We went to a theme park today! We need to get in, glug, and get out!”

“This bottle could take days to drink,” says my wife.

“This guy’s going to end up one of our closest friends.”

“First thing we’re doing when we get home is going to a Wetherspoons,” says my wife, which is a statement that makes me think that, actually, we’ve probably had enough to drink. “They fill them to the brim there. That’s hospitality.”

She’s so right. Imagine inviting people round to your house and giving them such tiny servings. Oh, nice to see you, here’s half an inch of tea but don’t worry, I’ve got a whole pot in another room and I’ll sporadically get up to go and get it. Why is it only wine that people think you need an assistant for?

“I’m doing it,” says my wife. “I’m going to go and get our wine and bring it back!”

I am so proud of her! The girl’s got that Wetherspoons spirit! But I am horrified to see her head towards the wrong one, pick it up, and immediately be confronted by the man guarding his bottles. He shows her to the right bottle. Now she looks like someone who gets drunk on a sixth of a bottle of wine and then tries to steal alcohol in public. I think maybe my wife has a problem.

They do read these, right? 


In LA’s Koreatown, I was delighted to find this restaurant. I will not tell you why, in case you think my mind is as filthy as yours, which it is not. I honestly don’t know why you’ve turned out the way you have.

Fit for a king?


The US doesn’t have a royal family, so OK, they don’t get ‘banquet’. But three chicken nuggets, some macaroni and a brownie in one microwaveable meal doesn’t scream Henry VIII. What it screams is despair. Still, good source of protein!