Oliver Cross: A wee dram that makes you feel like a giant in this world

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Among my Christmas presents were a couple of miniature bottles of whisky, which are far better than normal-sized bottles of whisky because they don’t make it possible for you to exceed your recommended weekly alcohol limit, even if you drink them both at the same time.

Well, unless you also visit a pub or two, which I’ve always thought is unavoidable over the festive (or as I call it, the spending) season. It’s a legacy from the days when companies liked to reward their workers by giving them a bit of slack – including longer lunch hours and maybe office drinks on Christmas or New Year’s Eve – to better celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Now the culture of the unrepentant Scrooge has taken over, helped by the business-school vision of maximising returns for the owners, which is obviously bad news for everybody else.

I’m semi-retired and so only half-know what’s going on in the world of work, but I understand from several people that staff are being made to work all days and all hours that are not official holidays even if there is nothing whatever for them to do, so on the Friday squeezed between Boxing Day and the weekend, when productivity traditionally sinks to Eritrean levels, many wage slaves trudged into work for no better reason than to demonstrate that they were delivering shareholder value.

A kingpin of the new working world is the zero-hours contract, which emerged from nowhere and with no discussion and has now converted hundreds of thousands of Britons into little more than casual workers – and I know many people like this sort of flexibility, but not, generally, those who want a predictable income with sick-pay and holiday-pay to give their children a chance in the world.

I got diverted. What I wanted to write about was an extremely puzzling thing said by a lively young barmaid during a pre-Christmas pub visit (I wasn’t crawling, I was visiting, like Santa Claus or the Angel Gabriel).

A customer had been in a fret over whether to buy a pint or a half, but decided, as people tend to do over Christmas, that it had to be a pint on the grounds that he had very big hands and they wouldn’t have looked comfortable holding a half-pint glass. The barmaid took this as a cue to ask him whether he had ever held a miniature whisky bottle in his hand while imagining himself to be a giant. The customer, understandably I think, said ‘Er, not really’ and she replied ‘Well, you’ve not lived then’.

So at the Christmas morning present-opening ceremony I grasped a miniature whisky and tried to stomp around in a King Kong manner but it didn’t work at all. Either I’ve got too old and unimaginative for that sort of thing or the idea was based on a false premise, because to really turn yourself into a giant, you would have to scale down many things other than the whisky bottles – your settee and fireplace, for example.

Still, if you’ve got today off and you find a miniature alcohol bottle among your festive leftovers, it might be worth attempting to recreate the giant delusion as a New Year challenge. Good luck.

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