new european

  • Does shandy have an age limit?

    Reading Will Self’s novella on Brexit in The New European last week, I read the following:

    “The prime minister’s holed up in Chequers, on the Chiltern fringe. I used to walk out that way, towards Wendover Hill, with my unpatriotic, but deeply beery father, back in the flannel-and-Gannex sixties, when you knew where you stood: in Britain; and what you stood in: leather. We’d stop at the Sundown Inn, and he’d pour half his pint into my lemonade, then we’d stagger on. I’d have been around 10 years old, but it was an innocent era – and when my mother chided my father for giving me watered-down wine at lunch, he’d say, “The French do it”. As if that settled the matter.”

    In its contents, that paragraph was almost a carbon copy of my own childhood, two decades later in the 1980s. That means whatever kind of puritanical tide has engulfed Britain in the meantime, it hadn’t yet happened in the 80s. They, too, must have been an era of innocence. 

    Has it really become unacceptable to give your child a shandy? Or is it still happening quietly behind closed doors up and down the land? I can’t give a definitive answer. My child is 3 years old, which let’s face it is just too young, so I have no primary research to fall back on. 

    “The French do it”

    This is the telling line. It reminds me of my gap year on an Italian farm where the farmer gave me weak red wine in the morning as a thirst quencher while digging potatoes, but where I never saw anyone actually pissed in my entire trip. 

    The French do do it, but like most southern Europeans, they seem to do it steadily and with sobriety. Given the northern tendency towards oblivion, whenever talk turns to allowing a child to drink, it tends to conjure images of a youngster reeling and barfing on a stupid father’s pack of Stella. 

    More interested in food than drink? Here’s an idea for reinventing how we eat