At dinner with some colleagues the other night I dredged up this memory from the recesses of my grey matter. Every word of it is true, honest.
Some years ago I was at Heathrow waiting to catch a flight to San Diego. It was Christmas and the airport had a festive atmosphere. I'd been extremely busy getting ready for my flight and the journey out on the Tube had been a scramble so I was looking forward to an hour of relative calm browsing mindlessly through the huge Duty Free shopping area. While I was shuffling around, a pleasant lady with a tray full of small plastic glasses containing amber liquid said,
"Would you care to try a Scotch, Sir?"
Now I wasn't shopping for whisky and rarely buy the stuff. Besides it was 11.00am and really a little early in the day. But then I told myself I'd been up most of the night packing, I was about to undergo an 8 hour time zone change and I could sleep on the plane. This was a time to relax. So I took one of the samples. It was fairly ordinary, cooking grade, blended malt. I knocked it back, thanked the lady and told her I wouldn't be buying a bottle.
"Oh", she said, "I have some much better stuff here, try one of these"
She produced another tray and I remember clearly it was Laphoraig of quite a decent vintage. But slamming back Scotch before lunch time is not really my thing and I hesitated...
"Go on" she said "you look a bit stressed, this will help you relax before your flight, and besides there's no obligation to buy anything"
It was hard to resist this logic. I agreed that I was a bit tense and accepted the second dram; it was much nicer than the first.
"I know what it's like" continued the lady, "I have a lot of stress at home"
"Oh", I rejoined, "why's that?"
"It's my husband, he's quite unwell", she said gravely
"What's the nature of his illness?" I asked, thinking I might offer some words of sage advice
"Oh, he's an alcoholic; would you like to try another?
I ran for my flight....