The most important lesson to learn when selling alcohol (and many other things) is that it's the customers taste that matters, no matter how unappealing I might find their choice I don't have to drink it. Wine, spirits, the whole lot should be a pleasure for the consumer and on the whole I remember this, finding something polite to say about whatever bottle's in question, because in the end most people asking advice simply want to be reassured they've made a good choice - and generally they have, for them.
There is one product I struggle with though. It's pre made Buck's Fizz and I consider it to be a disgusting abomination (this is a deeply held personal prejudice, and this is neither the time nor place to argue me out of it). I still dutifully stick it in the shelf and point people towards it when asked, but inevitably some time in the next 10 days we will completely sell out and I'll spend the days before Christmas ( time I'm never getting back) explaining that although we don't have any, we do have plenty of very good sparkling wines and orange juice. The response, every bloody time (it will happen a lot, somehow stock forecasting is never right on this) is that it sounds like to much trouble.
I despair for a world, or a family, where opening a carton of orange juice, or even squeezing an actual orange is to much trouble. It really truly isn't to much trouble. And I feel a lot better for getting that if my chest. The truth is the pre made stuff available in most supermarkets just isn't great quality, and as such isn't great value either.
On the other hand there are plenty of very good, and reasonably priced, sparkling wines available (or champagne if you're feeling extravagant) and it's worth getting a really good orange juice (or squeezing some oranges). Made with a little love and all the care it takes to put some juice and wine in a glass (it really isn't to much trouble) this is a classic. A bright, light, and sparkling concoction to bring some colour to the typical grey sky of an English Christmas. Crisp, cold, and fruity it feels eminently suitable for a winter's day.
Our Christmas will be a small one this year and spent at my mothers. There will be fizz with breakfast, and in the interests of a civilised Christmas, Buck's Fizz makes sense (otherwise it's tears and a fight with my sister by lunch time, and at our age it's unseemly). It also means there's a golden window of a couple of hours when mum won't want, or need, help and I can hit the sofa and read.
It's the perfect time for short stories, anything long or involving and inevitably there will be interruptions just when you're getting really absorbed. My choice for this year, and I'm really looking forward to it, is the British Library's 'Silent Nights'. It's one of the crime classics short story collections, with (of course) a Christmas theme. If I didn't already have it there would have been extremely heavy hints for it to be in my stocking. I really love this series, and as this one has a Dorothy L. Sayers story in it that's a particular favourite along with offerings from Edgar Wallace, Nicholas Blake, Margery Allingham, Arthur Conan Doyle, and J. Jefferson Farjeon and others I know I've got plenty to look forward to.