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Richard Dawson: ‘Pull your fingers out’

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

Name: Richard Dawson
Age: 39
Nationality: British
Occupation: Owner of The Devil in the Grape wine company and wine bar Parabola (Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo)
Likes: life, Japan, “The Master of Go” by Yasunori Kawabata
Dislikes: Camembert-in-a-can

1. What first brought you to Japan? The love of a lady.

2. What’s keeping you here? No chance of parole — although who needs parole when you’re fortunate enough to be living in the world’s best city?

3. Who in Japan do you most admire? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his Canute-like attempts to reverse the irreversible.

4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Far-flung Iriomote in search not of the fabled mountain pussy cat but a creature rarer yet: genki (energetic), wine-loving, English-speaking, can-do Japanese bar staff for Parabola.

5. What’s your favourite Japanese word or phrase? Sucking of teeth, a contorted pained expression followed by “Chotto nain desu kedo” — a splendidly theatrical version of the much simpler English equivalent “No.”

6. What’s your favourite phrase in any language? “Oops-a-daisy.” Is there a more ludicrously and quintessentially English expression than this? Being rather patriotic at heart and having been away from the U.K. for so long I am quite nostalgic about aspects of the culture.

7. Describe your most embarrassing moment. Crashing a guest’s stylish BMW while drunk on duty on my first night working as valet in a posh Paris hotel.

8. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? Passing my accountancy exams.

9. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? Back to the hotel in Paris: Being asked to perform a Scottish jig for the amusement of a Saudi Prince and family in return for a tenner, pat on the head and half a pint of whisky — hence being drunk on duty.

10. If you were a wine, what kind of grape would you be? Muller Thurgau — unremarkable.

11. What song best describes your work ethic? Guy Lombardier’s “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).” When you kiss a dollar bill it doesn’t kiss you back.

12. What superhero would you most like to be? Batman in “The Dark Knight” for the privilege of acting alongside the genius Heath Ledger.

13. What do you think about while standing on the train? The generations of men as they live their little hour of mock-existence and then are swept away in rapid succession.

14. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? Open the door, position the creature south end facing the fridge and fill its trunk with a cocktail of wasabi and Ardbeg, a smoky whisky from Islay.

15. Name three uses of a stapler without staples. A desirable objet d’art; a wasp trap; a device to snap open a recalcitrant bottle of wine.

16. How now brown cow? Wondering whether two bottles of port before lunch is a healthy alternative to the Scottish breakfast classic, cornflakes and whisky.

17. How would you find a needle in a haystack? Burn it down.

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? Tiger — nicer purr.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? A sorcerer.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Pull your fingers out and throw away your headphones: a billion hungry souls lacking your misplaced sense of entitlement want your job for a quarter of the pay, a tenth of the whinging and are prepared to work to their deaths. Welcome to globalization, darlings.