Thursday, 6 October 2016

Elements of madness.

There's the Conservative government proposing to take us back in time: grammar schools, military cadet groups in schools to teach "British Values" and businesses to declare how many foreign nationals they have working for them. 

I saw a breaking news headline this morning about a UKIP MEP being punched in a fracas of some kind at a meeting at the European Parliament and thought that maybe someone had finally got fed up of the sort of things UKIP says. Then I found out that it was at a meeting of UKIP MEPs. They can't even behave reasonably among the selves! Are these "British Values"? 

And then I went on to look at what the Guardian calls The Long Read, this time about bottled water. Now that is a crazy thing! 

They've been bottling and selling water in Harrogate since 1714. Those who could afford it were able to drink water that would not make them ill while those who could not afford it just had to carry on taking pot luck. I read somewhere else a while ago that that is one reason why you read about people drinking so much ale in Dickens and so on. 

By 1914 Harrogate Spring was apparently the biggest exporter of British bottled water in the country, “proudly keeping the troops hydrated from England to Bombay”. I wonder of we still export or simply import water from elsewhere. Wondering if it was still a British company I googled them and found this: 

"Harrogate Spring Water is England's oldest bottled water manufacturer. It dates back to the 16th century when the first springs were found to be therapeutic. Harrogate Spa Water is used locally, nationally and internationally, being exported to as far away as Australia. Many of the UK's largest companies supply this water to their customers and colleagues. For example, coffee chain Cafe Nero's own brand bottled spring water is sourced from Harrogate. 

The company is owned by Harrogate Water Brands, which also owns the Thirsty Planet brand of bottled water." 

This did not actually answer my question. Instead it raised another: is Cafe Nero, with its international sounding name, a British company? 

Back to bottled water: it has become the fastest-growing drinks market in the world. Sales of water are 100 times higher than in 1980. I can believe that. You only have to see the Spaniards leaving the supermarket with their trolleys full of bottles of water, literally FULL, often without any other product in there! Maybe they just don't like the taste of what comes though the taps, because I regularly see people queuing to fill bottles at the spring, now piped and coming out of a tap, at the bottom of the street where our flat in Vigo is situated. 

It's more complicated than that, however. There is a snobbery attached. You have to drink the RIGHT kind of water. And be seen to do so. Some brands are more classy than others. And there is whole science behind it, so that you know exactly how the water is doing you good. There are even people who train as "sommeliers", not for wine but for water. 

There is a German called Reise who got himself a certificate as a mineral water sommelier from the German Mineral Water Trade Association and then moved to America in 2010 to be their very first mineral water sommelier. 

Reading about him, I came across a new verb: to sommelier. Apparently Reise "sommeliers" at a fancy restaurant in Los Angeles. His technique goes like this: 

First: “Do you prefer sparkling or flat?” 
Then: “Do you prefer your bubbles a little bit more progressive, like very intense, or do you like your bubbles a little bit on the smaller side, like champagne bubbles, very tiny?” 
Finally: “Do you prefer something on the high mineral end, on the salty and bitter side, or do you prefer something on the smoother side, with a lower mineral composition, like maybe a little bit on the fruitier side?” 

All this to choose water to drink with your meal. Personally I usually ask for the stuff that comes from the tap. But I must be unsophisticated. 

Apparently in 2013, Reise launched the longest water menu in Los Angeles at Ray’s and Stark Bar. Now, the pub next door to our house boasts the largest selection of gins possible and I can just about understand that but a huge list of water to choose from simply seems mad to my simple taste. 

Just when I was thinking to myself that the next thing would be bottled air, I came across this: 

"as Andrea Leadsom excitedly pointed out in her recent Tory party conference speech, a young British entrepreneur, Leo de Watts, now sells glass jars of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Welsh or Yorkshire air for £80 each, mostly to the Chinese." 

The world has gone seriously mad. I wonder how you stop your bottled regional air from escaping all in one go when you open the lid. 

Ah, well, here are a couple of pictures of the autumn colours that are starting to appear around here. Enjoy them before someone finds a way to charge for them. 

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