WWhat is water to you? The start of life? Something you own shares in? Something you get from a standpipe? Or a fashion accessory?

One of the less attractive features of the changing seasons is the reappearance of old modes one had hoped might have died a death. While I'm all in favour of recycling, the fact that cycling shorts still reappear from wardrobes when the sun hits the sidewalks comes as a bit of a shock every year. But the most enduring habit, one which originally looked like it was going to be a feature of the more-money-than-sense credit boom, is the swigging of mineral water.

Increasing comfort brings with it increasing faddishness. It has been many years since one had to avoid drinking tap water anywhere in Europe or the United States but since Perrier went aggressive in marketing their gassy green product, most of the population seems to have convinced itself that the stuff that comes from taps is poisonous. One can't walk anywhere these days without tripping over some skinny wench in a floral slip and trainers quaffing from a little plastic bottle of Vittel or dangling one of Evian between her index and third fingers.

The thing is you can tell it's a fad for several reasons. Have you ever seen a young thing swigging from a bottle of domestic water? Buxton Spring, Ballygowan and Highland Spring simply don't have the cachet of a bottle of Volvic, despite the fact that the taste difference is negligible. And packaging is all: Perrier's initial market dominance and subsequent subservience to lightweight plastic bottles says everything.

The irony is, most people who drink mineral water as opposed to, say, cans of Coke, would probably put themselves at the health conscious green end of the social spectrum. Yet the evidence of their luxury drinking habit will remain with us long after Lucozade bottles have returned to the earth. And if they are really drinking it for the good of their health, how come it always go with a pack of the new blue Camel Light in the other hand?

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