A Lot of Bottle

My toe hurts.

It hurts because I opened the fridge at work and a Millennial’s Fruit Infuser Water Bottle filled with a litre of fruit infused water, fell on it.

It was my introduction to Fruit Infuser Water Bottles – plastic bottles with a cylinder insert which you stuff with your favourite fruit.

The fruit contaminates the water and provides an apparently flavoursome alternative to a litre of Fanta. The infuser is there to ensure no fruit particles make it into the water. (Millennials hate ‘bits’, hence the rise of ‘no bits’ orange juice. Sigh.)

Before the injury caused to my my foot by what turned out to be apple and mango infusion, I had been aware only of plain old bottles. Plastic ones, glass ones and aluminium ones of the sort that friends at the gym hang from their kit bags ready to clock me in the face as they swing round from the lockers, bags on shoulders.

(I’m starting to think water bottles should be reported to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.)

I don’t carry a drinks bottle of any description.

Younger friends on the other hand, are permanently welded to chilled bottles of Volvic.

If I feel that I need water (rather than tea or wine) I pour a tumbler of it from a glass bottle I keep in the fridge. The bottle is engraved with the words ‘Perfectly Drinkable Tap Water’.

I have probably never bought anything that so obviously gave away my age.

I come from the pre-bottled water days.

The days of scratched glasses on the tables in the school hall and jugs of tepid tap water.

The days before they ramped up the 8-glasses-a-day myth.

That myth has been debunked time and again but the dark forces of advertising and the long reach of nutritional pseudo-science keep recycling it like Thames drinking water.

It’s the kind of fake news which it pays the share holders to perpetuate.

In the years when I was growing up bottled water belonged to ‘Abroad.’ And you knew your experience of Abroad was authentic when you had to brush your teeth with Evian.

I was an imaginative child who’d internalised a great number of fictional deaths from literature and films: Beth in ‘Little Women’, Injun Joe in ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’, Boxer in ‘Animal Farm’, Bambi’s mother in ‘Bambi’ and Billy in ‘The Champ’.

I became a great catastrophiser. There was danger all around.

I read the newspapers and became obsessed with Idi Amin. I organised look-outs and patrols of our streets by local children briefed to apprehend him just as soon as he set foot in Collier Row.

I avoided dogs for fear of Rabies and I refused to eat cabbage my grandmother had prepared because I’d heard in a news report that cabbages in a London market had been poisoned.

(Imagine how well that went down.)

So I took the instruction not to drink tap water Abroad very seriously indeed.

Until one hot night in Corfu I got up and unthinkingly drank from the tap in the cool, marble bathroom.

Suddenly aware of what I’d done, I returned, trembling, to my bed. There I waited for death to take me.

At eight years old I’d lived a full life.

I’d won the spelling competition at school three times. I could do a passable rising trot and I’d appeared on stage at the London Palladium with Michael Bentine.

I lay under the starched cotton sheet trying to decide whether I’d been good enough to make it into Heaven (these were the days when Jesus and I were still a thing). I’d filled my Sunday School stamp book with Bible stories stamps and I had never, unlike some of the other children, unpicked the threads in the embroidered kneelers.

But it wasn’t a sure thing.

Day broke. I was still alive.

By lunchtime I was hopeful of a reprieve. Spare me long enough to say a proper goodbye to my gerbils, I prayed.

By evening I was cautiously optimistic that Mutt and Jeff would not be plunged into unending grief at my premature demise.

And by the time the display of traditional plate smashing had started, I had a whole new threat to my life to worry about.

I survived the Tap Water Abroad terror. But the memory of it has stayed with me.

Perfectly drinkable tap water is a privilege of the developed world and I cherish it. Who knows, one day I might infuse some of it.

I understand apple and mango packs a punch.

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3 comments

  1. This so strikes a chord with me. Why do people need to carry a bottle of water everywhere they go? I can survive up to 4 hours between drinks if necessary, and I’m sure my father wasn’t a camel. And buying bottled water when it comes out of the tap for free virtually, what the hell is that all about. Abroad yes, it might contain too much mineral content or even be mildly poisonous, but in Britain? Get real please.

    Couldn’t agree more Sam. Glass of water from the tap please, or tea, coffee, beer….

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