Monday, July 01, 2013

Spas, bottled water and the Iceni

click photo to enlarge
The word "spa", meaning a resort that has grown up around a source of naturally occurring mineral waters, derives from an early example of such a place, namely the town of Spa in Belgium. Spas grew in popularity over the centuries until, during the 1700s (and ever since) the well-heeled flocked to such places to "take the waters" either by drinking them, bathing in them or both. I've visited many spas in Europe and the United Kingdom and found they mostly share a group of similar characteristics: up-market hotels, well-tended public gardens, a higher than average number of better off and elderly people, and a well-signposted "source" of their noted mineral water that invariably tastes foul. It struck me the other day that whilst such places still attract visitors, "taking the waters" is less popular than formerly and that the reason for this may well be the ready availability of bottled mineral water from every corner of the globe.

I've written elsewhere in this blog about my incredulity concerning the rise in the popularity of bottled mineral water during the second half of the twentieth century. It always seemed to me that the non-existent powers that people attributed to spa waters in the past transferred to the bottled equivalent and gullible people became hooked. When fashion and social cachet were added to the product producers found that they could charge ridiculous prices for a product that was no better (and usually worse) than the water that is almost free from the domestic tap. More recently pseudo-medical language has been employed to sell this over-priced liquid. We are now encouraged to drink the stuff to "re-hydrate" ourselves rather than because we are thirsty. The transport of tons of water around the world to satisfy this craving remains, of course, completely indefensible.

All that being said, I was pleased to see a new-to-me brand of bottled water in a chiller cabinet the other day. Why, you might wonder? Well, I'd rather that bottled water completely disappeared as a must-have purchase, but if it is to exist then domestically produced varieties have a more acceptable environmental footprint. And with the name "Iceni" and the letters "GB" prominently placed this was clearly a local product - the Iceni were a tribe of Eastern England living in the North Norfolk/Cambridgeshire/South Lincolnshire area at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain - and the water comes from near Duxford in Cambridgeshire.

The colours and lighting of the bottles in the chiller cabinet appealed to me, as was clearly the designers' intention!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 19.3mm (52mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On