As a general rule, I will agree that persuasion through reproach is a bad idea. Nobody likes being told off, nobody appreciates being told what to do, and anyway there are too many beams in my own eye to complain about the motes in another’s. However, within the quiet precincts of an inoffensive newsletter of modest ambitions, where I am preaching only to the converted – and, presumably, some desperately bored civil servant in an office somewhere in Cheltenham – what the hell is it with the bottled water? Are we to meekly accept its alleged indispensability? Let us consider precedent.
Photograph: Tom Lovell
As Alexander led his army through a burning desert in eastern Persia, one of his scouts found a tiny pool of water; filled his helmet, and took it to his general. “ls it enough for a thousand men?” asked Alexander, and, seeing the man shake his head, poured away the water on the sand. Flavius Arrianus sees this as proof that Alexander was a great man. Personally I think it makes him look like a right pillock. To be fair, there are many different versions of this story – some attached to other historical figures, Confucius among them – and Arrian himself admits that he is not quite sure which particular desert he is talking about. However, in none of the classical works I have consulted is there any suggestion of the Macedonian army refusing to proceed unless they were supplied with a sufficiency of bottled water, or of anyone writing to the municipal authorities of Gedrosia ( or possibly Bactria ) requesting the construction of a network of drinking fountains. And if Alexander’s men could march from Issus to the Indus on little more than pitta bread and a handful of olives, why can’t a healthy twenty-first century adult make it from home to Waitrose without pausing for therapeutic hydration? Because there is a downside to this, isn’t there? Plastic is bad: single use plastic is worse. Water is heavy, and moving it around wastes carbon. If you want spring water, hitchhike to Buxton ( where the water is quite nice ) or Bath ( where it is apparently quite foul ). If someone can come up with a sound medical reason for the phenomenon, do let me know. Or are people making a hobby of micturition?
And as for coffee! You don’t need it. Or rather you only need it – coffee being somewhat addictive – because you have got used to it. If on the other hand you must insist that good coffee is one of life’s great pleasures, you will have my enthusiastic agreement. Coffee is a delight, and one of the few good reasons for international trade. This being so, however, why would you drink it through a plastic lid on a cardboard cup while hurrying down the road? Sit down somewhere warm and comfortable, with a good book or a good friend, and treat your coffee with the respect it deserves.
Next month: Jon explains why you should never let your kids have any fun.
Jon Gunson, TTL.