Life was so much easier before someone invented 'inventing'. In those far-off days, if there was something useful to hand, you grabbed it and used it. Take the humble wine-bottle. They've been stripping off their shoes and socks and hopping up and down in a large bathtub full of grapes since the first ever drinking song was introduced ('I belong to Lorca') and putting the resulting liquid into wine bottles. Which are, whichever way you look at them, bottles for storing and serving wine.
Now, if such a thing had of been introduced since someone invented 'inventing', and copyright, and trademarks and patent registration and, well, a legal framework for greed, each winery would have needed to market a different bottle: round, square or oblong; fat, skinny or wobbly; white, brown or green. Yet. all wine bottles – except those cheap cartons of dubious plonk which Mrs Hardy at Number Six still insists on storing upside-down – are interchangeable until you come to the label.
Unlike, say, water-bottles. Now water has been around for as long as wine, but here in Spain, the idea of actually drinking it in a genteel sort of way is comparatively new. It dates, in fact, from the times that the good people of Lanjarón in Granada (ghastly town, by the way, don't bother to visit) decided to put some of their product, which springs out of the rocks there, into bottles to sell to the people on the Costa del Sol to pour into their whiskies. They probably considered using wine-bottles to start with, but then decided on their own, watery design. With a nice label that said: 'Lanjarón, Water!' Whoever it was, Paco el Aguero or some-such, promptly made himself a fortune and had soon ordered himself a dozen donkeys from the Corte Inglés. It was bound to be only a short time before others followed his trail. I mean, said the envious neighbour, the damn stuff comes out of mountains and all I need to do is stick it in a bottle.
Not with my bottle, said Paco. Get your own.
Now look at us, there must be a hundred different types of water in the supermarket, each and every one in a different shape of bottle. I have to say, of all of those designs, ridges, spouts and fasteners, the silliest comes from Paco el Aguero's descendants, who obviously haven't followed the Old Boy's flair for simplicity. It's got a special top that pours the water in two different ways. Enough said.
Returning to wine and its associated paraphenalia for just a moment, imagine that whoever first introduced the corkscrew had the far brighter idea of registering it as a patent. We would be reduced to either paying through the nose, or pushing in the cork with the wrong end of a fork, or bashing the bottom of the wine-bottle against the bar to avail ourselves of its contents. Come to think of it, been there.
Water, in whatever strange container it is served, either an old weeping cántaro, or a jug, or a gaily designed plastic bottle or, as I saw the other day, in an incredibly expensive 'designer' flask at a euro a sip, is still pretty much water. It is still diluted with somebody else's ice, or is merely a junior and un-respected ingredient in somebody else's beverage like beer or Orange Fizz. When the manufacturer gets all fancy with his giant list of ingredients, sodiums, minerals and whatnots, it's still just water to me. A laboratory has taken a cup-full from the spring, lugged it away to Barcelona, and established its chemical breakdown to a nicety. Whatever for? Tastes good, Paco old sausage, but could do with a bit more aluminium silicate.
This aqueous treasure is honoured by all right-thinking Spaniards. Have you ever had to stop on the side of a road next to some healthy looking nettles to try some miracle 'fuente' which is ummhum, good? ('That's OK', says your bucolic friend gesturing towards your shirt, 'it'll soon dry off in the car'). Eight pints a day keeps the doctor away, and, if those eight pints, listed in the ingredients merely as 'agua' (I mean, who cares), are just there to make up the 99% by weight of a beer bottle, which in most bars works out cheaper anyway, then make mine a Mahou.
You see all those different water bottles spread across the shelves at the supermarket, and then you see them again at the public fountain as cars stop and the different sized and shaped plastic containers (good for several hundred years according to my ecologist friends) are topped up with agua de la fuente. Good water... and cheap! This stuff is good for making ice, boiling up for tea and, unlike the stuff that comes out of the tap, is reasonably tasty.
The stuff from the tap, reputed to kill garden flowers – to say nothing of most household germs – is all right for doing the dishes, flushing the loo, squirting the cat, or even showering and bathing, and that's why in most homes around here, Sr Roca's sundry bathroom articles come as standard.
So, we are agreed, I think? Keep it simple. Water from the fuente and wine from the store – unless you plan to make your own. Tell you what, I'll design the bottle.