Scottish tap water is the taste of this country's natural beauty – Laura Waddell
if there was a Scottish Tap Water Society, their acronym, STWS, would perfectly emulate the sound of the cold tap spluttering open. Around the 15-second mark, when it ascends to the next level, chilled to perfection, Scottish tap water glides like glass over the tongue.
I’ve just touched down on return from a month in Finland. There is nothing like travel to make you look anew at your own country. Finns are proud of their tap water too, as they’re proud of other local produce, like lettuces and tomatoes, cheese and milk, rye bread and chocolate bearing the national flag. The flag signalled good quality, freshness and crispness, at a good price.
In the fruit and vegetable aisles of Finnish supermarkets, every item gets weighed. What differs from our familiar greengrocer scales is that this includes even plastic-wrapped red bell peppers and whole cucumbers.
Because there is no function at the tills to weigh, shop assistants must scarper to price a knob of ginger for the oblivious, embarrassed tourist who didn’t sticker it.
Shoppers are tasked with pressing the item’s code on machines with large vinyl-coated grids numbered from one to 150. A price sticker appears instantly and silently. The system requires modest concentration – pears, 43; satsumas, 18 – which slowed my selecting down to a meditative one by one. Instead of tossing bags of this and that into their basket, shoppers must properly consider each item. The system felt fair, straightforward, each party clear on the deal.
Finnish tap water was also good. Clean. Present but unobtrusive. Nothing objectionable whatsoever. It lacked the solid, stale, coiny tang of the tap water of southern England.
But when I came home, and lifted a bottle of perfectly chilled Scottish tap water to my lips, what I tasted was as invigorating as a frozen loch, perfectly hydrating clarity, vigour coursing through the delicate blue veins visible under my skin.
I think of other small European nations that appreciate their own particular strengths, like Finland and Ireland, with their tree-felling and storytelling, and their digital sector successes.
I drove by the sign for the town of Nokia in Finland a few days ago, which pointed to a road veering away into dense pine green forests, as window wipers incessantly pushed away the daylong flurry of airy, drifting snowflakes.
I understood how this cold country of steely winters pioneered connecting technology. Just as, after work trips to Dublin, gabbing away with taxi drivers, I felt the interest the Irish have in making conversation, and their natural curiosity in one another, in Ireland’s self-assured and flourishing national media.
Drinking Scottish tap water is to taste what makes our wee northern nation beautiful. It is to appreciate mountains ascending to the clouds, bluebells growing in the spring, wind turbines spinning powerfully but peaceably. Our wealth of gifts from nature.
There could be no better ingredient for the warming, welcoming whisky Scotland sends the world over, or, for that matter, spilling a few tears of happiness.
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