A few days ago I made a return visit to Firgas, a delightful small town to the north of Gran Canaria, and a municipality in its own right. This is the home of Firgas bottled water - sparkling mineral water, which originates from a plentiful spring some three miles from the town. It is said that the bottling plant produces around 200,000 bottles a day - no wonder it is popular thoughout the islands.
Before moving to Spain, I was totally opposed to the idea of drinking bottled water. I felt strongly that the making and discarding of plastic bottles was not environmentally friendly and, in any case, I had read somewhere that the plastics that the bottles were made from contained many harmful substances that polluted the liquids they contained. Apparently, the environmentalists told us, we are unwittingly absorbing cancer causing chemicals from the plastic into our bodies. No doubt the same can be said for many food and drink products and not just water in plastic bottles. Anyway, I reasoned, I certainly wouldn't be paying for bottled water. After all, I had been drinking the stuff right out of the tap for all my life and it hadn’t done me any harm, or had it?
One of the first things that we were told when we arrived in the Costa Blanca was “not to drink the tap water”. I knew this, of course, from the many holidays that we had already spent in the country, and it was reassuring to be told by an experienced ‘expat’ that “tap water is quite safe to drink, but you might get a stomach upset from the minerals if you do... Drink bottled water instead”. With this advice from one who knew, I cast my inhibitions aside and decided to drink bottled water instead. After all, when one moves to another country it is important to show some flexibility...! We also invested in a rather clever water filtration and chiller system. These units are supposed to purify and remove any harmful substances that may have found their way into tap water, as well as removing most of those nasty tasting chemical additives and it would mean no more plastic bottles.
Bar room gossip and chat can be a wonderful source of, mostly inaccurate, information for the newly arrived ‘expat’! The influence of cheap booze and the fact that few expats take the trouble to learn Spanish before they arrive in the country can result in outrageous claims and notoriously unreliable information freely given to anyone who will listen. However, on one occasion, I had the good fortunate to meet with a, still sober, engineer who worked for one of the water companies in the UK. He confirmed that most substances in ordinary tap water can be rendered harmless by filtration, adding chemicals and the rest, with the exception of estrogen. I pricked up my ears upon hearing this piece of information and quickly learned that too much estrogen is certainly not too good for you. Indeed, in men, too much of the stuff can lead to the development of breasts. Now, gentlemen, unless you really crave for a nice pair of breasts, or are seriously considering a career change to become a drag queen possibly, it is best to avoid too much of the stuff. Sadly, my engineer friend gave me little more information than I have repeated here. He had already downed more than his fair share of lager before announcing that this was why he always stuck to drinking lager and rarely touched a glass of water. “But surely...?” I began, and then thought better than to discuss the subject with him any further.
If you ‘Google’ estrogen (or oestrogen) you will quickly discover the definition that “Estrogen is the main sex hormone in women and is essential to the menstrual cycle.” This is lovely for the ladies, I am sure, but I am not sure that we should be drinking the stuff in our ‘Café con Leché’. Indeed, can you imagine placing an order at the bar for a “Double Scotch and Estrogen”? Ah, you already have.
Returning to Firgas bottled sparkling water. It is a lovely refreshing drink and I am reassured that it is sold in glass bottles. Cheers!
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© Barrie Mahoney 2021
From 'Letters from the Atlantic' by Barrie Mahoney