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The water of life

Opinion Piece

A dehydrated man was staggering along Midway Beach, wondering where the nearest oasis was located, or failing that, a mirage full of refreshing waterfalls. Amazingly, he chanced upon a television camera crew filming a programme called Celebrity Sandcastles.

Seeing the wanderer's parched state, the assistant director offered him a drink from his own canteen. When the man hesitated, the script consultant asked him why.

“I'm not convinced it's safe to drink water nowadays,” came the dry-throated reply. “I've heard some people get sick when they do.”

Julie, the makeup girl, paled beneath her tanning-salon suntan. “That may be true of one in a million,” she told him, “but if you don't have a couple of sips, there's a chance you may die”.

“Hydrate, dessicate, evaporate,” mumbled the cracked lips. “Fancy scientific mumbo jumbo.”

The director lent his considerable weight (think Orson Welles) to the argument. “This water,” he informed the reluctant imbiber, “is from a pure spring in Oxford, England. Millions have partaken of it without ill effects. It's distributed all over the world.”

“Water,” chimed in a Sandcastle celebrity (whose complexion suggested he never drank it neat) “has saved millions of travellers' lives over the millennia.” He paused to sip some water of life from his crystal tumbler, enabling the location cuisine assistant (the gofer) to pipe up.

“Water is what keeps our environment green, sir,” he squeaked, causing the stranger to look quizzically at the surrounding beach. Spotting the film clapperboard, his weather-beaten face enjoyed a moment of triumph: “Celebrity Sandcastles?” he scoffed. “You're building castles in the air!” The scriptwriter had never heard the phrase before, and scribbled a note for later.

“We're making a reality show here, not a drama,” protested the director unconvincingly, encircled as he was by fading stars trying to rescue their careers by building on sand. “And the reality is that you're endangering your health by ignoring our advice. What if everyone in the world behaved like you? Won't you listen to reason? To logic? To statistics?”

“Oh, you can prove anything using logic and statistics,” declared the overheated wayfarer. “And I would never accept life lessons from a bunch of strangers building sandcastles on a beach, even if my life depended on it.”

The director cast an exasperated glance at the scriptwriter, who was busy scribbling again. Perhaps they were all characters in a drama after all.

David Aitken