I love living in London. It makes me very happy. If pushed, the one thing I can think of that lets London down is the water. It's hard. I was used to soft water before moving to London. I was used to soap that lathered with ease and a kettle that wasn't in permanent need of descaling.
I hate limescale. If you've only ever lived with soft water you probably don't know what I'm going on about. If you've only ever lived with hard water you probably just accept limescale as a fact of life and struggle to see how I can actually hate it. But I do. And I reckon anyone who's lived with soft water and then moved to a hard water area probably does too.
There are products that help to get rid of it... but they only ever bring temporary relief. A day or two later and limescale will have crept back to your showerhead, your taps and anywhere else that water reaches. Got a glass shower door? In a hard water area it'll never, ever, ever look anywhere near as nice as it did when it was new. Once water hits it, no matter what you do to try and prevent it, hard water will leave its mark. You show me a Londoner with a sparkling clean, limescale free bathroom and I'll show you someone who doesn't wash. Their taps might be glistening, but believe me, so are their armpits.
It strikes me that limescale creates its own special economy. I assume people in soft water areas aren't bombarded with adverts for Calgon. Well there's no reason why you should be spared the annoying jingle. Go on. Watch this.
Now try and sleep at night without hearing that choir singing the "Washing machines live longer with Calgon!" jingle every time you close your eyes. Go on. Try.
I hate limescale so much that I recently thought about buying a Scale-Beater II. It is - as far as I can make out - a small magnet that clips on to your cold water inlet pipe. It gets rid of your limescale by... hang on, I have no understanding of quite how a magnet can get rid of limescale. Nope. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. But that's how much I hate limescale - enough to consider a completely irrational purchase. I might as well buy a magic incantation or a limescale voodoo doll... and I'd consider those too.
A quick google reveals that the scale-beater II is (or has been) a Reader Offer for The Times, The Independent, The Daily Mirror and loads of local newspapers too. I could go on about how these organisations should be embarrassed to associate themselves with a product as shonky as this but I won't bother with that today. Instead I'll say this: if putting a small magnet on my cold water inlet pipe removes the limescale why don't the water companies put a massive big magnet on their cold water outlet pipe and just soften the water for all of us instead of pumping us this calcium rich, washing machine destroying, iron killing, bathroom defacing, kitchen spoiling rot.
I don't really know how rational the whole anti-limescale economy is. It's certainly motivated in large part by fear. Ads like the Calgon one above work by persuading us to spend a few quid protecting our washing machines - something that costs hundreds of pounds to buy. I've never actually met anyone who's had to replace their washing machine because of limescale build up but I'm persuaded by this culture of fear that it happens and as a consequence I add stuff to my wash to prevent it. (Not necessarily Calgon, mind you, I tend to just use some soda crystals.)
If limescale is as damaging as it is unsightly then it seems to me those of us living in hard water areas are caught out financially one one way or another. If we don't spend money on products designed to fight the stuff - there's a never ending list of special gels, powders and liquids on the market all aimed at your loo, your kettle, your shower, your dishwasher, your washing machine, your taps, your iron etc etc - then we surely end up spending our money on new washing machines, new irons, new kettles and so on. Those of you who live in soft water areas don't just have nicer looking plumbing (missus!) you also have a few extra quid in your pockets that we hard-water victims don't have.
If there was a way of softening the nation's water it's not only limescale that would be wiped out. This whole economy of fear would be wiped out too. Sales of kettles would fall. Washing machines would last longer with or without Calgon. Calgon itself would be gone.
A year ago I'd have been in favour of this. A year ago we weren’t in a credit crunch. We can’t let the economy slow down any more than it has already. As I type this, below-average-looking-women-with-above-average-singing-voices is Britain's only growth industry. The government goes out of its way to protect the car industry. Incentives are discussed to stimulate growth in the new car market... well why shouldn't washing machine retailers be given the same attention? And what about plumbers?
I might hate limescale but I'm prepared to take one for the team here. I have a plan to help rescue us from financial doom and gloom. It’s simple. We need Hard Water For All.
As far as I can tell, in Britain the soft-water areas are Devon and Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and parts of North West England. Well they've had it too good for too long. Let's pump calcium and magnesium into the water supply for the whole country! Scotland: your whisky might taste better with soft water but your plumbers need the work! Come on Devon and Cornwall, your soap might lather up with ease but you're simply not buying as many washing machines per lifetime as the rest of us. Come on Wales, your bathrooms might have effortless sparkle, but if each of you bought just one bottle of descaler that’d pump some much needed cash back into the system. Come on Manchester… your water’s soft. It wears a coat in winter and likes doilies. You can’t be happy with that.
Come on Britain. We need to spend our way out of trouble and if the only way to do it is to make everyone’s lives more limescaley, I for one am prepared to go with it. And if it works for us there's no reason why this can't be rolled out across the globe. After all, the recession is global.
In Australia, Adelaide has hard water... but Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra have it soft. Time for that to end. The water in Canada is generally quite hard - except on the West Coast. 85% of American homes have hard water - but that still means there are 15% of homes that can join this new economy with just a little chemical adulteration to the water supply.
Come on world. Let's make our water - and our economy - harder together.