Saturday, 28 May 2011

The drinks break

One of many modern obsessions that have snuck up on the human race during Fantasy Bob's lifetime is hydration - so much so that even in lower league cricket there are mandatory drinks breaks.   When FB was growing up these did not feature, even in Test cricket, unless the thermometer had surged to some unimaginable height.   What was the exception is  now the rule. Even in conditions which see players wreathed in layers of sweater and which call for hot soup, cold drinks are taken.  There is in the records but one instance of common sense applying.  In the first Test between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1965 it was so cold that hot coffee was twice served to the batsmen.

In the hot countries (ie all countries other than Scotland) shaded carts, Gatorade trucks and all kinds of branded paraphenalia are driven into the middle.   The IPL renames drinks as the strategic time out and collects a sponsorship fee.  One might think there was a commercial motive associated with this.  But one impact of all this fluid intake that FB has noticed is that fielders leave the field more regularly to visit the toilet.

Fantasy Bob found himself musing on this issue during a recent strategic time out.  Whereas at one time he thought the high point of human culture had passed with the death of Beethoven in 1827, he is now more confident that humankind is still capable of progress.  For available on the market now is sparkling Ribena - or as the advertising hoardings put it Sparklicious Ribena.  Surely this is the acme of civilisation.

For an upstanding citizen of FB's generation, Ribena is one of these brand names that is mistily wrapped in nostalgia.  It was the commercial face of one of the first public health drives following the establishment of the NHS - vitamins.  Hydration was not an issue but vitamins were.  In the cause of vitamin C and vitamin D all children were doused in cod liver oil and orange juice - which, among other things, gave rise to one of the more scurrilous folk songs of the period. 

But Ribena (from the botanical name for the blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum) had first been launched in 1936. During the Second World War, other fruits rich in vitamin C became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the Government, and the yield of the nation's crop increased significantly. From 1942, almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup and distributed to the nation's children for free but without the Ribena brand name.  After the war the commercial brand took off marketed heavily on the Vitamin C content.  FB consumed copious amounts of it.

Another syrup drink is similarly doused in nostalgic mist.  Rosehip syrup was also an important source of vitamin C during the war.  Indeed children were paid for rosehips harvested in the autumn to be made into rosehip syrup by the company Delrosa in Wallsend.  For many years after the war, Delrosa brand Rose Hip Syrup was supplied through baby clinics throughout the UK and susequently heavily advertised commercially.  FB remembers it hot or cold as a special delight. Unlike Ribena, Delrosa rosehip syrup is no longer available in the UK and has not become sparklicious, although it appears to be stll going strong in a specialist niche the US and Australia.

The third drink that looms through this nostalgic mist had absolutely none of the redeeming health giving properties of Ribena or Delrosa - although it was their equal adn more in sugar content.  Creamola Foam was a drink and a chemistry set in one, it came in a small tin of colourful crystals which were dissolved in cold water to form a sweet, effervescent drink.  Non Scottish people can only imagine the wonders of this product.

Creamola Foam was manufactured in Glasgow and sold mainly in Scotland from the 1950s until NestlĂ© ended production in October 1998.  Boo to them - there have been various attempts at reviving it which have not met with success, despite the support of the Scottish Parliament which passed this motion in 2010:
"That the Parliament welcomes news of the launch of Creamola Fizz, the reincarnation of an old favourite fizzy soluble drink, known as Creamola Foam Crystals, that used to be a big treat for young and old alike; recalls that it was withdrawn by NestlĂ© in 1998; welcomes its imminent return under local Scottish ownership, and wishes the new producer, Alan McCandlish of Cardross, every success with the expected relaunch early this year to delight a whole new generation of Creamola Fizz lovers." 
Sadly, the real impact of these drinks on Scottish children was to destroy their tooth enamel; colds and flu were no less common than previously and with the radical improvement of diet from the 1960s on there were more and better sources of vitamins.  But Scotland's dental records are second to none in awfulness.

In the glory days of Delrosa and Ribena, drinks breaks did not happen, even in Test matches.  Nowadays our hydration obsessed world finds all manner of mystifying drinks available with bemusing claims as to their impacts. Lucozade was once a medical product prescribed to aid invalid recovery - now it promises all things to all athletes.  (Interestingly like Ribena it is a product of GlaxoSmithKline and made in the same site which originated teh blackcurrant product).  Isotonic, energy giving, tissue restoring, fatigue fighting, mental sharpening, countering lactic acid - all have replaced Vitamin C in importance.

But enough of spurious marketing claims.  FB thinks the Scottish Parliament was right - we need Creamola Foam back - it was sugar rich ie energy giving and had several salts to give it fizz ie isotonic.  It would be a splendid tipple for the drinks break in any class of cricket.

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