Sunday, May 23, 2010

Short thrift

1943 UK Government Booklet - Pants copy

I always seem to be looking for something which either means I have too much stuff or not enough storage space, or both. I'm plumping for both. I went looking for my copy of the British Government wartime Make Do And Mend booklet. Not because I don't know how to make do and/or mend, but because I thought some of the tips might make for an amusing post as I'm sure none of them say 'if it breaks, rush out and buy another as nothing is designed to last more than a year these days'.

I couldn't find it but did come across a huge box of postcards which I spent an amusing day reminiscing over in between corrections to my book, reading other people's drafts and fiddling with some illustrations I'm meant to be getting on with. It would help if I had bookshelves but every time I save up enough money to buy some, I get a bill for water or council rates or some such unavoidable annoyance. And don't anyone be emailing me that I can make bookshelves out of breeze blocks and recycled timber. I'm desperately trying to outgrow my adolescent decorating habits. I have a dishwasher now you know!

Happily, the internet, while unable to magic up elusive bookshelves for me, was able to provide the missing parsimony content from the book, whose cover I long ago scanned thinking I would one day write this very post. What-ho! John Lewis of wedding list fame has produced an updated version. It contains such useful poverty-busting strategies as,

“Don’t try to rub away lily pollen that has brushed onto clothing as it will leave a stain. Instead, dab very gently with sticky tape to lift the powder away, then position in direct sunlight for a few hours. More often than not, the pollen will completely disappear."

Lily pollen? Just so we're clear. You spend a tenner on a bunch of lilies that have been flown in from Kenya where, incidentally their cultivation diverts scarce resources away from food production, causing immense hardship, just so you can brush up against some pollen? You will then have to go out and buy some Scotch tape. You already have some but you can never find Scotch tape when you need it. And then you have to find a few hours of direct sunlight? What, in Britain? You'll just have to get straight on a plane to Tenerife. Doesn't sound very economical to me.

Then there's the one about making sure that the cooling elements at the back of your fridge are free of dust. It doesn't say anything about how you gain access to these as fridges are mostly fitted into kitchen units with their backs to the wall, so to speak. Once you've succeeded in levering your fridge out, you may be none too pleased to find that although you've established that the elements have not accumulated any dust, the entire contents of the fridge have fallen over and you have a mulligatawny, chicken parmigiana and gooseberry fool all blended together in a delicious one-course trifle for tea.

You may also be interested to know that you can shine your shoes with banana skins or potato. As you may know, bananas are not grown in England so need to be shipped from the Caribbean. You may also know that they have other purposes besides shoe cleaning. Just as well as it would be an awfully expensive way to maintain your shoe leather. Here in Australia, bananas are cheap at the moment but have been as high as $9 a kilo. Potatoes don't come cheap either. I suppose if you grow your own, you might just scrape in at less than a tin of Nugget once you minus the cost of watering.

Well, I wasn't getting much joy here, so I followed a few links and landed on this thread from the BBC's Today Programme. I hope you won't find the picture too disturbing. Quite what savings can accrue from getting a needle to threaten a baby's bottom with a twig escaped me. However, there are some great readers' tips here.

I rather like this from Craig Hughes in Wigan,

"Take the batteries out of your alarm clock when you go to work, and also turn off your windscreen wipers when you go under a bridge."

Now that's what I call microeconomics.

Syed Saquib Saeed from Karachi, Pakistan contributed this timeless gem,

"Red fountain pen ink can be removed from clothes by rubbing in yoghurt and the rinsing it with water."

How useful is that? Unfortunately he doesn't say what flavour yoghurt he uses. Possibly not blackberry.

Mr Saeed also contributes this,

"Looking at the moon for a few minutes every night gets rid of bags and dark patches below the eyes."

I'm definitely trying that. I'm afraid my days of smearing on Clarins eye gel are well and truly behind me.

And then - paydirt. There's a whole website devoted to mending and making do except they don't call it that because, as Clare Flynn from Chiswick, London explains, the name implies 'sacrifice'. Perish the thought. Anyway their website is called It's full of very useful advice like how to make cushions and crème brûlée - stuff you'd never get anywhere else and so commendably spartan.

Well, I think I've had enough improving activity for one day. I might go off and watch Dr Who and stare at the moon for a bit. And I still haven't found what I was looking for...