Thursday, December 06, 2007

Nothing ever wears out

The 1940's and most of the 1950's spawned a well worn phrase in the English language, "make do and mend" which was ingrained into our parents minds as indelibly as their DNA, basically meaning that nothing ever wore out, nothing was ever thrown away, nothing ever reached the end of its life, everything could be re-used.

Its a lifestyle that we are slowly rediscovering as the need to recycle comes more to the fore, our parents recycled as a matter of course because they had to, if something broke you didn't throw it away and buy another, it was almost against the law to throw things away.

And so people like our dad carried that creed right the way through their life, even when the UK economy boomed in the 1960's and manufactured goods filled the stores again, cheap credit brought white goods within the range of everyone's pocket and it was simply "old fashioned" to "make do and mend" - our dad simply could not part with anything and could not bear to see other people wasting stuff that could be re-used.

Sometime around the mid 1970's the gas cooker in our mums kitchen (for the kitchen was not our dads domain) was declared unsafe for public use, and she refused to cook in it as the gasman had told her it would kill someone, probably her, if it was ever used again.

Our dad was heartbroken at the thought of having to replace the gas cooker that was older than the house we were living in but if our mum harboured dreams of a brand new sparkling white gas cooker she was to be sadly mistaken - forced by the promise of instant death if the old one was used again he scoured the small classified adverts in the back of the newspaper until he found a trader in Harehills who sold second hand goods, cookers being a speciality.

Now some people might question the validity of a junk yard selling gas cookers, they might wonder whether or not the second (or maybe third) hand cooker that they were purchasing for a pittance from the junk yard man was actually safe and complied with regulations anymore, some people might also question the fact that the junk yard man seemed very willing to accept our old deadly cooker in part exchange, they might question why that should be and whether or not the junk yard man would be selling our old deadly cooker to someone else as soon as we had left his premises with our new second (or third) hand cooker.

But our dad did not ask any of these questions of himself, he simply looked at the price tag, and it was cheap, and this pleased him.

He brought the new second (or third) hand cooker home one evening and it was then that we realised that the top part of the cooker, the bit with the rings and the grill on it, was actually a separate entity to the bottom part with the oven in - he rang for Bob Beck.

Bob Beck was an old friend of his who was a qualified gas fitter, Bob turned up and immediately recognised the split configuration of a modern built-in oven designed for building into the new "kitchen units" that were becoming all the rage - he had to explain the concept several times to our dad, the idea that you should build the cooker into your kitchen units rather than have the cooker free-standing was an alien one and one that our dad struggled to comprehend - "why would you do that ?" was the only thing that sprung in his mind.

But he was cheered up by the fact that Bob mentioned that for £5 he had got himself a bargain as these split configuration cookers were very, very expensive to buy in the shops - obviously not so expensive to buy from junk yards though.

The cooker was installed in a stand-alone configuration, that is we stood the built-in oven bit on bricks on the floor and then we stood the grill and hob bit on top of it and we pretended that it was supposed to look like that and that it was really a free-standing cooker, and no-one ever questioned why our cooker looked like it had left the factory half-built with its pipes and workings still visible underneath the hob, nor did they ever get to see how the hob bit wobbled on top of the oven bit because we packed it out with blocks of wood from the garage and a brick or two.

If our mum was at all disappointed in her new second (or third) hand cooker then she never showed it and the cooker out-lived both of them, it only being disposed of when they had both departed this world and we had to clear the house out, we laughed and laughed when we dismantled it, a reminder of years gone by and the indomitable British spirit of "make do and mend".


grannymar said...

Gary I am unable to see the screen because the tears of laughter are blinding me!

Gary said...

Glad to hear it - I've struck a rich vein with my dads legendary tightness of wallet - more to come !