What Can We Do?
Considering Today and Tomorrow and this time Yesterday too.
With curious crowns adorning the letter box and our revered red phone box, the Jubilee celebrations gain prominence. Inevitably those of a certain age look back and several Forum members can reflect on the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. We are normally a forward thinking group, keen to do our bit for the environment, so is there anything we can learn from those memories about securing a more climate friendly future? Most of our memories are of a time that was considerably less comfortable and sometimes just as bad for the environment but hidden amongst the memories are some useful tips.
Dominant in my memory of the 1950s is the call of the rag and bone man. His voice rang out sonorously and effortlessly in a 4 note repetitious call, but what he called I could never work out. What he did was take away unwanted and broken items, scrap metal, wood, stones and bricks and sometimes lost items than had ‘fallen off’ something or somewhere. It was a serious recycling service. Single bricks of use to no one gradually became a neat pile in his yard that was enough to build a garden wall. The scrap metal went to be melted down and lengths of wood are always handy. When I moved to Wenvoe, a few years ago, there was that call again, amplified now by electronic means, still totally incomprehensible but nevertheless quite clearly the all-purpose recycling centre.
Memories of washing day seem to loom large. All the week’s washing was done on one day, either by hand or in a tub washing machine.
“My Mum wrung out washing by hand and had a grip that would beat most navvies. Clothes drying was weather assisted on a double washing line with a fixed low line and a high line that pulled up to the top of the posts and into the wind. When she had her first ‘washing machine’ it had an electric mangle which she always complained never got enough water out.” GS2
“During most of the Winter, the washing line had frozen clothes on them. In honesty, I don’t know how my mum managed to dry clothes every week in those days.” DP
These days we use tumble dryers which gobble up electricity and money and fewer people have that high washing line in the garden to make use of the sun and wind which come for free. Clothes dried in a breeze are easier to iron too, making an extra saving on electricity, something to note for today. I think I’ll contact Monty Don and ask Gardeners’ World to feature how to fit a washing line into modern gardens. It may do as much good for the environment as their campaign for peat free compost.
“I can remember my mother’s snort of derision during an early East Enders episode. The characters were bemoaning their poverty. She said ‘Well, if they stopped buying kitchen rolls that would save a pretty penny. What’s wrong with an old rag for those jobs? (We used to have rag bag of them) Rinse them out, dry them off and you can use them again!’ I have to say that when a leading manufacturer of kitchen rolls advertised their product as ‘rinse-able and strong as bull’ I recalled her with a wry smile.” GS1
Ice on the inside of windows, layers and layers of clothes, getting dressed and undressed under the bedclothes … there were lots more memories and maybe more lessons for another day