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Backwords: Farewell To the Empress

…Way back in my childhood, one of my father’s basic philosophies was that virtually nothing should be thrown away…

In a wasteful age Mike Shaw follows his father’s thrifty precepts..

They don’t make anything to last these days, do they?

Well, hardly anything. Presumably, that’s why we’re called a throwaway society.

Take our old washing machine, for instance. It’s just gone to the scrap man after more than 30 years’ trouble-free service.

Empress was a fitting title for the Hotpoint grand old lady who graced our wash cellar for so long.

In the end, it was nothing more than old age that told us her days were numbered.

So she was laid to rest, but not before a smart young salesman astonished us by saying the average lifespan of a new washer these days is a paltry five years.

We were equally amazed when the gasman came to replace a fire which had done its stuff for 20 years or so.

On his way through the kitchen into the dining room he happened to glance at our gas cooker, another veteran of the 1970s.

“Obsolete,’’ he muttered, deeply wounding those of us who hold it in such deep affection.

So long as the oven turns out Yorkshire puddings of universal popularity, I see no reason for changing it. So the gasman’s verdict has been ignored.

Way back in my childhood, one of my father’s basic philosophies was that virtually nothing should be thrown away.

“Keep summat long enough and it’s baand to cum in,’’ was his motto. And do you know, he was usually right.

An old overcoat became an extremely efficient draught-excluder for the greenhouse when winter exerted its icy grip.

A chest of drawers, declared redundant by mother because of its innumerable heat stains and shabby appearance, was turned into an admirable storage unit for wood-working tools in the shed.

And a bucket, no longer usable for water because of the holes in the bottom, proved a quite useful cover to pop over the rhubarb when it needed forcing.

When I wanted a hurry cart it was dad who came up trumps with pram wheels, bits of wood and essential accessories such as nuts and bolts.

An impulsive yearning for a kite - “no not next week, but today, while it’s nice and windy’’ - also tested his squirrel-like store of preserved items.

But in no time at all he produced bits and pieces of garden cane, brown paper, newspaper and string…and the kite was flying, albeit erratically, long before the breeze could die down.

Dad must have been one of the same breed as the man from whom we bought our present home many years ago.

Neatly sunk into a door jamb of the kitchen is a little round wind-up clock taken from a car’s dashboard, probably more than 60 years ago.

It does need winding up at least once a week and it might lose the odd minute or so.

But I don’t care what my dear wife says. While I’m still around it will be there for as long as it keeps ticking. A symbol of the bygone days when things were really made to last.


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