Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We will find it, we will bind it, we will stick it with glue, glue, glue

I didn’t go to Seedy Saturday. I was haunted by last year’s debacle, when Grange Girl arrived a married woman and left arm-in-arm with my Uncle Adultery, an application form for his dating agency tucked into her Bag for Life. She claims to be considerably happier since freed from the yoke of patriarchy, and perkily recounted all the seedy stuff I’d missed. I faded out to the sound of ‘homemade chutney’ and ‘insect homes’, and only regained consciousness when she mentioned Marguerite Patten.

Lucky I wasn’t there. I would have found it hard not to question Marguerite resentfully about her cashew nut risotto. My mother was so strangely enamoured of it, we ate nothing else during the long summer of ’76.

‘She was terrific’, said Grangey sternly. ‘She talked about the return of make do and mend.’

This phrase sends chills down my brand new cardigan. Make do and mend is dusters, fashioned from gaffer-taped Y-fronts, and home-crocheted swimming costumes that sag embarrassingly when one is thirteen and trying to impress boys at Pontin’s Holiday camp. Still, that was years ago, not that it happened (cough), so I dutifully examine the advice from Lewes District Council.

A cheeky little intro implies that flooding is entirely carbon dioxide’s fault rather than, say, casually giving planners the nod to build on flood plains, but it also offers a homespun list. I already store leftover food in the fridge – best place for it, I find – but I’d never thought of using empty bottles for homemade wine. I lost a few days on that project, and resurfaced woozily to see what else I could m d and m.

Some of the ideas seemed old-fashioned – well, all of it, obviously - but some were more recently dated, such as doctors wanting toys for their waiting rooms. Err, not the swine-flu isolation zones I’ve been in lately, which are barer than the nap on a Y-front duster. Other suggestions lacked the courage of their convictions. Turning jars into candle holders seemed reasonable, if a trifle suggestive of nothing much going on in one’s life, but the instructions concluded: ‘decorate with glass paints which can be purchased quite easily.’ Why only quite easily? Either it’s easy: you hand over money in a shop and they give you paints; or it’s difficult, e.g. there’s a worldwide shortage. And if we are making do, should we really be purchasing expensive paints? We might as well buy ready-made candle holders and use the free time to drink homemade parsnip wine.

Talking of which, apparently Marguerite described how wartime kids were fobbed off with mashed parsnip sandwiches, masquerading as banana. Given the price of Waitrose’s fair-trade bananas versus the free parsnips Grangey keeps forcing on me from her veg box, I gave this a try. Thing One spat it out, and Thing Two sobbed for rice cakes. Still, waste not want not, eh? I can scrape it off the bread and use it for my next batch of Chateau Parsnip.

Beth Miller, 10th February 2010. Published in


  1. Gosh, the Duma have been busy, haven't they? I particularly like the idea of storing leftovers in plastic containers. These work a bit like clingfilm and foil, enabling you to hang on to food even longer before binning it. I'm sure we could come up with a few more suggestions to add to their (not very) exhaustive list. How about unravelling unwanted Christmas jumpers and re-knitting them into Bonfire Society jerseys? Or thrusting supermarket carrier bags into the hands of dog owners who curiously seem to have come out without a pooper-scooper? Or we could even recycle council staff into their component elements, the way I have with Stephen Fry's Twitter followers:

    Sorry. Blatant self-publicity. I'll go now...

  2. Very good Chris. I love the maths re all Stephen's tweets. No wonder he looks so harassed these days, poor chap.

    But yes, recycling council staff; it has a lot of recommend it. I'm sure they'd enjoy the novel feeling of being of some use.