Friday, January 23, 2009

Repost: a year later, I still think all these things

I've discovered some things.

* A flask (in N.America, a "thermos") makes a much better tea pot than a tea pot.

* Milk from a glass pint bottle tastes better than milk from a carton or plastic bottle.

* Central heating is overrated. Our mothers were right when we were kids and wanted to turn the heat up. Put a sweater on.

* That in all the years since leaving England when the smell of tar or pitch would bring back the memory of Manchester, what I was remembering was the smell of coal fires.

* That there are different kinds of crows and the differences are not difficult to learn. The rule is that if you see two together, they're rooks. There are a lot of rooks in rural England.

* That tawny owls have two different calls at night. The female makes a kind of loud sustained squeek. This is answered by the male who gives a deep, low-pitched "Whhooo hoo" that is much more difficult to hear unless you are standing quite close.

* That oak trees are very messy trees and drop large parts of themselves on the ground all the time. Dead oak branches, although rather heavy to carry home, make excellent firewood.

* That rosehips have no pectin in them and if you want to make them in to jam or jelly, you have to add crab apples, or all you will get is rosehip syrup.

* That rosehip syrup is no bad thing.

* That there has been so much manufacturing in the last 250 years, that there is virtually no need to buy new things. If everyone in this country were to give to a needy neigbour or a church charity all the bits and pieces of furniture, household goods and clothes and other permanent things they are not using, every man woman and child in this country would be amply provided for.

The above suggestion would ruin the economy.

Which, in turn, and after a period of adjustment that would doubtless involve violence, social and political upheaval and all sorts of unpleasantness, would result in the end in people being much happier.

(I intend, as much as it is possible, to live as though this had already happened. Except for the internet, which I think would be one of the first things to go in the event of the previously mentioned upheavals.)

* That a solution to the problem of rubbish disposal, which is a subject much in the minds of Britons apparently, who are forced by a multitude of laws to support an absurdly and increasingly arcane system of "recycling" (enforced by fines), is to re-instate "home economics" as a major part of the school curriculum and teach young women the lost arts of cooking and household management. They would be able to cook real food that did not come out of a box or take-away place. They would be able to make and mend their own clothes, which would release them from slavery to fashions.

It would also result in them having more useful occupation than shopping, "texting", binge drinking and buying pre-packaged foods. They would be rendered suitable for marriage and be immune to much of the advertising enticements that hold so many of them in the thrall of "body-image" insecurity. It would also release them from the mental slavery of "modern mores" and feminism.

It would also make men happier.

This would also ruin the economy. (See note above re: "economy-ruining a good thing in the long run.")

* That spending an hour every evening staring blankly into the fire is a much more useful and beneficial occupation than spending the same amount of time staring blankly into the television. In the former occupation it is possible to have Thoughts. With the latter, it is possible only to be exhausted and rendered irritable and anxious.

* That Stephen Fry is much more likely to become a real Catholic than is Tony Blair.

* That London is much better appreciated from a picture books, say.

* That deep in the heart of many British people is a great longing for the Way Things Were but have been trained at the same time to be superficialy disdainful of the way of life they remember their parents living (no telly. no central heating. no microwaves. no free sex. no free abortion!).

* That we have come to the down slope in the manufacture-and-consume economy. We make too much stuff. We buy too much stuff. We throw away too much stuff. And the stuff we make, buy and throw away isn't worth the effort. I was taken yesterday to a place that sells "architectural antiques": antique furniture, fittings, fireplaces, apothecary bottles, flat irons, sinks, door knobs, saddles, doors, gothic marble altar pieces, copper kettles, valves, telephones, sofas, and on and on...every bit of it was more durable, more beautiful, more useful and lasting and just plain better than anything that has been made in the last fifty years. When a society starts looking at the stuff it is making (and throwing away three weeks later) and being forced to admit that not only were the things their grandfathers made better, but that they no longer knew how to make them, things are on the down slide.

* That there is no way for a woman to look good wearing jeans.


MikeinFL said...

Do It Yourself (With Some Help From the Archive), a list of some of the 'videos, podcasts, and texts that offer easy how-to advice on everything from knitting to brewing beer' at the Internet Archive.

Steve said...

You know, as pertains to manufacturing, it's no accident. "Planned Obsolescence" is one of those beautiful concepts pioneered by corporate America. Make things that last a while, but not too long, and help expedite their departure by making the NEW shiny things more sexy through advertising.

Rinse. Repeat.

In the olden days, they made things to last because while they were less educated, they weren't yet unfathomably stupid.

Anonymous said...

Still can't agree with you on the last point.

Steve said...

Of course I'm generalizing, but the access to higher education was clearly not available with anything like the ubiquity we see today.

Many people were what we'd consider blue-collar today - craftsmen, workers of trades, etc.

You can easily make an argument that the quality of education today is really sub-par compared to what it was back then. On the same token, though, you have to address how many people got that much of an education at all in those days.

And by those days, I'm speaking of early 20th century and before. Prior to the sort of Mass-scale industrialization we saw in manufacturing that began refining our ability to produce utter crap.

Anonymous said...

One of the finest blog posts on the Internet! Nice to see it posted again.