Make do and mend…

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Dig For Victory...I was born just after the end of WW2 where our mantra was “Make Do and Mend”.

Rationing did not end until 1953 and things were scarce.

I remember all string, brown paper, screws, wood and anything that was metal was placed in my grandfathers shed [so much of it that when the walls rotted and fell down some years later the roof remained standing].

All buttons were kept, jumpers unpicked and re-knitted for a smaller member of the family; usually me; and clothes were remodelled or cut down.

Clothes were always passed down to smaller children, old shoes were mended or when they were past that the leather was kept to mend other shoes – I remember my grandfather sitting on the back step doing this.

We grew a lot of our own food; we even had a grape vine over my swing.

If a member of the family died the contents of the house were shared among the family or given to a newly married couple.

As time went on the shortages eased and by the late 60’s we just threw away anything we did not want and bought something new.

I was married in 1970 and we moved into our own flat in a semi suburban village. Not long after this the local church started to collect newspaper to sell to a company making egg boxes. We put the newspaper on the front wall and the church picked it up. This was the first time I had heard of recycling.

A couple of years and 2 children later we moved into a house in the same village and I started to grow some veg. Every bush or tree I planted gave fruit and nuts.

Time went on and we recycled aluminium cans and I got two allotments and we and my parents became virtually self sufficient in organic fruit and veg.

Gluts were put in the freezer, I made jam and chutney and we gave away anything that was left.

We started to try to make bread; the first loaf was so heavy even the birds would not eat it.

In the very early nineties the council used this area to trial recycling collections and real recycling was born giving us the knowledge of what we were doing to our planet.

Now our council collect from the kerb side. We are proud that Rochford is the number one council in the national recycling league table.

We recycle our batteries at the local supermarket [we used to take them to France but now we can recycle them at home], Brita water filters in Argos and any electrical goods etc go to the tip for recycling…

We have now given up the allotments as the children have moved away and my parents are not with us any more. We can no longer climb the trees to get the fruit so the trees have become communal fruit trees: when I have taken what fruit I want the neighbours arrive with ladders and pick the rest. Waste not Want not!

I grow a lot of veg in the garden. We make our own beer, jam, chutney, bread, cakes and yoghurt; we cannot buy convenience food as I have food allergies.

I knit all ours and our grandchildren’s jumpers. I make patchwork quilts from recycled material and we always use our own bags; you cannot get carrier bags in France where we holiday.

We Freecycle and always us our belongings until they are worn out before we replace them. Our TV is 25 years old!

We try to use eco-friendly household cleaners. I wash out and reuse all plastic bags. We compost all kitchen and garden waste along with shredded paper.

We use our car to get our weekly shop, to see our youngest daughter who is an hour’s drive away and once a year we go to Leeds to see my other daughter and for holidays. The rest of the time we use the bus.

Now for my big admission! We spend 3 months of every year in France towing a caravan. It is about 1500 miles round trip and we do this twice; spring and autumn. But when we are down there we use the car very little.

We can walk to supermarkets and the market. We buy local fresh food as much as possible. We forage all the walnuts and lime flowers we can, pick and bottle the cherries from the caravan site [with permission], we get our wine in bulk [Vrac] and bring home enough for the rest of the year in 10 litre containers [these are 20 years old] and bottle it in our recycled wine bottles. Most of these are also 20 years old.

My challenge for this year is to look at recycling and see how much I can reduce in the first place. We have signed up to the mail preference service and the post office scheme to do away with the advertising material and I have put a notice on the front door.

Any catalogues I get I e-mail the company and ask them not to send any more. I have signed up for e-bank statements and I’m trying to use my own containers where possible.

We get a carrier bag full of rubbish per fortnight and empty the carrier bag into the dustbin then reuse the bag if it is clean but I would like to get this down too.

I have one small ask of readers, please use nature as much as possible!

  • Keep windows and light bulbs clean so as to get as much light and heat from the sun and the light bulbs as possible.
  • Draw your curtains when you have to turn on the light in winter so as to keep in the heat but remember to open all south facing window curtains in the morning to get any free heat.
  • In the summer close curtains during the day to keep out the heat and buy a fan not air conditioning.

This helps to keep the energy bills down.

Chris lives in Essex and is a 63 year old mother of 2 with 4 grandsons and 1 granddaughter who range from 18 to five.
She was a fitness instructor for 25 years and a competing body builder in her 30’s. Now she is retired and looks after her husband who has Parkinsons. Chris is intrested in all things green and enjoy most crafts.


  1. Sal on August 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

    What a lovely article. I felt myself slow down and take a breath as I read it because it seems the pace of life was so different then. I’m not saying it was easy, but just less frenetic than all the computers, smartphones and ipods we are plugged into now. How lovely to be plugged into the seasons and the soil instead…

  2. Liz Burton on August 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Really enjoyed reading this post. Food for thought.

  3. Aly on August 15, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I’m looking more into re-purposing clothes.We recycle as much as we can, make use of the local fruit and box scheme, forage and home cook and bake (I’m a big slow cooker fan).I’m learning different crafts so I make and mend more.Sharing this 🙂

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