Thursday, August 30, 2007

Salute to Heath Robinson

What do you do if your computer stops working? Do you a) try to fix it yourself, or b) call the helpdesk immediately? What would you do if the handle broke on your dishwasher? Would you a) fix it with gaffer tape or b) buy a new one? How about if you needed to strain 5 gallons of damson wine? Would you a) go to the homebrew shop in the morning and buy a ready made wine straining apparatus, or b) rig something up with a plastic sieve, a kitchen chair and a few cast iron pans utilised as counterweights? If you answered a, a, b you have what it takes to be self sufficient.

The term "self sufficiency" has all sorts of nuances that go beyond "people who grow all their own food". One meaning of "self sufficiency" is "capable, practical, skilled at day-to-day problem solving". My grandfathers both had it in spades, and both my parents had it to some extent, especially my mum. She would have a go at anything. She was especially skilled at working with textiles and ceramics, but she'd try her hand at bricklaying (and also demolition), plastering, woodwork, sculpture, plumbing, carpet laying, you name it. It's a quality that's increasingly rare. People would prefer to call a tradesman to do their painting and decorating. Mum wouldn't have dreamed of it and neither would I.

On the other hand she was a fan of things like the Betterware catalogues. I hate those. A special gizmo for cleaning down the back of the fridge? A doohicky that cracks eggs? Something to store your dishcloth on when it's not in use? I can solve those problems myself without paying someone £10 for a bit of plastic to do it for me. Because I'm self sufficient.

12 comments:

donna said...

I'm so with you on the betterware stuff! i cant get over how completely unnecessary the stuff is in there. my mother- in -law is quite a fan, and she's passed on a couple of weird looking plastic items to clutter my drawers- before i pass them on to a car boot sale or charity shop. may be she's trying to comment on the standard of my house work!!!

TopVeg said...

Pleased to find another Heath Robinson. My jacket pockets are always bulging with pieces of old string! You never know when they will come in handy!

TopVeg

Hedgewizard said...

Bravo, although I draw the line at electricity. Our old next door neighbour was always ready to help and a dab hand at Heath Robinson repairs, and as a consequence we found several dangerous electrical bodges in our place; the new owners of next door are only now becoming aware of what a deathtrap they're living in!

Steph in Roker said...

You've hit the nail on the head there, describing self-sufficiency. What's the opposite of self sufficiency? Total reliance on technology and the skills of others I suppose.
Like you said yonks ago, you got a buzz out of knowing how to make soap. You don't even need to know how to print your own money if you can provide for yourself and barter with neighbours

Jo said...

Our dishwasher (used only when full) door handle broke earlier in the summer. It works fine now that the door is held closed by the stretchy wire that once held up somebody's net curtain. It is not even terribly noticeable either.

I've read your questions and am feeling good because according to your definition - we're self-sufficient. Well, we're trying anyway - but thank you for that little warm glow this evening. Tomorrow we'll remember how far we still have to go but this evening feels good.

chile said...

I had a friend years ago that wrote a whole article on this issue. He asked whether you were a "kleenex" or a "handkerchief".

Nikki said...

Totally hear ya - I don't get those catalogues with unnecessary things! I loved making my recycled bamboo fence and chicken house with what was a available for the most part. DH was skeptical, but it's still going great haha. I love all things hand made and it's so much more than just having made the end product, but the process of myself having gone through it.

Yellow said...

I made a jam fruit-strainer from one of my hubby's old sweatshirts and a broom handle over a chair. I was so proud of it. I daren't look on the likes of Lakeland to see how much a bought one is.

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