I was looking through an old cookery book this afternoon, searching for new cheap meals. Ingredients that were once seen as cheap are now expensive. It got me thinking about how habits have changed over the last 60 odd years and I haven’t really noticed, unless I look back. All of a sudden people are having to bring some of those habits back quickly to cope financially. I can’t pin point when we became such a throw away society, and started wasting so many resources, even though I have lived through it. Throughout my life I have probably done it less than most through having to be frugal, but have not really done this consciously until the last 12 years. Most of my furniture was second hand, our clothes and toys, and everything was recycled or upcycled.
The way we have used resources over the last 40 years has really changed for the worst. It wasn’t unusual for whole families to share one lot of bath water once a week, when I was a child, when now some people have showers twice a day. I was called ‘dirty’ in one group as I said I didn’t have a bath or shower each day, but had a ‘bird bath’ or strip wash in the sink instead, to save money. I often got in the bath after my kids too. I can remember the first time I had a bath that was more than a few inches deep. Another WRN ran it for me after I had got soaked on guard duty. I was 19 years old and was totally shocked. I almost didn’t dare get into it, but boy did I enjoy it.
As kids we thought nothing of spending hours collecting empty glass pop bottles in exchange for entry to Saturday morning cinema, but now most drinks are in plastic bottles that are thrown into landfill. We also thought people were rich if they had one car, or one TV, when now most households have multiple. I can remember about 20 of us crammed into the sitting room of some one down my Gran’s Street to watch Princess Anne’s wedding as she had a colour telly.
Not every household had a phone, never mind one per person, including children, and they didn’t need charging up then. We all shared a party line and you could listen to your neighbours conversations. From being little I walked over a mile to school in all weathers through fields filled with wild flowers and insects, where now housing estates exist with massive cars that ferry kids down the road, multiple times, or to the shop around the corner. Those children will never experience the freedom I had.
I have moaned recently as my breaks away have been curtailed by petrol prices, but holidays were often once a year in the 70s, at a seaside spot a couple of hours away rather than a plane ride away. We also ate local produce seasonally. It was frowned on to eat between meals, and we ate offal and the cheaper cuts of meat that are now thrown away. Butchers often can’t sell them now.Take aways meals were limited for special occasions, or if we were lucky, fish and chips at Gran’s on a Friday during the holidays. Furniture and clothes were looked after and passed down and rarely discarded before they were broken or worn out, and you treasured your possessions rather than them going out of fashion to be taken to the skip. You saved up to buy new things and you were seen as struggling if you had to buy it on credit.
Nowadays you would be classed as deprived and living in poverty if you lived like that, but my Dad had a good job and that was the norm then. You thought nothing of it. Resources were expensive and so you appreciated them. Our expectations have changed and we expect a more comfortable, easy life for little cost now. Unfortunately this is catching up with us at the moment, and impacting on the earth so much that the real cost will be that our children and grand children will be very uncomfortable in years to come.
Those were not always the good old days as many of us older bunch seem to see them looking back. I can remember having ice on the inside of the windows and being so cold that I got red marks on my legs sitting so close to the fire. My life is a lot more comfortable now, and I appreciate that, but I did find joy easily in the simple things, as I do now. You didn’t take anything for granted and improvised. Surely there must be a compromise.
Some say that this economic crisis is a reset and a plan to make us live differently. I don’t know if that is true or not. I know it does take more time and effort to live more sustainably, look after the planet and waste less, and some days I do better than others. I do it by choice but I don’t know if many others would if not forced by stretched finances. I want to be able to look my grand kids in the eye and say I tried. I want them to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature and not the wrath. I want them to have a future and so I see some of these changes as positive. I don’t agree with the rapid way they are being forced though. I know from working with people that positive change only happens when people are committed, and part of the decision making process, and it doesn’t feel like that is happening at the moment.