Built to last

Built to last

20110321 Jacket chewing 150x150 Built to last

Today is my parents’ 36th wedding anniversary and a quick Google search reveals that the customary anniversary gift is bone china.  Congratulations Mr and Mrs Suckerbag!  It’s one heck of an achievement and a demonstration of commitment and loyalty.  In this age of “me, me, me!”, mañana and marital breakdown, this is becoming less and less common.  Did you like the alliteration?  Incidentally 1975 is also the year Hosni Mubarak became Vice President of Egypt.  Factoid of the day.

 Today is also the first day of spring though the vernal equinox was yesterday, apparently.  I for one have been looking forward to this day for a long, long time.  Still, it’s early days yet and cold snaps can still pounce on us, but the daffodils are out, the trees are blossoming and the weekend has been beautifully sunny.  Best not put my winter coat away just yet.  More on this later…

I grew up surrounded by an array of household equipment from the mid to late 1970s, which my parents had either received as wedding presents or bought in that period: a chunky orange coloured electric citrus press, a heavy duty toasty maker, an electric mixer the weight of a small boy, a steam iron made out of a brittle metal (iron of some sort) and many others.  Some of these items are still in working order and others, such as the toasty maker, have apparently given up the ghost recently.  Still, that’s a pretty impressive lifespan for a piece of man-made equipment.  How often have you heard people say, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to…”?  I am beginning to find myself saying that.  When I was a child I remember several occasions when a television repair man came to fix the television.  Nowadays if an appliance breaks it is often cheaper to go out and buy a new one.  Alternatively you simply return it to Argos without your receipt and get gift vouchers.  I worked there many years ago when I was a student and their returns policy used to be shockingly relaxed.

So is replacing old with new good or bad?  The jury is out.  It is tempting to say it is a bad thing – it is bad for the environment, as it generates waste.  Superficially it is: physical waste is indeed generated, but what about energy consumption?  In the last few years there has been a trend towards energy efficiency with the introduction of the energy label as per EU Directive 92/75/EC.  I do pay attention to these labels and tend to replace broken items with more energy efficient ones, such as a single cup kettle that allows a lower minimum volume of water than a traditional one.  Energy is one of the pressing issues and last year Ofgem warned that the UK is at risk of electricity shortages and unaffordable gas prices as a result of our energy policy not being fit for purpose.  An estimated £200bn will need to be invested by 2020 in order to avoid a shortfall.

But enough of this doom and gloom…  Where was I…? Yes, remember the coat?  I was looking for a haberdashery – a great word, the etymology of which warrants a separate article – last week because as I stated in my post entitled A Mixed Bag I had bought a winter coat in the sale and one of the poppers came off in less than 24 hours.  Since it was the last one available in my size I figured I would fix it myself and buy myself a set of poppers and a little gizmo for attaching them.  My colleague thought this was “very resourceful” but quickly undid his compliment by quipping that my jacket was probably last season’s fashion.  This beautifully illustrates how things are no longer built to last but very much for the here and now.  This is by no means a new phenomenon, as fashion has come and gone for decades.  I am old enough to notice new items of clothing coming out and remembering the first time (or at least a previous time) they were in fashion!  But that aside, I swear objects are less durable than they once were.

Last season’s fashion or not, I have repaired my jacket and it has a face in it if you turn your head sideways.  It seems to be chewing on my glove.  For goodness sake, Jack – how many times have I told you to chew with your mouth closed…  Jack Anorak seems like a good name for a jacket.  After all, I am Vic Suckerbag.

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