Friday, 19 September 2008

Mending Ways

I'm a little surprised by this article in the Telegraph. Finding themselves short of cash as the credit crunch bites harder, people are - shock! horror! - repairing household items instead of replacing them. Judging by the tone of the article, the Telegraph's journalist, the spankingly named Harry Wallop, can hardly contain his amazement that people would bother to repair something as lowly as a toaster.

Why this should count as news, I have no idea. Doesn't everyone try to repair something, instead of replacing it, if at all possible? If not, why not? Isn't that the central point behind the environmentalist lobby's green - in every sense of the word - philosophy? And, much as it pains me to agree with the enviro-loonies, isn't it also behind the old saying, "waste not, want not"?

Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that people simply no longer have the skills, or the tools, to repair things themselves, and are forced to replace them instead. It may also be that the concept of a disposable society runs so deep that they just don't realise that repairs are possible. Damn great "DANGER, DO NOT OPEN, NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE" stickers on the back of many appliances probably aren't helping, either, and I have to wonder whether they are there for users' safety or simply to encourage more sales.

And yet, things were not always this way. I well remember both my father and my grandfather repairing things like kettles and toasters, and also confidently tackling other household repairs. They may not have been master plumbers, but changing a washer or replacing ball cocks was just a routine chore for them, as was servicing their own cars. Nor were these skills limited to them - the majority of their friends and family were similarly capable of handling such domestic repairs as usually arose, and there was a constant exchange of tools and advise between them.

That doesn't seem to happen amongst today's home-owners to anything like the same degree. Thinking about it, there is a distinct relationship between the age of the home-owners I know and their willingness and ability to carry out such minor repairs - the younger they are, the less likely they are to grab a screwdriver and try to fix things themselves.

Perhaps the credit crunch will have some unexpected benefits if it teaches these people the benefit of thrift. By repairing rather than replacing, they are (I suppose) helping the environment, saving money, learning a skill and, when the job is done, they will experience a sense of achievement that you just don't get by running out and buying a new toaster.

Go on, have a go. If it's buggered already, you can't make it any worse, can you? But PLEASE, when you try to fix something electrical, REMEMBER to unplug the power first - it might look harmless now, but if your repairs are successful, it might start working again unexpectedly!

Billy Seggars.

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