Although I like a good shot of powdered egg and Naafi tea as much as the next man (and the next man is Lloyd George), I didn’t actually live through The War. I never really knew the privations of the 1940s, when you have to weave your own butter out of horse hair and junket. I never had to darn holes in my windows or draw lines up the back of my legs with sheep shit, or even make knickers out of sacking.
I do, however, have a certain zeal when it comes to making things last. This was brought to my attention recently when I admonished a certain child of the future (he’s from Milton Keynes, where household goods grow on trees, apparently) for using up too much firewood. Never mind that it was drift wood – left rotting, washed up and superfluous on the beach. Never mind that it was free and part of an almost endless supply. Never mind that it was keeping me warm – I wanted to make it last. I wanted to sit shivering in an unheated house, toasty warm in the knowledge that there was plenty left for next time.
After graduating from University I spent many happy months living on my own, sitting in the dark, shivering. Because, you know, why buy light bulbs when you can just walk into walls? I never once turned on my hot water, I had no heating, I used to sleep in a hat and coat (which made romance about as likely as a cigar-smoking dolphin) and I was known to do my washing whilst wearing it in the shower, to save a trip to the launderette. Honestly, I was a the perfect Landgirl, just without the farming, munitions work or itchy green jumpers.
But what most obviously brings out this misguided make-do-and-mend attitude is fancy dress. I will pour sweat, tears and hours of my life into making a costume, and why? I inevitably end up looking like the back end of Oxfam anyway.
I have nearly asphyxiated myself spray painting a ladybird shell (only to be asked, hopefully, if I was a gimp when I took it off). I have tried to cobble my own shoes. I have sewn my own bikini (which would have been fine if I’d just avoided any water, wind or any form of movement). I once wasted three days knitting a dress using broom handles to go to a party as ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ (that’s irony kids!).
So this Halloween, as you can expect, I shall be walking down to Bethnal Green (the bus is just a waste) in a home made outfit, swigging on cider brewed in my bath, crippled by the hours of sewing and beaming from ear to ear, knowing that I have made do with what I’ve got.