Monday, September 6, 2010

Turn off that light!

Seventy years ago, in wartime Britain, one might hear those words, probably from an Air Raid Warden, during the blackout. The words go through my mind unspoken these days for another reason. Well, yes, I do understand that we as a nation need to save energy, but that's not my main concern. It's not just because I pay our electricity bill, although that is certainly a consideration. It is because I abhor waste in any form.

Watching a British TV show on a local PBS channel, I recently learned the meaning of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Yeah, there's a touch of this in my personality, but my limited vision gives me an excuse: I do believe there should be "a place for everything and everything in its place"--especially in the kitchen, to help me make our daily breakfast.

But there's more to it than that. I almost always try to be generous with others, but I am "economical" with myself--some would say "cheap" or even "miserly". I remember being offended when a very good friend--a fellow native of the UK--pulled out a handful of tissues--maybe 6--when one would have done. I long ago learned that one doesn't need toothpaste to brush one's teeth. But mint or other pleasant flavor makes the chore more agreeable, so I do still use toothpaste. All the illustrations in the advertisements show an inch or more of toothpaste: i use about a quarter of an inch.

A while back, when there was a shortage of water in much of California, and it became patriotic to limit usage of this precious resource. Barbara even went so far to collect dishwater, etc., in a large bucket, which she would take outside to sprinkle on flowerbeds.
Wit her cooperation, I instituted a "limited flush" routine ("Yellow is mellow, but brown goes down" was my mantra).

Barbara replaced two perfectly good toilets with "low flow" models, at significant expense, but in a couple of hundred years or so, if our 1909 house is still standing, future inhabitants may have recovered the cost....

With all the rain this year, months ago the restrictions on use of water were lifted, but I cling to my routine. (After all, limiting the use of water is still environmentally desirable--and we save a little money, too!)

I am at my chintziest with food. Although my relatively affluent parents didn't suffer deprivation in the Depression, my father's business suffered, and millions of Brits lost their jobs, just as in the USA. When WWll began, it was a sin to waste food. I still feel that way. When no-one is looking, I even eat the edible rind on cheeses and stale bread. We do our best to keep milk from going sour, but on the rare occasions (once a year?) that this happens, I usually have a cup of coffee in which the milk has curdled before the rest id discarded. Many years ago, I tried (with limited success) to make cheese when half a quart carton went sour.

Do I suffer from OCD? I leave it to my readers to decide.



  1. hmm - maybe a little - the cheese rind and sour milk are a little over the top - but I grew up with the same ethic and find profligate ways painful to watch. You should see the soap in our shower - if you can still find it - you can read the newspaper through it!

  2. Sour milk can be used to make the best cornbread in the world! If you'd like the recipe, let me know.

    I don't think you have OCD, Nigel, you were just raised by parents who didn't waste anything. I was raised by a depression baby and I have the same thing about water and food. And I am happy to find clothes on sale, and perfectly good used goods for much less than they would cost new.