Chris van Schaick: ‘Fings just ain’t made of what they used to be’

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Chris van Schaick is in a spin as he discovers, ‘fings just ain’t made of what they used to be’

My brother Roger is a wholesome kind of a guy. Grows his own veg. Bakes his own bread. And when we dropped in to his place the other day, his wife Sue had made some excellent brownies – with kidney beans as a key ingredient. Their healthy and environmentally-conscious approach to life puts me and Mrs. v. S. to shame.

But on a recent visit, Roger surpassed himself. He turned up in bamboo socks. He was wearing them in an ironic, self-referential way and we had a laugh about the aching sustainability of it all.

When I went online to check, I found that bamboo socks aren’t just the hosiery of choice for those who might - to coin a phrase - knit their own yoghurt. They’ve gone mainstream. Supermarkets stock them and swear by the benefits to the environment and to the wearer. Very breathable, apparently, with summer coming on.

It made me realise: ‘fings just ain’t made of what they used to be’.

Bus fuel gets distilled from chicken droppings. They make houses out of old tyres – I’ve seen it on Grand Designs. And I read that beer brewed from potatoes is all the rage.

The advance of technology has dictated that it’s boring to make our consumables from the traditional materials. We’re expected to mash it up and get our things made from the least likely stuff.

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I haven’t yet had chance to talk to Steven Hawking about this change in the nature of matter. But for now, it’s unsettling for those of us who call a spade a spade to realise that the handle may well have been made from recycled polystyrene cups.

It’s certainly happening in home improvement. Mrs. v. S. sometimes strong-arms me down to the DIY sheds at Hedge End. She’s trying to identify the new floor for a refurbed shower room. In that realm, distinctions between materials have become redundant. Are these the tiles made to look like wood? Or are they wood made to look like tiles? My head spins so much I have to go and spend ten minutes browsing the power tools to recover my equilibrium.

As technology marches on, the idioms of our language will need to be revised. It’s futile now to say you can’t make bricks without straw, when I’m sure they started using pastry years ago. And what’s the point of asserting that you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, when somewhere online, there’s bound to be a recipe for a vegan version.

It’s all made me nervous about the sign at Bishop’s Waltham tip which proudly says that 90% of the materials taken there have been recycled. If Lady Gaga wears a dress made out of meat, how can we be sure it doesn’t work the other way round? What’s to say that the sausage I enjoyed for breakfast this morning wasn’t made out of woolly jumpers from the clothing bin?

I’m going to have to steady my nerves with a nice glass of this Rioja. Very good, you know – it’s made from old mobile phones.


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