Sandy’s Garden ... Nostalgia and reuse

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“Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be” is a play with music, rather than a musical, according to Wikipedia.

The Cockney writer Frank Norman originally wrote a play with this title. But when the theatrical impresario Joan Littlewood read it, she commissioned the Cockney composer Lionel Bart to write music and lyrics; and the show, set in the east end of London, opened in 1959 in the Theatre Royal in Stratford, transferring to the Garrick Theatre in the West End the following year. What is remembered nowadays is the recording of the title song, “Fings ain’t wot they used t’be,” by Max Bygraves, who died recently.

And the sad proof of the truth of that title is that many younger people nowadays have never heard of Max Bygraves, let alone the song, or the show, “Fings ain’t wot they used t’be.” But people of my age remember both, and are wont to luxuriate in supposed remembrances of days gone by, wallowing in nostalgia. “Ah, I remember when I was a kid I got half-a-crown pocket money; and on a Saturday night I could go to the pictures, have a bag of chips afterwards and still have change for the bus home. These were the days!” But I write about these ‘supposed remembrances’ because many of us, invited by our better halves to recall events when we had a holiday in Cyprus or wherever some years ago, cannot recall ever having been to the resort in question.

But I am certain that a willingness to reuse things is a dying characteristic. I grew up in less affluent times, when almost everyone thought twice … or more … about discarding possessions. “I might just find a use for that,” we would say, storing some presently-unwanted item in a cupboard; and sometimes we actually did find another use for these items, a fact that sprang to mind recently when I was preparing my summer garden for the rigours of the coming winter. You see, as a hoarder, I want to keep that unused bag of compost, that half-empty pack of slow-release fertiliser, those spare nuts, bolts and shelf fittings for the greenhouse. But storage space is at a premium; and I hit on the idea of reusing the component parts of a couple of cheap and flimsy ‘grow-houses’ … whose replacement plastic covers disintegrated some time ago … to create winter storage spaces, covering the main frame with plastic sheeting from empty decorative bark bags and making doors from redundant, framed sheets of substantial wire mesh covered with plastic sheeting from further empty bags. So far, all the items are taken from my treasure-trove of disused … but retained … things; and, at the expense of a matter of coppers for some plastic cable ties to hold the bits together, I have my reasonably waterproof winter stores which, by the simple ploy of making the unprinted side of the plastic bags the visible side of the plastic sheeting, don’t even look too bad.

A look round my garden revealed some further examples of the reuse of materials. I have what I think, with all due modesty, is quite an attractive, three-tiered display of decorative pots, mainly already replanted with winter-flowering plants; the concealed framework which underlies this feature is made from several bread trays … from a now-closed bakery, I hasten to add. My magnolia tree, of which I am very proud, has sagging branches which, since they are best left unpruned, benefit from having virtually-unseen supports made from a couple of broom handles, the heads of the brushes having been worn out by regular use. And a less-than-successful composting bin is in use as a very successful storage bin for spent compost, over-wintered to be revitalised next spring and reused as the growing medium for summer bedding. Yes, I can truthfully say that, in my garden, there are a fair number of fings that ain’t wot they used t’be!

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society