I think I must be older than I think I am, or maybe in our family we just didn’t throw things away – well, certainly the latter statement is true! There was an article in the BBC magazine about domestic tools, utensils and appliances which apparently are no longer seen in modern homes.
It was a slightly exaggerated article because some of the items are still available to buy – the rotary hand whisk for example – you can buy them in just about every kitchen shop, and they’re made by firms such as OXO, KitchenCraft and Lakeland. Bean slicers – the small ones you hold in one hand and push a runner bean through with the other – they are still available in shops, you’ll spot several different ones on the racks of accessories and tempting hand tools which are almost irresistible – why else would I have bought a cherry stoner, a melon baller and yes, a bean slicer?
Tea-makers – why were they on the list? We have a tea-maker in our bedroom right now – it wakes us every morning with an alarm which sounds like a vehicle reversing, however it does make two mugs of tea so we forgive it’! Hand-held crinkly chip or vegetable cutters? Yes we have one in our kitchen utensil drawer, a simple thing, a handle above a wavy blade which you just press down onto the vegetable – it’s one-handed so you can hold your spud with the other hand. Trouser presses – my son had one while he was at Uni – and so did many of his friends. The article describes something as a food chopper – we called ours a mincer because it minced not chopped – I think chopper is the American word. – you can still buy mincers, so again, they may not be in every kitchen but they are still there on the shelves of the kitchen shops.
Some of the items on the list were a puzzle to me (perhaps that alone shows I’m older than I think I am!) The old-fashioned telephone with a cradle and a handset attached to it with a curly cable. This is not something we no longer use – we use telephones more than ever, it’s just technology has moved on. The telephone with the handset is just old-fashioned, not some weird relic of a bye-gone age. Ditto – but in a different way was the jumper drying frame – these jumper boards were common in the Shetland Isles, where people wore/wear heavy knitted woollen jumpers – how else would you dry a jumper on a winter day? Those thick, wonderful, hand-knitted sweaters would take a long time to dry once rain-wet or washed – and would shrink if not dried carefully. The jumper board was an ideal solution – but it was a very regional item.
However, there were items in the BBC article which I do remember from my childhood and I’m sure my own children wouldn’t know what they are. There was an electric bed-warmer shaped like a flying saucer. In the days before central heating and electric blankets (but obviously the days after the warming pan which was filled with embers, or the stone hot water bottle) it was a brilliant way to warm the bed – especially for children and old people. Mangles… no-one has a mangle these days, but every household used to have one, we called ours a wringer, even though it didn’t exactly wring, it pressed and squeezed wet clothes between its rollers as you turned the handle. My dad once got in trouble from his mum because he put the tip of his spoon through the mangle – he was personalising it so his sister didn’t use it!
Snake-belts… you can still buy them, tea caddies which dispense tea in spoonfuls – my Dutch friend has one on her kitchen wall, electric potato peelers – I’ve never seen one anywhere, not even in a museum – I think they must have been a gimmicky fashion, no-one I know or knew had one,
Lastly the drying cabinet… a square metal box with a lid; inside were wooden rails which you could drape you damp washing one. The lid was closed, it was switched on, and it magically dried the clothes! It was marvellous! When I lived in a flat it was a wonderful way to dry or to air clothes – for various reasons we don’t have a tumble dryer which is fine in the summer, especially a lovely sunny summer, but it does make life difficult in wet weather – a drying cabinet would be the answer to these difficulties… now I wonder if they still make them…