Waste Not, Want Not, I Always Say


MrsNewlands was a friend of my mother’s, an older woman who lived across from the church in a fascinating old house, four-square and ordinary in a pretty garden, but untouched since heaven knows when. Her kitchen had a scrubbed pine table, a dresser and pantry (with meat safe), and an early Kooka sitting where the old range had been. A continuous linen hand towel hung from a rod, there was a SheilaMade on pulleys overhead for rainy days. The fridge ran on paraffin.

Outside the kitchen, the laundry had a big copper boiler and deep concrete sinks, a washboard, little packets of Reckitt’s Blue and huge tongs to lift wet cloth from boiling water to the hand operated mangle. Just outside the back door two long loopy clotheslines ran from uprights with wonky crossbars, and there were long notched poles to lift the centres clear of the grass. Further down the garden was a true out-house with a crescent moon cut in the door and honeysuckle planted all round it. She didn’t believe in toilet paper – newspaper was neatly cut into quadrants and threaded onto a loop of string.

The back garden itself was amazingly productive, with choko and passionfruit vines, beds of cabbages and onions, rhubarb, potatoes and tomatoes. Thick-skinned old Eureka lemons, and fruit trees. We had no idea at the time, but Mrs Newlands was an environmentalist.

Although – her husband had been a merchant seaman, and inside her house was an Aladdin’s cave of turtle shells, boar tusks, cowries, gourds, ivory, coco de mer, exquisite corals and seashells he had brought back from his trips across the Pacific. We loved it as children of course, it was like a private natural history museum. Verandas dimmed the light and the floors were dark polished wood and the whole was incredibly exciting.

We weren’t kind to Mrs Newlands. Our parents went to India for five weeks and Mrs Newlands became our housekeeper for that time, and we led her such a dance. My elder brother had just got his driver’s licence and we used to bundle the two younger children into the car and drive off. These were pretty harmless adventures, but we didn’t say where we were going or when we’d be back, and I imagine Mrs Newlands suffered agonies of apprehension. We teased her that she wouldn’t use aerosol fly killer (Oh Mrs N, you were so ahead of the times!), and to humour us she bought some but got air freshener by mistake, so the only way she’d get a fly was to drown it. We sniggered at her thrifty ways – horrible children. Does it matter that I am ashamed now?

I do think of her often, and fondly. I might just have to buy this linen in her honour:

About Tricia Rose

Not distracted by shiny objects.
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11 Responses to Waste Not, Want Not, I Always Say

  1. How much smarter we sometimes become as we age! I’m sure she would just be proud that you think so highly of her now. :)


  2. Gillianne says:

    Indeed it matters! And what a lovely story (you have to believe that some essence of wise Mrs. N. is reading this post and smiling). The linen’s message reminds me of the Depression-era mantra: “Wear it out, use it up, make it do, or do without.” Frugality never really goes out of style. :D

  3. PP says:

    What a beautifully written post Tricia. And how many references to Australia, where I’m thinking you must have grown up.

    And I think it matters, yes. I still feel badly about things I did when I wasn’t equipped to know what it was that I was doing.

  4. Wonderful post, Tricia. Reminds me so much of my grandmother.

  5. It totally matters. If you weren’t a better person, you would think nothing of it.

    It also reminds me of my grandmother. When baking with my grandmother, the cake didn’t the oven until there wasn’t a speck of batter in the bowl. “Waste not, want not” always accompanied the scraping exercise.

    I would love to have a few towels like that.

  6. tammyj says:

    it always matters.
    and your writing of it here is the acquittal of the child’s insensitivity.
    the way you describe her home is almost a poem.
    this is beautiful.
    thank you!

  7. Tracey Ann says:

    Of course it matters Tricia. You know all uttered words do. I also believe she could not have been ahead of her time if she was not wise therefore she was wise enough to you children and your ways. I also see the description of her home as a poem. We take all of life and the people in it and stow away for some needed time in our future. She was unique and you like unique and she probably had something to do with that by just being herself. I appreciate your insight and talents as you did hers even if you just now realize it.

  8. Sparky says:

    Where did you find the continuous towel?

  9. Kerrie says:

    Hi tricia i just wanted to let you know that i voted for you for the flax farm grant! I am amazed at all that you are doing…you are doing what i only dream of so i am a huge fan *wink*. Your pinnie is on my wishlist. Xxo kerrie

  10. kerrie says:

    Merry merry Tricia. I am hoping to hear that you will be knee deep in flax fields in the New Year!!! I voted, and am thrilled you are in the running. Sea Tidings, Kerrie

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