Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009

Mary Jane mends her ways - part five

Watch Mary Jane's second film - making and mending on the home front

By Mary Jane Baxter
BBC Newsnight

My car likes to keep me on my toes and in Leeds it decided to go on strike.

Mary Jane's Micra gets some TLC from the AA
Mary Jane's Micra gets some much-needed TLC from the AA

So it was that one particularly rainy, dank morning, I failed miserably in my attempts to get it started.

I called out the ultimate make do and menders, the AA. Steve arrived within 20 minutes and managed to get the engine ticking over.

I was back on the road!

The week had been somewhat dominated by cars.

A few days previously I had visited Car Parts Direct in Mansfield and spoken to John Cornwall, who has been in business here for most of his life.

His business holds literally thousands of bits and bobs for the enterprising motorist keen to do it themselves.

Getting dirty

But John has noticed a change. As people have become more wealthy they have stopped wanting to make do.

John Cornwall and Mary Jane Baxter
John Cornwall showed Mary Jane around his car parts dealership

According to John we have become a "pay someone else to do it nation".

"Younger people in particular have grown up with computers. They don't like getting their hands dirty. They're not used to manual work. The parents are different - they love it - they're just struggling to pass it on to the next generation."

Here I have to disagree somewhat with John. During my travels I have seen lots of younger people eager to learn how to do things for themselves. But the central question is - how far we are willing to go.

We are happy to do the nice bits, but not so keen to take on the more unpleasant tasks.

A new Tom and Barbara?

In Leeds I spent the evening with Andrew and Joelle, who got in touch with Newsnight and asked me to come and see them.

They have decided to live without buying new, and are trying as much as possible to do things for themselves.

Joelle shows off her knitting
Joelle and her partner are trying to avoid buying anything new

Joelle has bought a treadle sewing machine and has taken up knitting.

Andrew has converted the small back garden into an allotment, and has just got permission to keep chickens. They both work full-time, so their decision is not based on necessity, but on choice.

They are very ecologically minded and are keen to cut their consumption as much as possible.

However, they would be the first to admit that they are not willing or able to give up modern luxuries such as the internet, central heating, a washing machine or their car.

But they have done away with their TV and buying new clothing, and they only buy local food.

A modern day Barbara and Tom?

If I am honest, they are a bit like me. As long as I have a choice about how frugal I am, and how I do it, then I am happy to embrace it. Force me to do it in a certain way, and it would become a chore.

Make do and mend of a sort - but a long way from the realities of my grandparents' generation.

Nottingham's textile heritage
23 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
Mary Jane mends her ways - part four
21 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
Mary Jane mends her ways - part three
16 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
Mary Jane mends her ways - part two
12 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
Mary Jane mends her ways - part one
06 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
How to make a corsage
08 Oct 09 |  Newsnight
Needlecraft is sew this year
01 Oct 09 |  Magazine

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