Saturday thoughts, for a change

This week, part of our electric oven stopped working. The fuse blew, and had to be reset on the board. When the cooker came back on, the hob was working, and the small top oven and grill seemed to be OK too. But the main oven, the ‘big one’ with fan-assisted cooking, was as dead as a dodo.

What to do? We can still cook of course, and there is always the microwave too. Modern convenience, and if all else failed, a small gas-bottle camping stove for emergencies. As well as that, it is still unbearably hot in the house as the heatwave continues, so no need to worry about cooking casseroles, or roasting meat.

I could get someone out to see if they can fix it. There will be a call-out charge, naturally. Then there is the potential cost of replacement parts. What if the fan has shorted out? Perhaps the heating element has failed completely too? It all starts to become one of those times when you have to think about whether or not it’s worth replacing something, even though it is only six years old. Some investigation revealed that it might cost as much as close to half the price of a new replacement cooker to fix the old one.

So we bought a new one, and it is arriving late next week.

This made me remember the ‘old days’, as such things do. When something broke when I was a child, replacement was rarely an option. The outlay on a new item was beyond the financial reach of most working-class families. I recall a hair-dryer used by my Mum. Not unlike the modern equivalent, it was much larger, as well as being heavier and noisier too. In use, the motor at the side would glow red, and one day it just went ‘bang’. There was no thought of buying a new one. It was a luxury, not an essential. My Dad had a go at fixing it. After what amounted to a full disassembly and rebuild, it reappeared covered in sticky black insulation tape, and it was working again, albeit with a strange whirring sound added.

Not long after, it went ‘bang’ again. This time, it was taken to a small shop located in a nearby shopping street. I went with my Mum, and was fascinated by the miles of jumbled wires, and the stacks of non-working valve radios, primitive toasters, and the rows of dead electric fires. The man gave my Mum a small ticket, and told her to come back in a couple of day’s time. When she collected it, the handle was a different colour to the rest, as the man had cleverly cannibalised parts from a similar model. The cost of the repair was less than 5% of buying a new one, and it worked well for another ten years, until I was in my late teens.

Much later, and I was married, living in a house in Wimbledon. We had a washing machine, something of a considerable expense in those days, at close to £400. That was almost a month’s salary then. One day, it started to leak as it was operating, and that leak turned into a veritable flood of soapy water all over the floor of the small kitchen. After managing to stop the machine working, I contacted a local company advertising repairs, and they came out. Something metal in the washing (later discovered to be the underwire of a bra) had damaged the main rubber seal, allowing the water to escape. The man replaced the seal, found and removed the wire, and charged us £15, including the cost of the seal. He had only been there for fifteen minutes or so, and was very efficient.

But now, we just throw everything away. If a hair-drier costs less than £20 to replace, who would consider paying that much to get it repaired? A washing machine is now less than one week’s pay in most jobs, and a similar repair close to £100 or more, including the dreaded ‘call out’ fees. And those shops with clever ‘little men’ surrounded by dead electrical items are all long gone, as business rates force everyone like them off the High Streets of England. These days, we have to make online appointments with ‘authorised repairers’, from companies who act as if they are doing you a favour by actually turning up at all.

We live in a disposable society, to the detriment of the environment.
‘Repair’ has become ‘Replace’.

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89 thoughts on “Saturday thoughts, for a change

  1. When I was growing up we had the same washing machine and fridge/freezer from before I was born. My dad did all kinds of weird hacks to keep the fridge going in particular. My mum oddly enogh was great at fixing lawnmowers but she had to give up when she almost electrocuted herself and shut down the power for the whole block. Things definitely are not built to last. I have been renting for 14 years and lived in 9 different properties. In every single one the washing machine at some point had to be replaced because it had given up and fixing it wasn’t worth the cost. It is a vicious cycle though as landlords are addicted to buying the cheapest possible model. In our current house we are responsible for our own white goods so I have gone for a slightly more expensive model, along with a repair insurance plan for it so when it does go tits up, they’ll have to fix it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you are renting, that’s probably the best plan, Abbi. I once rented a furnished flat, and the owner had installed the most basic versions of everything. But as they were so simple, they had nothing extra to go wrong, and always worked. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. ‘Repair’ has become ‘Replace’. That’s so true! The items are not built to last a generation any longer. My mother in law had a Miele washing machine for 40 years. My mother was so impressed, when she had to get a new washing mashing, she got a Miele too. It’s now 35 years old and doing job. No problems so far. When I went shopping for a Miele many years ago, the sales person advised me to get another brand. What for? Today, you don’t want an item to last that long. You will miss out all the new eco technology …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They love to alter things for the sake of selling you something, Dina. Digital controls, ‘silent’ operation, ‘Economy wash cycle’, etc. It’s all just marketing, and it is creating a veritable mountain of junk.
      Love from Beetley, Pete and Ollie. X

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I use gas for my stove….best thing……years ago I bought a new stove and it did not work so I called the store to have someone come check it…I was told that they had no one and if I brought the new stove in they would replace free of charge…..I had a Toyota Echo where the Hell was I gonna put it to “take it in’? Anyway since I have used gas all my life I decided to repair it myself……then there is the new refrig……after not working I called a repairman…he was n ot allowed to work on that brand name so I had to call another and pay for two “service calls” and he had no idea how to repair the problem…once again I repaired it……long winded but it makes your point….a disposable society…..sorry for the rant…have a good day my friend….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to apologise, chuq. I had a gas cooker in London. When I got it, it was already 20 years old, and I used it for another 12 years, with no problems at all. But Beetley has no gas supply, so we had to have it taken away, and buy an electric cooker instead. They actually still manufacture the same model of that old gas cooker, and I would love to be able to have one.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post 🙂 So sorry to hear that with your oven. Back in 1994 on the night before Thanksgiving (I was 9 years old at the time), the oven for the turkey was not heating well so we had to call the repairman and he came early Thanksgiving morning and all was fine. It is an inconvenience though. Do you live by any fast food-like joints that not only serve lunch and dinner, but breakfast as well? Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a three mile trip to anywhere that serves food, John. But we can manage with the small working oven, microwave, and hob until the new cooker arrives next week. 🙂
      (In 1994, I was 42. You being 9 made me smile.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great minds think alike . . .have been thinking about this recently. Appliances used to be designed to last decades . . .and they did! ( a repairman told me this) Now when a repair is needed usually in a short time, the parts are crazy expensive. Terrible cycle we are in for the planet . . and our bank accounts too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Michele. I now believe that this should be something people have to ‘factor in’, when planning retirement from work. We can no longer count on buying large domestic items that will last until we die! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Much later, and I was married, living in a house in Wimbledon.” I’ll bet you wore tennis shoes…

    I’ve never seen a rubber seal, but I once saw a rubber chicken at a timeshare meeting. Maybe if I lived closer to the ocean?

    I really have to fix our gas oven. It’s incredibly hot here in Las Vegas in the summertime, so we don’t miss using it, but this fall/winter, it will be a different story. The flames fail to ignite. Most likely, it’s an easy repair I can do myself. We shall see.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A fascinating post, as always, Pete.

    Interestingly, near me there is a church hall which, once a month, hosts a “repair café.” People can bring their small electrical appliances, toys, or small pieces of furniture to be repaired by (usually older) craftsmen or enthusiastic amateurs.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m convinced white goods, computers, boilers, etc all have built in obsolesence so they go wrong after a few years. Our gas boiler is really old – it was in the house when we moved in over 20 years ago – but still works very well. I know we will have to buy a new one at some point in the future but I really resnt having to spend so much money on something which is ‘guaranteed’ to go wrong within a few years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When we bought this house, the oil-fired heating boiler had been here since 1987, and the previous owner (from 1997) had ‘serviced’ it himself! Before we actually moved in, I had it all replaced with a new system, including radiators. It was still working, but so inefficient in operation. If the new one we bought lasts as long, it may well see me out. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our old boiler is actually pretty efficient. When we had a gas leak earlier this year (caused by a loose floorboard pressing on the pipe) my other half asked the gas man if we should have our boiler replaced. He said no and said it was remarkably efficient and a new boiler would not save much in efficiency terms. He also agreed (with me) we shouldn’t have it ‘serviced’ as it would go wrong immediately afterwards! I know one day it will have a problem and have to be laid to rest.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. So true! It’s so frustrating to have things break just after the warranties have run out. Some places will still take things back, but repairing is pretty much out of the question. I’m fortunate that my husband can sometimes fix the small things for me. Otherwise it’s buy a new one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even try to fix things these days. If I did something wrong, and the house caught fire, the insurance company would refuse to pay out, without a receipt from a ‘professional’. They get you every way imaginable. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. So true, Pete. I remember the television repair man coming to our home. What a nice man. He carried a long, narrow, multi-tiered case full of tubes, bulbs, all kinds of stuff. He was a great old man. Very astute. That old glass tubed television had the best picture.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They did have great pictures, especially before colour. The only problem in London back then was aerial reception. I can remember having to sit behind it with my finger on ‘vertical hold’, so my Dad could watch a football match without the picture breaking up. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My rather expensive Smeg oven did exactly that – the fan element blew and the oven was only a few years old. Out of warranty of course. I found that the oven still worked without the fan on different settings and actually was less messy too, so I didn’t bother to replace it. In fact I passed the oven on to my daughter when we moved and she is still using it, without the fan element, so it is getting on for 7 yrs now! Another irritating thing about it was that the door seal broke after only a couple of years! I used to have a General Electric cooker that was already 15 years old when I bought it for peanuts in 1984, and I had it for 18 years and it was still working when I left it in the house. Same goes for a washing machine which I had for those 18 years. A chap used to come and replace the carbon brushes for a few quid every couple of years. Now everything is plastic and junk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a washing machine for years, right through the 70s until 1985, and other than a door seal that was replaced for £15, it never went wrong. But our fan oven isn’t working at all, with or without the fan, (Which I agree makes the inside much dirtier) so we had no option but to replace it.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  12. If you think “Repair and Replace” is a bothersome idea where mechanical home appliances are concerned, give this a little meditative thought: “I am foreseeing the day when people, themselves, will be classified as “Repair or Replace.” It has already begun in big manufacturing companies where employees are viewed more as tools to be used, worn out and disposed of and replaced … Soon it will apply to all living beings at every level of society as well. The day will come when a person’s productivity and contributions to society will fail and the person will be viewed as expendible … viewed as expendable by family, by the government and by the medical establishment itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could well be right, John. People over a certain age are already classed as ‘geriatric’, and as people live longer, they will undoubtedly become a ‘burden on society’ too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The throwaway society is a real issue, I agree, Gilly.
      Underwired bras and washing machines do not mix. Bras should really be washed by hand, but few women bother to do that these days. We had an incident here last year, after hearing a strange ‘clicking sound’ when the washing machine was working. After a couple of days, I got a man out to examine the machine. He took off the drum, and found a large wire from one of Julie’s bras. It cost £58 (a new machine is only £229) for him to discover the problem, so she does now wash her bras by hand. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  13. I’ve read somewhere that in fifteen years from now we are not supposed to have garbage anymore and that everything will be recycled. Yeah…right, I find that very hard to believe. These days it’s more easy to dispose of stuff and throw away things. Look at cell phones. As soon as a new one is released there are people that throw their old one away, just because the new one has a few more options. So yeah repairing things these days seems like an oldschool craft.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think what will happen is that local authorities will stop taking away things that can be recycled, and put the emphasis on consumers and companies. Then the real problem of ‘rubbish mountains’ will begin in earnest. Around here, they have already stopped taking large domestic appliances, so the companies replacing them, as in the case of our oven, are having to ‘export’ the broken items as scrap. No doubt a lot of it will end up being dumped in foreign seas, and find its way back as pollution.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My old oven went bang too. That was four or five years ago. I compensate by using a cheap small chinese made temperature controlled timer cooker about the size of a microwave. A microwave. A slow cooker. A steamer. A griller (ideal for toasted sandwiches, and a toaster. I couldn’t afford to replace the oven. So I do without. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing wrong with that, Pippa, if something can be repaired. That would usually be my preferred option too, but with companies discontinuing parts and models at an alarming rate, it gets harder every year. Sadly. As I mentioned below to Sue, it is also the source of a great deal of unwanted debt, in low-income families.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  15. Pete, we live in a time when people suddenly realize that plastic straws are bad for the environment, yet we still consume billions of plastic bottles, most of which do NOT get recycled…we do indeed replace instead of repair, it’s a disposable society – I read a great book called “Junkyard Planet”, and his journey into the junkyards of the world reveal that what’s “good for the planet” doesn’t drive recycling, $$$ does…and that’s fine, whatever gets us to re-think our current mindset…let’s start repairing things again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a plan here to introduce money deposits on plastic bottles in all shops that sell them. It won’t come in for a while, but if the deposit is big enough, and the shops can store the returns, it might go a long way to helping with the plastic bottle problems here.
      As for the repair of major electrical items, I think that never going to come back in fashion.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Couldn’t agree with you more, Pete. From utility machines to cars everything went from hearty metal parts to plastic and computers. Who could fix a car today? It was a popular way to spend a weekend for a lot of males in my past. Fixing and maintaining your car was a hobby. They are recycling the disposable fridges and washing machines, etc., which is good. But the “Planned Obsolescence” mentality is another way society has changed for the worse, I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The recycling of what is known as ‘white goods’ is sadly not happening here, Cindy. There are literal ‘mountains of stored fridges and washing machines stockpiled all around the UK.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2055285.stm Since this old article, most authorities will no longer accept such goods at official waste sites, so they are often simply dumped in rural areas instead.
      As for cars, they have become so complex electronically, even my local dealership cannot fix anything on my car without connecting it to a computer first. 😦
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  17. You are blessed Pete! Here in the rural environment (rural as only a desert can be. ***lol***) you can not find anyone repairing something for you. So its always my part to take action. Normally only with a pocket knife, some screwdrivers and a lot of insulate tape. 😉 Michael

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  18. I am just as dismayed as you, Pete…I was only having a similar conversation with one of my friends the other day…..I recall ‘Washing machine Dave’ sorting my 17 year old Zanussi, and it lived for another 5 years. The replacement Bosching machine did not even manage 1/3 of the life…. And this latest job I imagine will fare even less well…..Aaargh….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The man in the cooker shop said “Well, it is six years old”. My mind boggles at how things are just not expected to last anymore. Small wonder families on low incomes are constantly in debt.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. It is really quite annoying when you suddenly encounter those glitches and you are not prepared to replace it. Sometimes though, it is easier and cheaper in the long run to get or buy new ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. You said it, Pete. Companies today build their products with planned obsolescence in mind. As a kid, I do not remember ever getting a new refrigerator, but here in “modern” times our last G.E. frig lasted only 7 years – THAT is outrageous in my book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Built to fail’ indeed, GP. And even though there are still people around who know how to fix their own stuff, the companies just ‘discontinue’ the parts, to make repair impossible. Something similar is going on with the car industry now. My ten year-old car was recently described as ‘obsolete technology’ by a dealer. Sad but true.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Things just are not made to last any longer. They have a name for it, “Planned Obsolescence”. By making us constantly have to buy new stuff, they increase their profits. Then they discontinue the old stuff, so it’s more or less compulsory. VHS/DVD is another good example.
      Cheers, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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