the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


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Rub-a-dub-dub, ever feel like you are alone in your tub?

Candles seems a rather distant reminder of my possibly slightly more trendy (at the time) younger self. Or actually now I think of it, my little set were distinctly trying to be ‘un-trendy’ as far as popular culture of the 90’s went and were a little bit more into hippy-dippyness, but by rather sensible standards though of course. We didn’t get up to anything too far along on the Woodstock scale of things; we were in rural England after all.
Anyway, burning candles and joss sticks, and shopping trips to Natural Selection were all the rage, and if you didn’t own a pair of Dr Martins with coloured laces well then frankly, you might as well listen to Top of the Pops.

Digger as you know tends to be somewhat lacking in the romantic gestures- he’d rather change a punctured tyre for me, or unblock the drains, or ban me from using the superglue again, and assume that transmitted to me words of l’amour and le coeur). And so dusky candlelit dinners are not often on the cards, and that is even without taking into account the ‘Tiddler Effect’, a well-known to our household phenomenon where somebody-mentioning-no-names refuses to go to bed until past midnight on any given days that potential gourmet aphrodisiacs are found to be in the fridge.

In line with my general thriftyness, I don’t like to turn down anything that is offered for free, so I ended up last week with a free carrier bag of candle odds and ends. Lets specify that again, there were lots of ends of candles, and they were pretty much all odd-one-outs. Multicoloured, broken, a jumble of beeswax and paraffin, and completely stuck together in this heat, this was like Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat in a bag.
Tiddler was put to task sorting them into colours, a task she will happily do for hours with any mixed up coloured items. Note to self though, don’t try it again with a bag of Jelly Beans which all got sorted into one category- Tiddler’s Tummy.
Then with no candlemaking equipment we had a shot. Not bad I feel for the frugal, make-do-and-mend side of things, but I’m also going to try and get Digger to have a conversation with me in the candlelight glow from these, even if it is only to see where to put the car-jack.

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The red ones

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The cauldron of blood

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recycled yogurt pots

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Recycled wicks

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Lollipops and blutack

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Tension on the wick, looking remarkable like the puppy’s tail

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Here’s a few I made earlier (a nod to Blue Peter)

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Waiting for it to cool

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The finished article in Digger’s handmade centrepiece candle holder (see he made that years ago for me, but we never use it!)

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They are not tiny candles, they are massive fir cones, brought all the way from the west coast of Italy in the back of Leo. 

And if this inspires you to look a little harder into the flame the next time you light a candle, these are two thoughts you might like to ponder on.

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It’s better to light a candle than curse at the darkness

The latest ponderings this week have led me to attempt a ‘light’ themed post this evening. A group of my facebook chums have been hitting me hard this week with fantastical illuminated pictures and selfies in the streets of Kolkata, as Diwali celebrations reach their peak. As a true ‘festival of light’, championing light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair, then while these alone are all logical events to get the party started, but for the diehard skinflintists (is that another invented suffix I’ve just created?) amongst us, then celebrating the goddess of prosperity Lakshmi must also make perfect sense. Look after the paise, and the rupees will look after themselves (to adapt a thrifty proverb) , though I admonish myself as this is far too flippant a comment for the millions who will see Diwali in under the strain of abject poverty.
Diwali falls at the same time as our Halloween, where ‘evil’ in the shape of a witch or a ghost might come a-knocking at the door, but they are easily pacified with a chocolate bar. That guy from The Exorcist would have had a much higher success rate if he’d crammed his pockets with mars bars and maltesers. This then is perhaps a festival of the dark,  the absence of light, where the only light we have is the faintly glowing pumpkin lantern to give of a flickering sense of warmth at the door, and the all pervading aroma of burnt pumpkin as the candle singes the lid. This at least subverts the normal evening ‘flickerings’ you get in every house across the nation, as the TV channels zombify us with their pulsating electromagnetic waves.
On our little rock, we have our own traditions, so it is ‘Hop tu Naa’ rather than Halloween, and you get sung a rousing chorus of ‘Jinny the Witch’ when you open the door instead of being threatened with a trick. Tiddler is not too sure of the motley crew of frankensteins and vampires that keep turning up on our doorstep, but is playing along and handing out the treats as long as she can hold on to Thrifter at the same time.  These poor kids deserve a calorific boost for sure, as while across the pond you are all busy carving the soft skinned flesh of a pumpkin ‘like a hot knife through butter’ these poor little critters have to stick to the custom here and try and carve a turnip lantern. I tried this one year, and I’m not joking, don’t even bother with a chisel but dive straight in with the pneumatic drill.
To finish then, my philosophy today then is taken from the greatest man of literature himself, the shining star that is Rabindranath Tagore. I can imagine him thinking of the clay Diwali bowl-shaped lamps when he penned the following lines, and please excuse my poor translation, but these beautiful lines hopefully still resonate deeply with you.
” Who will continue my work?”, cries the setting sun.
“I, my Lord” says the earthen lamp, “I will do the best that I can”
Now feel free to interpret that as you wish, but I like to take this is an early 20th century version of the modern meme ‘not all heroes wear capes’. In life we may be humble clay and earth lamps, but what we are willing to do and give can be not only of vital importance, but an honour.
Happy Diwali, Halloween and Hop tu Naa to you all.