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Don't tell me I am the only one that reads the back pages of TV listing magazines where they have all those lovely Top Tips for the Thrifty.

I curl up with laughter at some of the outlandish suggestions that crop up. I rack my brains trying to think of ridiculous tips to send in with the hope of publication. Somehow I can never think of anything half so ludicrous as has been sent in with earnest intent. Toilet rolls being used as Egg cups always springs into my mind as a possible top tip for the Thrifty but it just is not technical or long winded enough to get onto the pages. Imagine a whole family at the breakfast table. Great fun. Did you know the white of an egg is called, albumen. Okay so you did. Well I didn't until card 40 of this most useful set informed me of this. It is better known as the egg white around these parts.

Such joy then that those kind people at Wills have thought of a few for me to chuckle over. What's better is the set is scandalously cheap itself.

Card One of the set starts in a very promising manner.

This card typifies everything you need to know about a top tip.

Details from Card
A Simple Barometer
Here is a simple barometer that a child can make. All that is required is an empty vinegar bottle, an empty glass jam jar and some water coloured with red ink. Half fill the bottle with coloured water, and place the jar upside-down over the bottle. Now reverse, so that the jar is standing upright, with the bottle in it standing upside down. Allow the coloured water to flow into the jar until the level of the water in the bottle is about an inch or two above that in the jar. By the rise and fall of the water in the neck, the weather may be fairly accurately foretold. Fine weather will cause it to rise, while a drop may presage rain or rough weather. A ruled card fixed behind the jar enables the rise or fall to be seen more accurately.

This card typifies everything you need to know about a top tip. Incomprehensible, fiddly to implement, questionable savings and ultimately useless. Note you have to wait till card 15 to discover how to remove stains from polished furniture. Again there is a sting in this tail. Leave the methylated spirits to long on the polished surface and it eats straight through it. Another top tip then.

You know you are in trouble the second you read that word 'simple' coupled with the phrase 'a child could make' it is time to down tools and get back to brain surgery.

Difficult to top that you might think but oh-no, card 2, Restoring a crushed broom. It turns out to be a rather simple matter of super-heated steam and your hand. It does suggest you keep your hand as far as possible from the steam (Go see Wills, First Aid) Once you have done that then make the handy broom rack as detailed in card 3.

For a while the set goes off the beaten track, making dog kennels (this is right next to a card which gives details of distempering(!) Luckily this has something to do with paint-brushes rather than little dogs), cycle brackets and useful clothes lines. Whilst some of us are making these things there is just time for me to tell you just how sad cigarette card collectors can get.

This set is probably best known for its error card #43. Cleaning a thermos flask was the first printing of this. Nothing was really thought about this until a little while latter when someone pointed out Thermos was a brand rather than an object. The card was altered to read Cleaning a Vacuum flask.

Less well known is card 16, Destroying worm in furniture. A chemical was mentioned which in a second printing was highlighted as being highly flammable. Best to caution smokers of such things. However the picture also changed in the matter of the number of woodworm holes that were shown. Now that really is a treat for card collectors ;-)

It should be noted that the official handbook claims three printings of card 43 but as far as I am aware I have never seen that variation.

Card 6 gives details of how to whiten a ceiling which is an absolute must for any household that harbours a smoker. Enough DIY for the time being.

Back to the plot with some aplomb:

Details from Card 36
Keeping Plants watered while away on holiday.
Holidays present may little problems, and one of the most worrying to the lover of flowers is how to keep greenhouse plants watered during absence. Here is a simple plan which may be carried out without troubling the neighbours. Fill a large pail with water, stand it a little above the level of the plants and group around or near it as many plants as practicable. Loosely plait two or three strands of wool together, immerse completely in water, and place one end in the pail, weighted, and touching the bottom. Rest the other end on the soil; a separate plait of wool is advisable for each pot. This simple plan ensures the plants receiving an adequate supply of water.

Now of that is not the sort of tip that could be published today I just don't know what is. That said the madness of the method almost has you believing it could work. Chilling really.

Card 23 has a very useful hint for all those people that still have knives which have a separate element of handle and knife. Most people have knives which are moulded as one element nowadays but for those that you who have not this card tells you what to do when the handle pulls off the knife. It involves molten resin, lots of heat and dire warnings of melting handles. Once the repair is affected the knife cannot be used for a couple of days. No matter really as I doubt your hand will be useable for a couple of days either.

Delicate stuff this art restoration.

I have had a bit of fun with this well-meaning set but when I saw card 26 I truly shuddered. Entitled, Cleaning an old oil-painting. Imagine the potential damage this tuppenny ha'penny card probably did. Just imagine that grubby old oil painting hanging on the wall. Nobody really knows what it is because it disappeared under a thick layer of nicotine a long while ago. Then the answer to the smokers prayer arrives in the form of a cigarette card. It starts well enough, Valuable oil paintings should be taken to an expert for cleaning. Trouble is what is valuable. The most valuable oil painting I ever got my hands on was a Stubbs (horses of course) but it was torn into quarters and had a lump missing out of the corner. Just right for the bin let alone cleaning. Anyway back to the card:

Details from Card
Cleaning an oil painting
Valuable oil paintings should be taken to an expert for cleaning; less costly canvases may, however, be cleaned at home. Remove the picture from its frame, and wash carefully with a sponge soaked in warm water and squeezed out. Repeat the process until as much dirt as possible has been removed, and then dry with a soft cloth, and varnish. This is best done in dry, sunny weather in a warm, dust-free room. Carefully warm canvas, brush and varnish before commencing. A good mastic varnish should be used....

The picture demonstrates the artistry of larding varnish onto that old oil painting. That is, if it survived the 'warming' process.

The next card in the series (Card 27) demonstrates, Removing old Paint. Well why not. Just scrape of that old paint, the canvas could be useful for patching up your old kit bag. Luckily it turns out to be removing old paint from woodwork.

If all went wrong when you were easing that old oil painting out of its frame do not fear. cards 32 & 33 goes through the steps of making a picture frame.

If you only slightly damaged the frame pulling the painting out card 34 deals with re-gilding the frame.

That concludes my examination of this set and I will leave it to your imaginations what three uses for old newspaper the compilers decided to list for card 25. And no, wrapping fish & chips ect. was not one of them. Next month I will tell you just what they are but right now I will not.