The four sisters: With babe-in-arms Jo
The four sisters: With babe-in-arms Jo

Jo Horner grew up in north west England with her parents and five siblings. She enjoyed a varied career in education, working in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire. She is retired. 

My mother brought up our large family on a low budget in post-war Britain. The “Make Do and Mend” posters promoted by the government at the outbreak of the war resulted in many families recycling household items. An example of this in our home was to provide an on-going supply of toilet paper. Copies of the occasionally purchased daily local newspaper and my father’s weekly indulgence of the “Football Pink” newspaper – it carried the latest football scores with the potential of a big monetary win on the ‘Pools’ – were cut up into hand sized squares by my older siblings. These were attached by a piece of string and hung next to the lavatory in the family bathroom. 

The family budget increased after two of my siblings left home and we had the luxury of Izal, which was a hard, glossy paper toilet roll. I don’t remember when soft toilet paper rolls became part of our everyday family life, but I do remember my mother’s constant complaints about how much was being used and how expensive it was. Throughout my teenaged years tissue products didn’t concern me. They were items I took for granted at home, provided by my mother. 

Later as a student, I bought the cheapest brands. Evening and weekend stints as a barmaid helped to fund my regular trips to Europe, and further afield, when on many occasions the desire to get out of a very basic public toilet was more important
than considering the quality of toilet paper I was using. How times have changed. The shelves of shops are stocked with a wealth of wonderful tissue products to enhance
our lives.  

On a daily basis I use toilet rolls, boxed tissues, and kitchen rolls. Influenced by my mother’s budgeting habits I buy whichever toilet roll brand provides the most sheets per roll, with the exception of Christmas time, when I choose a themed design. This is purely for sentimental reasons, because when my own children were small I always bought themed toilet rolls and kitchen rolls decorated, for example, with characters from Raymond Briggs’ much-loved TV film ‘The Snowman,’ or a Christmas tree design. 

I always choose a patterned kitchen roll because I use one sheet folded up into a square as a napkin at mealtimes. Sheet-for-sheet the difference in price is negligible compared to a plain white kitchen roll, since I choose the cheapest brand of patterned kitchen roll. I have many other uses of kitchen roll around the home, including mopping up small spillages, wiping greasy or oily plates and pans before putting them into the dishwasher or hand washing them. Kitchen work surfaces need wiping down frequently during and after meal preparations and using kitchen roll is a hygienic, quick and easy method to keep on top of that job. 

I buy high quality decorative paper napkins for use at Christmas and when friends come for a meal. I prefer using paper napkins because they can be disposed of as opposed to washing and ironing used cloth ones. 

When I buy boxes of tissues I choose whichever brand provides the most per box. I always keep a box in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. I choose plain white. I buy small individual packs of tissues and always keep one in my handbag, and a couple of packs in the glove compartment of the car (cunningly, I also hide my bank cards inside the pack of tissues in my handbag. A thief wouldn’t think of looking there.) 

Covid-19 changed things. At the start of the pandemic, tissue items were difficult to source due to stockpiling by shoppers. I have changed how I shop, preferring to order online deliveries instead of my previous habit of a weekly shop in a supermarket.  

I still compare the brands for value for money. I have noticed an increase in the amount of kitchen roll I’m using because I disinfect the kitchen work surfaces and bathroom surfaces more frequently than I used to before the pandemic. 

Tissue products are readily available now, but I keep a couple of newspapers in the store cupboard and a length of string, just in case!