Friday, 23 August 2013

No milk today

There are three pints of milk in the fridge right now – and they’re in proper glass bottles.  Here’s one of them.



100 Years On The Doorstep?  Cue some joke about finding it’s turned into cheese.  Only I wouldn’t tell it because it would be too…. cheesy.

Still, it’s pretty amazing to have a Milkman these days, they must be a dying breed.  If you’re of a certain vintage like me you may remember waking to that whining of a milk float coming down your street, and the rather pleasingly comfortable clinking of bottles.  In the cool mist of a dark early morning the sound of  Mr Unigate’s footsteps seemed to echo around the houses, as did his quiet cough.  He always coughed.  Must’ve been the damp.

You probably also recall a Benny Hill single that you knew was a little bit rude but you didn’t know quite why, and the compulsory drinking from miniature bottles at school when you were five.  That school milk was, of course, warm and tasted of sick in Summer, but almost knocked your (milk) teeth out and gave you an ice cream headache in Winter.   Mind you, at least I found out from my one week of being a Milk Monitor that I was never going to be cut out for a managerial role.  I would’ve poured mine – and my friend’s – down the sink if I hadn’t been scared of some unspeakable punishment for such lawlessness.  You HAD to drink your milk.

Later there were Humphreys.  'Watch Out, Watch Out, There’s A Humphrey About'.  I can’t really remember what that was all about now, yet still that bloody catchphrase has lodged itself in my brain amongst all the other useless items that store themselves there without my conscious intervention. (Like, our very first telephone number - 4260.  Only four digits! - and the German word for 'bra' and, well, there are loads of other things too but of course now that I want to think of them, I can’t.)   Anyway, yes, you had to watch out as there were Humphreys about trying to steal your milk, and yet bluetits still got the blame for pinching the cream from the tops of the bottles on your doorstep.

After a gap of several decades, we’ve got a Milkman again.  I still like waking to that sound of clinking bottles, along with his quiet footsteps, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard him cough and his float doesn’t whine.  We’ve had him for some time now but I’ve yet to see him; however, I know his name is Dan because he leaves us a Christmas card every year.  He comes in all weathers too, like some invisible superhero.  It's hard not to picture him as more Milk Tray Man than Milkman, grasping that bottle of semi-skimmed so provocatively in his black leather gloves, but I suspect he’s a bit of an Ernie in reality.  The fastest Milkman in the... East. 

Too bad then that in the last few weeks I seem to have developed a bloody lactose intolerance!  I'm right off the stuff....

The Nomads: Milk Cow Blues


16 comments:

  1. Fabulous post, C. How I yearn for the days of the milkman and his float. Our milky used to park his float up in the street for an hour and go and visit his mates in number 4 - well, I always assumed Mr. was home as well as Mrs. (if you know what I mean). He didn't mind if we sat behind the wheel and pretended to deliver a few gold toppers. I can actually still remember the smell of the float - not milky but just distinctive. Before that, my dad was a milkman himself for a while and actually sued a horse and cart! Unbelievable, isn't it? One day the horse (Tim) did get a bit anxious and walked all over the bonnet of a car but that's another story. I miss the real-life clink of the milk bottle and the milkman's cheery whistle. As for 'Ernie' - one of the first singles I ever owned.

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    1. Thank you, SB, and for your fabulous comment! My jaw did drop a bit when I read that your dad had, erm, sued a horse and cart, but I just presumed it was for the bonnet-walking incident...;-)
      Yes, I do know what you mean! My childhood milky used to stop for a cuppa at our house sometimes, but just to *chat* to my mum, honest...
      'Ernie' must be up there with the best-known singles of all time, and the accompanying video is lodged in my brain (with all that other useless stuff).

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    2. Oh yes, the superb 'Ernie' video...well, I suppose was actually a film but let's not argue about that! I must add that I, too, was a milk monitor at school but lost the gig because I ran down the corridor with the trolley and crashed into a door frame knocking six bells out of the the frame and trolley in one go. Had to hand my badge in. Used to enjoy my little bottle of milk, though, but the straw would always get soggy and clogged before you got to the end.

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    3. You got a trolley? Which you had to take down a corridor? Loaded with glass bottles full of milk? Where were the health and safety executives when you needed them, eh.. ;-)

      Donning my beret in tribute to Benny...



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  2. Addendum - my dad USED a horse and cart - he did not sue one! Oops.

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  3. Like you, I can remember the comforting sound of whining floats, passing on the pre-dawn streets of my youth. We also still have a milkman who calls on the village today, but now he drives a van, he has to, his round is enormous, probably 20 or 30 miles in total. I chat with him sometimes if I meet him while I'm out on an early morning walk, though I'm afraid I'm not a customer. What little milk I drink (occasionally, if I have breakfast cereal) is of the soya variety.

    The Nomads - what a tune!

    (I know what you mean about retaining useless information. Not only can I recall my childhood phone number, I can also remember our old Co-op divvy number and I probably haven't needed to know that since the late 1960's!)

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    1. Seems the rural milkies are still doing the rounds - literally! I've joined you on the soya stuff. Lovely taste, but I can't get my head around how on earth those farmers manage to milk those tiny beans...
      Ah, yes, the Nomads - loved them back in the day and hadn't listened for ages but it took right back. I was trying to think of other milk-related songs and realised there is quite a surprising amount! Garbage nearly made it, as did Massive Attack.
      Glad it's not just me with the useless info thing. We need a skip ;-)

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  4. So was Maggie Thatcher a Humphrey then? I remember she finally "Snatched" our school milk away and eared herself the nickname Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher before she even became Prime Minister.

    You still get lots of Milkmen doing the rounds in this part of the country (but then much of North Wales is still in the 1950's, I come and go through a large wormhole just South of Chester) but I am guessing you are not a fan of Father Ted of you would have mentioned Mrs Doyle's doomed infatuation with Pat Mustard in that post? ;o)

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    1. Haha, of course - Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher - such a ring to it!
      Bugger it. I totally forgot about Pat Mustard! Thanks for reminding me, that was corking. Now I'm wondering if Milkman Dan is like him...

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  5. I remember the milk man and the coal man both with their horses and carts and if the horse did a poo outside your house it was hatily gathered up and used as fertilizer in the garden. No milk today, Herman's Hermits.

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    1. So very environmentally friendly, Old Pa! A fair exchange for keeping the streets clean too, just always remember to keep a shovel handy.

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  6. We had a milk man when I was little but I don't remember scheduled deliveries. He operated like the Ice Cream man...driving through the neighborhood knocking on doors lookin' for business.

    No bottles either...plastic jugs of Chocolate milk.

    Surely it was Borden's.

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    1. Did he have a slightly out-of-tune chime on his van?
      Plastic jugs of CHOCOLATE milk?! He must have been popular....

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  7. Our milkman, in true Ernie style, rode his trusty steed with creamy pintas on t'cart. He could whistle through his nose while smoking. Cue Hovis music.

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    1. Brilliant - I'm imagining him now. Did he take a couple of whippets on his round with him too?

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