Is it only in the UK or is this a thing globally? A milkman comes to our door three times a week, delivering milk, oat milk, eggs, butter, cheese and apple juice in various quantities. He arrives in the wee small hours and it is my first job on rising on his delivery days to bring in the goodies before sun and suburban foxes have a pop at the supplies.
Even in rural Hampshire when we lived in a New Forest cottage a mile and some from the nearest shop and four from anything resembling a village we had deliveries. Back then we had the milkman, who focused on milk (sort of in the title, really) and a bread boy. There was a butcher but mum didn’t really trust the quality of his meat.
The milkman was squat, rather deaf and desperately shy. It rather felt as if, were he to be seen he might turn to stone. If he heard one of us, or worse if we offered a greeting he would be off into the undergrowth like a well oiled otter.
The breadboy was different. His hours were less antisocial and he essayed a cheeky-chappie persona. He whistled terribly, too – a sort of reedy, flappy-lipped farty sound that never knowingly created anything resembling a familiar tune.
Dad felt it part of his remit as The Householder to engage this young shaver in conversation if their paths crossed. Dad would hear the van, stroll around the side of the house, engage the delivery chappie in some form of male banter and return looking as if he’d just awarded the prizes at the local Fruit and Veg show.
This stopped and I think so did our bread order one sunny day in the spring, probably in the early 1970s.
It wasn’t unusual for dad to take a fair proportion of his holiday allocation a day at a time, thus eking out that to which he was entitled. On those holiday days his mood would lighten as he and mum finished up breakfast and headed out either into the garden or onto his beloved New Forest to hunt for butterflies. A lively and upbeat mood would often lead to Dad teasing Mum. Mum had a lot of nicknames, one such being Pollen after dad spotted what he was sure was some dandruff on her shoulders. When he brushed it off, asking what pray was dusting her cardigan she said it was obviously pollen.
This particular day, I have no idea what dad may have said nor what mum replied, but the outcome was dad chasing mum out of the back door and around the side of the house. As Dad demanded she wait and take her punishment, Mum replied that it wasn’t Thursday and anyway she hadn’t loosened her girdle.
They cornered the house and both stopped abruptly, now confronted by an open mouthed and frankly terrified bread boy. History suggests the silence was beyond profound. Into this howling void of embarrassment, the delivery boy held out a loaf and managed a strangled, ‘Sliced tin?’
The following day Mum agreed with the bakery that it was probably best if they stopped delivering in future.
I had my own interaction with the self same bread van some two years or so later. By now I was at University and home for the summer holidays when I worked at a local hotel (my first book, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is loosely based on those experiences). I had to serve three meals a day and between lunch and dinner I could if I wanted go back home for the two hour break. I didn’t often mostly because my bike, my only means of transport was as useful and reliable as a perforated condom. I was always having to tighten this or tie up that.
This day, about five I was astride my loyal if useless steed, studying some malfunctioning part as I cycled away from home. The roads were always quiet and so not looking where I was going was never an issue.
Until it was. That day I encountered the late delivery of the bread van. When I say ‘encountered’ in fact I rammed into the back of it. Perhaps ‘rammed’ is an exaggeration as my speed wasn’t fast but it was sufficient, given that the doors of the van were open, to enable me to parabola over my handlebars and land on the unforgiving floor before a cascade of loaves and buns joined me.
I must have made a dreadful noise and I knew I was in trouble as I hurriedly climbed out. To my surprise no one came and I had time to hastily push the loaves and buns back whence they’d come and wheel my even less ridable bike back home. I should have confessed, left a note or some such but I just ran. Well, hobbled. Dad took pity on me and gave me a lift to work and picked me up later. The Archaeologist even got my bike working.
I counted myself lucky the doors were open though, in retrospect, I would have been luckier if I’d missed the bloody van entirely…