Monday, August 22, 2005


This is what passes for stimulating conversation at number 11.

Husband: "I wonder why it is that hearing ice cream van music makes you feel depressed?"

Me: "I dunno".

Husband (about half an hour later): "I think it's because it reminds you of how happy and excited it made you feel when you were a kid. Then you grew older and you realized that life's not like that".

Too true. Ice cream van jingles are like a lament for things passed, which may well never have existed at all. A world in which there were milkmen, and bread delivery men, and mobile shops, and a tight knit community.

The first time I remember seeing an ice cream van was circa 1967, the summer of love. I was at my cousin David's house. It was a perfectly pristine July day (of course). Children were clammering around the van excitedly (of course). Nowadays the arrival of an ice cream van down our street is greeted with indifference by most residents, children included. Is this due to the cynicism of the age, or is my mind playing tricks with me as usual?

I think there must have been something resembling community spirit back in those days, because my parents knew the names of anyone who provided a door to door service. There was Norman, the chain smoking Scouse milkman (one day I'll tell you my dad's Norman the milkman anecdote, but I don't want to bore you even more here). Or Denis, a swarthy, taciturn little Melvyn Hayes lookalike who used to deliver bread for the Co-op. There was an insurance man called Mr Baker who had a profuse Saddam Hussein moustache. I once had a nightmare where he climbed up the side of our outhouse and I could see him through my bedroom window ... at least I think it was a nightmare ... I'm still not sure to this day ...

There was even a soft drink home delivery service provided by a company called Alpine. Their cider apple flavoured pop was even more dull, heavy, gassy and unpleasant than real cider. Neil Carnell down our road ended up working for them.

Door to door bread delivery finished years ago, and how many people still get their milk delivered at home? Admittedly, we were staying with some friends a few years back and we were warned that their toddler was likely to wake up at about 3 in the morning because she was disturbed by a milkman doing his round at that ungodly hour, for some reason. Sure enough, I was woken by the clinking of bottles outside at that time. I can only assume that (a) he turned up under cover of darkness because he was ashamed of anyone he knew finding out he was a milkman or (b) he was moonlighting - he needed two jobs because being a milkman no longer paid enough. The reassuring sound of a milk float whirring by outside your window in the early morning is now a rarity.

Perhaps something vaguely communal has disappeared from the world. Speaking of which, check out the Save The Post Office video here if you've not already done so.

I may return to the subject of ice cream vans at some point soon, because I enjoy making you suffer.

Our ice cream man was called Jim. He drove a green van. One weekend during the summer, my mum and dad took us for a walk round a park on the other side of town and low and behold Jim was there at the entrance of the park.

He was so pleased to see one of his regular customers, I got my screwball for free - and an extra bubblegum ball.
Sounds like a gent of the ice cream van world, MB. A lot of the ones I've encountered have been really grumpy sods.
Cor Alpine Pop delivery, I remember that, my lord it was horrible...but it was cheap.

The Cherry ade was my favourite, could keep you belching for a couple of hours a glass of that :o)

Nice blog btw, Linked to you in mine :o)
Thank you for the compliment, Aginoth. It's good to have the occasional nice word thrown your way during times of low self esteem (which is nearly all the time in my case).

I always thought Alpine pop was a midlands phenomenon. Did it go nationwide?
Yep, I grew up in Bristol and we had it there, Lived near their bottling plant, which was next door to Harveys (Makers of Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry). Always interesting smells in the air on our estate :o)
Part of the charm of the old-style ice cream man was the fact that they often looked as battered and worn-out as their ancient vehicles.
Aginoth - I grew up living 5 doors down from a bakery. Funny how, when you get talking to someone who works at one of those places about what goes on, and especially what goes into the products, you are always guaranteed never to buy them ever again.

Wyndham - I've not really encountered any modern ice cream men, but I'm sure they all look like Vernon Kay. Corporate bastards, the lot of 'em.
Vernon Kay? Lanky twat'd have to be on his knees.
I think the name of our milkman was John. Looked like Brian Cant (maybe he was Brian Cant as he was local), and I was always being left with the milk money to pay him. Terrified to go to the toilet as I knew that would be the moment when John/Brian would call. This would necessitate me running up the road after his float and nervously saying 'Can I pay the milk please, number 101?'
Why did we pay the milk and pay the papers? 'Pay FOR the milk, boy! The milk does not have a hand.'
We never had an ice cream van as we were on a main road. I presume the ice cream men didn't want dead kids on their hands.
Geoff - I think your mum would be arrested nowadays for leaving you home alone to pay the milkman when you were only three.

Those ice cream vans with "MIND THAT CHILD!!" on the back ... how many children are actually injured by reversing ice cream vans every year? Why are we never told?
ooh, ooh, we had alpine fizzy pop in essex in the late seventies. the pineapple one was the best.

i used to get a two-ball screwball from the ice cream van, but my mum would confiscate the bubblegum.

What was it with mums and their hatred of bubblegum? I couldn't work out whether they thought it was "common" to chew, or they thought you would choke to death on it, but I got a right thumping from mine after she found some I'd hidden in my room ...
Ice cream vans no longer cause they excitement that they used to, because today's children get ice cream more! Partly because we are a richer society, partly cos we all have freezers at home now (not true in the 60's & 70's) and partly because the ice cream companies sell them in supermarkets now. When I was a child you could only buy cheap & nasty lollies for home use, now there is a whole aisle in my local tesco's.

Chewing gum is disgusting stuff when you are a parent. your kids look |& sound awful while chewing it, they have to talk with it in their mouth against your best attempts to teach them manners & it gets stuck everywhere - in hair/carpet/curtains/the dog.....

I tried to get milk delivered when the I got preggers the 1st time. When I finally found my milkman he told me he could deliver to me between 10-11am. Not a lot of good for breakfast! And it would sit in the sun all day long, advertising the fact that the house was empty while we were at work. When I was a kid my milk arrived before 7am every day, plus most households only had one wage-earner and one person at home.
Several good points, Missus A.

Judging by the lack of customers queueing for ice cream vans around here, I'd be surprised to see that they make any sort of profit. I'll probably get irate ice cream men sending comments now assuring me that business is booming.

My mother used to chew gum - a habit she couldn't give up after she'd quit smoking. I always thought she was a hypocrite at the time for banning me from chewing but I suppose she didn't want me to acquire the same habit. Oh, and anyone who leaves chewing gum on pavements or bus seats is the very spawn of the devil.

It looks like milkmen now only want to deliver to retired persons. As no-one under 50 will be able to afford to retire, it looks like the last milk float in town will soon disappear over the horizon (as Benny Hill once said, probably)
I always think that Ice Cream Van music sounds very mad. Could just be me.

I have the same gum habit as your mama, for the same reason AND I've banned my children from chewing. It comes right after spitting on my list of disgusting things.

Thank-you for the mention on your sidebar. I shall try and return the favour without crashing my site.
Ohh, what's that thing for? Does it discourage spammers? Or are you just checking that we are paying attention?
I want one.
Thankyou, Caroline, thankyou. By the thing I can only assume you mean the multi coloured site meter logo, which in most people's case sits discretely at the bottom of the page. Perhaps they could only bung it in the middle of the page because my template doesn't account for all that modern nonsense as it was designed in the 1970's, like me. Any spammers would look at my stats and would realise that I don't have much of an audience to advertise to, so it probably does discourage them.
Well it looks like a good idea to me. Have been under Sp*m Attack (did you like the way I foxed them with the * ?)
a few times.

I loathe spamm"rs. See? I did that clever thing again. They'll never find me.....
It has been pointed out to me by my less dim half that you might have been referring to the floaty word thing you have to copy down when making a comment. This is word authentication/word verification. You can get this option by going onto the Blogger dashboard,clicking on Change Settings and then on Comments. It should defeat the spammers, until the bastards come up with a way around it. Hope this makes sense.
Yes, that was it! Great idea.
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