In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
He loaded a dozen bottles into the crate, and picked it from the van. He stomped into the block of flats, pushing open the communal door. He knew these flats pretty well, after sixteen years. Numbers one and three, no deliveries. Number four took a pint, and number five usually wanted two. Number two left a note stating their requirements. Yes, there it was. He picked up the milk bottle with the piece of paper rolled into the neck. ‘Nothing today, Charlie. Thanks for everything. See you in Tesco’s.’ That was nice, most people ignored his passing. It was all part of life in the 21st Century. Who needed their milk delivered anymore?
He returned to the pavement and went towards flats 7-12. It could have been a lot worse, of course. In the old days the milkies used horses, slower, perhaps, but more reasssuring. There was something timeless about horses, and people didn’t sound their horns at horses. Horses were much better than those awful electric vans. The milkmen disliked them, and other motorists hated them. He supposed that they had good reason. They were slow, making snail like progress around the streets, and especially towards the end of the run, got in the way of the traffic. Some van drivers metaphorically used to raise one finger to the drivers in their beemers and Jags, by parking as inconveniently as possible. He smiled at the thought of raised blood pressures. Do they think we enjoy driving these bloody awful rattling crates, out in the open all the time?
Well, they would not have to put up with it for long, at least not around here. No longer economic they said, too costly, they said, no demand for milk to be delivered to the door, they said. And Charlie Miller agreed, they were right about all of those things. Still, after sixteen years, he would miss the round. He knew many of the people and had known some of them as customers for all of those sixteen years.
He stopped the van outside the Police Station, on the double yellow lines. None of the coppers had said anything to him in sixteen years, and he didn’t expect anyone to make a fuss now, on his last day. He went into the nick and deposited the six pints on the front office counter.
“Morning, Dave” he said to the duty sergeant.
“Morning, Charlie. Last day?”
“Yes, you all need to go the supermarket to get your sustenance in future.”
“Charlie, the boys just wanted to say thanks for the last sixteen years, and we got you a couple of bottles.” He handed over a small cardboard box.
“Dave, that’s very much appreciated. Is it milk?”
The big sergeant grinned. “No, mate, it’s the finest that Scotland can produce. And, Charlie, keep off the double yellows once you hang up the milk float.”
“Thanks, Dave and thanks to the boys.”
“See you in Tesco’s, Charlie.”
He climbed back on to the float. Milkman had never become a surname, like Constable, or Sergeant. And there was Wright and Smith, Seaman, and Joiner. He warmed to his ruminations. There was Thatcher, Shepherd, Archer and Bowman. Painter and Mason came to mind, as did Carpenter and Priest. God, they were everywhere, Brewer and Waterman, Fisher and Major. Plenty, but nothing on Milkman.
He drove back to the depot for the last time. There was only Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west, as a marker to fame, and poor old Benny Hill who was dead now. Oh, and one joke he remembered.
One day just before Christmas this milkman calls at a house in a very well to do area, and is greeted by the lady of the house in a very revealing negligee. “Come in milkie” she says, which he does. She sits him down to a wonderful English breakfast with all the trimmings. When he is finished the lady takes him upstairs, strips off the negligee and they make mad passionate love. They both dress and she leads him to the door, the milkman’s head in a whirl by this time. As he reaches the front door, she presses a pound coin into his hand.
“Lady,” says the milkman, “Please don’t think I am complaining, but what is going on?”
So the lady explains. “At Christmas, my husband and I give all the tradesmen a gift. The other evening I said to my husband, ‘Darling what should we give the tradesmen?’ He said, ‘Give the butcher and the baker twenty pounds each, and the postman a tenner.’ I said ‘What about the milkman?’ He said, ‘Screw the milkman, give him a pound.’ Breakfast was my own idea.”
Yeah, yeah. Oh, yes, Butcher and Baker, and Weaver and Cooper, and Farmer and Milliner. Then there’s Hunt and Nurse, and Carman and Shoemaker. Stop it, Charlie, you’ll give yourself a headache.
He drove into the depot, parked the float for the last time and went into the office to reconcile the takings. He dressed, said goodbye to the supervisor and went to his car. “Charlie, old boy,” he told himself, “It’s time for the day job.”
He drove to Tesco’s, went through into the staff car park, and parked his Rover 75 in the place marked “Dairy Produce Manager.” It is always a good thing to have an each way bet.
Written by my Father B.M