Tuesday, 14 June 2011
I persevered for a couple of months and eventually the training made me a lot fitter and the milk round became easier but I could never do the exercises that involved the body being supple. The one I had big problems with involving doing the splits, leaning forward and putting your hands on the ground and then gently letting yourself down onto your backside. I always went down with a bump and would often have bruises on my bum. At this stage I got Dot involved with the exercises at home and while I sat on the floor, legs apart I would try to get my head to touch the floor. Dot used to try and help me by gently pushing my shoulders in the hope that I would achieve this. It never happened, one day as Dot gently pushed there was a loud crack and my back went. I have never had much trouble with my back but the pain I experienced that day I never want to experience again. At that stage I decided to give Karate up and just concentrate on being a milkman.
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Dot my second wife would often help me on my rounds and Christmas was no exception. I remember taking her with me very early (3am) on the day before Christmas. On one of the first calls she came back with a 50 pence piece that had been left as a tip, a lot of money in those days, she thought this was fantastic. I said that come the end of the day (about 7 pm) she would be so tired and weighed down my money that she would lose all interest in the tips. She did until the day after when she could counted it all.
When I first started I would even work very early on Christmas day. I would double up as much as possible on milk deliveries the day before but it would still leave some customers who wanted a daily delivery of milk. This was part of Christmas, my brothers, relations and even friends would help me so that I could get home in time for a Christmas breakfast. This had always been part of life at Christmas and even as a boy I had gone out Christmas morning to help my father. In a strange sort of way it made Christmas because it was a time the family truly got together and on that day delivering milk was fun.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
It was all in good humour and I could always hold my own ground. These days you are not allowed to take the Mick out of your fellow workers and all sorts of harassment charges can be made if you do. Times are a changing and it is not for the best
Monday, 9 May 2011
Because I took promotion and became a supervisor (it entitled me to wear a blue coat with light blue collar and sleeve ends instead of red) I would often spend a day working in the dairy. During the day you would have the milk deliveries, thousands of pints of milk which would slide down a watered ramp in stacks, eight crates high. The person at the bottom would have a long metal hook that he would plonk onto the crates and swing them around into the fridge. This was a skill indeed as each stack of crates would slide into perfect place in the fridge. Of course I had to have a go and from a slow beginning started to get the hang of it. I gave up when I got overconfident and swung the crates just a little too hard and the whole stack fell over. Broken milk bottles everywhere again.
We had a small shop where the milkman would order and get things like bread, cream, yoghurts, cakes, eggs and many other things. At the back of the building you had the bays for the milk floats where they had to be plugged in to be charged overnight, you were in big trouble the next day if you forgot to do that.
We also had an engineering department where the floats were serviced and repaired. They had a big lorry available to rescue any floats that broke down, most times they would tow a float in but one day as I was chugging up the final hill back to the dairy doing all of 4 miles an hour this lorry crept up behind me, dropped down a gear and with a loud roar of the engine shunted me up the hill at a good thirty miles an hour. I though Old Nic himself had got me as I had been dreaming and not looking in my rear view mirror.
Monday, 25 April 2011
As a milkman you meet a lot of dogs, I like dogs and they seem to like me.On one delivery there was a Labrador that used to sit serenely in the garden and watch me as I delivered the milk.The customer one day warned me that it had been in a car accident and was a little crazy and that I should watch it as I came up the garden path.
On another delivery a very aggressive Doberman was always left in the garden and would rush up to the gate barking loudly. The milk was always left outside the gate. One day the owner met me at the gate and said let me introduce you to the dog, you can make friends with him and then you can leave the milk on the doorstep. I made friends with him and from that day delivered the milk to the doorstep. Soon afterwards I was delivering milk to this house and the dustmen (Garbage collectors) turned up and the dog went mad. “You must be ****ing mental to go in there“ they said, but then again they were not friends with the dog.I have come across geese guarding their property and you have to move fast with them, they have long necks and can suddenly give you quite a peck but my worst experience was with two Siamese cats. I can do a good cat meow (as well as Donald duck and chicken noises) and when I came across these two cats in the garden I meowed at them. Big mistake, they went bonkers, started hissing and jumping up at my chest trying to scratch my face and this big brave milkman ended up running as fast as he could to escape the attack
Saturday, 16 April 2011
On cold frosty mornings you may think that a milkman’s job is not the best in the world, especially when some of the milk starts freezing and expanding out of the bottle pushing the foil cap off, but after the initial shock first thing in the morning and picking up the first few frozen empty bottles the finger get used to it and get a warm tingling feeling. It helps if you wear fingerless gloves (mittens) and run up and down the garden paths to keep warm. My milk float had no doors and no heating so it was pretty draughty as well. I had heard of one milkman who jammed a brick on the accelerator and ran alongside his float to keep warm. They did not move very fast but knowing my luck I would surely have crashed if I tried that little trick.
One day it was suggested that I should wear a pair of my wife’s tights under my trousers to keep warm. It works well, too bloody well as my legs were getting red hot and I had to rip them off without taking my trousers off. Mr Bean would have been proud of me.
In all I much preferred the colder weather as it was possible to keep warm but in the summer there was no way you could really cool off, the heat would make your gold tops (Channel island milk) go off, even although I used to keep them protected from the sun under empty crates in the middle of the float.
Then there is rain, terrible stuff for the milkman. You put on a raincoat and some good waterproof leggings and it is like your own personal sauna except the rain eventually gets everywhere, down your neck and in your boots. It was no good wearing wellington boots as they would slow you down and chaff your legs.
To this day when I am working inside and see it raining outside I think to myself “This is one day I would not want to be a milkman again” but it does not rain every day and I think I could easily return to being a “milky” again
Thursday, 7 April 2011
I had just been promoted to a supervisor and it was my first day to cover for a milkman on his day off. The round was out in the country and no street lights were available.
I had a pint of milk to deliver and gingerly made my way down the garden path with torch in hand. As I placed the milk on the doorstep I heard a grunt in the distance, probably a fox I thought. On my way back to the milk float it was dark, bloody dark and the dim lights on the float were barely visible because I had parked it front of a hedge. Once again there was a grunt and a sort of a “eurgh” noise, it was definitely human and it was getting closer. Thoughts of the walking dead and vampires raced through my mind. I admit I was scared, in fact f*cking shit scared and I tripped up arse over tit in my rush to get back to the dim light of the milk float cab. As I sat there with shaking hands on the steering wheel it occurred to me that it was not an ideal escape vehicle with a top speed of five miles an hour and the horrible groaning noise was right on top of me. Suddenly there appeared in the sparse light a human figure, I was ready to fight or run, run seemed to be the better option, but suddenly this figure developed a big smiling face and a hand with thumbs up signal. It then occurred to me by the noise and signals that he was deaf and dumb.
I became good friends with this man and would often see him on his early morning walks but it was probably one the most frightening experiences of my life and only rivals the first time I saw my baby sister Wendy and thought that I had a monkey for a sister.
Thursday, 31 March 2011
They were very heavy because they had batteries not just under the seat but under the chassis as well. The front cabin was just a flimsy fibre glass shell so if something hit you head on you did not stand a chance. The back was a different matter all together, I have told you that my dad reversed one through a heavy set of oak gates and hardly noticed and I had something similar happen to me. My normal float had gone in for a service and I had been given a replacement. This was a longer than my normal float and the back extended a lot further over the back wheels. I actually forgot about this and when doing a U turn in the road managed to knock down a barrier outside a school, it was early in the morning and fortunately no kids were around.
In bad weather they could slowly chug through deep snow but the big problem was that the single front wheel would not steer and trying to go round a corner was a nightmare. You had no heating, no doors so you would get very cold at times. These floats would be charged up over night and most of them would only just manage to get back to the dairy on a single charge so if the weather was icy and you got a fair bit of wheel spin the chances were that you would run out of electricity. With no mobile phones in those days you would have to find a public telephone or ask a customer to ring the dairy and they would normally bring out a petrol van for you to finish the round. The one advantage to this was that the milk float was towed back to the dairy and you did not have the job of unloading the empty bottles on return as it was done for you.
Driving one was a little strange as well because you did not just press the start pedal. You pressed it once until it started to move, then lifted the pedal slightly and pressed down again, something that came easy with practice. Because they were so bloody slow you had to continuously keep looking in the rear mirror to see what was approaching from behind, a habit that has stayed with me even when driving a car.
Oh it was so nice after finishing your round to chug back to the dairy, one foot on the start pedal and one foot resting on the bulkhead and the best time to enjoy a cigarette, yes I did smoke, it was the days when smoking was inexpensive and the health problems were not apparent. Smoking nearly killed me after I had finished a round one day. The last call was up a long lane that had a vicarage and a church a few cottages and one my way back down this lane you could get up a good speed, probably all of twenty miles an hour and it was an ideal time to light up a fag. This particular day I could not find any and as I gathered speed tried to get a new packet from the locker behind me. As I did so the milk float wandered onto the grass verge, it was raining heavily and that bloody front steering wheel refused to steer and I ended up going into the ditch at the side of the round, milk float on its side and broken milk bottles everywhere. A public telephone was just around the corner and as I was unhurt rang the dairy to be rescued. I was in shock I suppose because I sat back in the cabin with rain pissing in one door and out the other. I found a fag lit it up and at that moment the vicar pulled up alongside in his car, wound down the window and asked if I needed help.I cheerfully replied everything was fine and he went on his way. It was a later date that I found out that the vicar had advised people not use the Unigate milkman because he was a complete loony.
Friday, 25 March 2011
Dogs, they can be the curse of a milkman and I have always said that the small snappy dogs can be the worst. Dad had a delivery, one pint a day and he used to walk up a long path to the front door. He said that many mornings a small viscous dog would try and bite his ankles. After many attacks by this little dog he lost his cool, swung the milk bottle and caught the dog under the jaw. The dog howled and ran back to the house and the woman of the house came to door asking what he had done to her little baby, of course dad was all innocent and denied anything. We delivered bread in those days and one day when I was him he discovered that he had forgotten to order an uncut brown loaf for a customer. He dived into the back of the goods locker and brought out a really stale one that should have been thrown away. He sat on it, punched it and softened it up and then delivered it. He told me that the next day the customer had complained that when she went slice it, it was hollow inside.
He was a loveable rogue and not the best of drivers, in his time he reversed through a pair of oak gates, not knowing that they had been shut. A heavy electric milk float loaded with milk and many massive batteries really does take some stopping. He parked on a hill, jumped out and forgot to put the handbrake on and the float ran down to the bottom of the hill and smashed every single milk bottle. He said that there was a river of milk flowing down the road. He had a reputation for being a bad driver and one day he came across one of his customers crying because someone had driven into her parked car and badly dented it and driven off without notify her. He said “don’t worry” and drove the milk float into her car so that she could claim from the dairy for the damage. With his driving record it presented no problem.
He eventually became a supervisor, which basically meant he would cover for milkmen on their day off or sickness and he used to cover my round. At one time the diary had over ordered on tins of biscuits and as they were fast approaching sell by date was offering them at a special price. He let it be known that my round had some special tins of biscuits that had fallen off the back of a lorry at a very special price. The first I knew about this was when the housewives from a police housing complex said that they did not care if they were knocked off and could they have some. In all I must have broken all records for selling biscuits and earned a nice little bonus.
Sadly all the cigarettes he smoked eventually got the better of him and in late life he developed emphysema and needed constant oxygen supply. He never lost his sense of humour and on one visit to see him in hospital he said that the man in the bed opposite had died and had left a nice pair of shoes under the bed and could my son (He was about ten at the time) go and get them for him. I had to stop him but could not help laughing
The last time I saw him he was sitting up in bed in hospital and as I was leaving I shook his hand and looked him the eyes. I think we both knew that was the last we would see each other in this world and I told Dot this as we left. He died soon afterwards. I lost a very dear friend and a fantastic dad but like to think that if there is a next world he is back delivering milk with his horse and cart and that the weather is forever sunny.
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
In all I managed to win a shirt for every day of the week on a bread promotion, a weekend in Rome for milk promotion, some clothing from Burtons and a lot of little cash bonuses for many other smaller promotions. “Watch out watch out a Humphrey is about” and “are you getting enough?” (Milk) where a couple of the promotion campaigns I remember. You had to be very careful who you said “Are you getting enough” to but dad seemed to get away with saying to them all.
While training me my dad would get up to a few tricks and his favourite one was with a deaf and rather cantankerous women who sometimes used to collect her milk from her gate. She could lip read so dad used to turn his back to me and make some of the rudest comments imaginable. Once I had been trained and got to know this woman she informed me that she was to have an operation on one ear and hoped to be able to hear again. She had the operation and it worked. Several months later my dad had to come out with me and check on my progress and make sure I knew the job. On that day this women came to her gate and dad tried his old trick, back turned and used some the worst language imaginable. “Pardon milkman, what did you just say” spoken in a very surprised posh accent still rings in my ears
Friday, 11 March 2011
Perhaps the strangest and most difficult to deal with was when I called back to a pub to collect the money. I always went round the back to the kitchen for it. As I was waiting this giant of a barman minced in, looked me up and down with a wicked glint in his eye and said “Would you like a drink” I took a step backwards and said “No thank you”. “Would you like a cup of coffee then” Another step backwards and “No thank you” from me. “How about a drink of milk… Oh silly me… you are a milkman” he said and minced off. The kitchen staff were in fits of laughter at my reactions.
In between marriages I had the pleasure of being friendly with a very attractive and sexy girl. So sexy that a friend used to fantasise that she was in bed with him when making love to his wife. (They were a very open couple and she used to imagine he was someone else too, I did not blame her) On my milk round I had discovered a fantastic country pub with some amazing country walks close by. This young lady agreed to accompany me on a visit to the pub one day (this was the milkman making a proposition) and afterwards we walked hand in hand up into the hills on a warm summer’s day. I gently laid her down on the grass and gave her a gentle lingering kiss. I was in heaven. As I Iooked down at her she glanced up at me and said “oooh I can see all the hairs up your nose” In a split second everything was deflated… literally. I let my friend have his fantasies, I have none
Thursday, 3 March 2011
I had one special lady who became a good friend. After I had finished I would always call in, have a cup of tea count up my money and check my books. Of course the milk float would be outside her house for some time, but all the milkman including my father who had worked on this round had always done the same thing. I found out many years afterwards that Sophie my first wife had been tracking my activities and had been following my milk float and thought something different was going on. Had she cared to knock on the door she would have found me chatting to Babs, her husband and two rugby playing sons.
As for the young ravishing twenty years old, I delivered to some, but never had any special offers.
Saturday, 26 February 2011
It was at this stage that Dot my second wife came into my life. She was the opposite of Sophie, a very good manager where money was concerned and a born organiser. She had lost her mother when she was only twelve and had taken on the role of looking after her father and brothers at that early age. She had become a fantastic cook by the time I met her and she even helped to pay some of my outstanding bills at that time. From day one I have had that infinite trust in her as she did with me. I cannot lie to her because she can read my face like a book. Many people said our marriage would not last because we were opposites but we have been together for thirty five eventful years and have a son and daughter. My daughter has given me a very artistic grand daughter who will hopefully take over Sevenoaks Art one day.
Now my little sister is another story all together :0)
Saturday, 19 February 2011
I always had an ample supply of drinks from my customers and would also drink a pint of gold top daily but that meant you needed a few pit stops on your dash around the houses. I did have the use of a couple of outside loos, there were a few about in those days but out in the country and up and down quite tracks meant you could stop the float and have a pee into the bushes. Twice I got caught with my little acorn out. One delivery was up a track where I used to drop of a couple of pints into a crate at the end of a long drive. No house about, just nice Kent countryside so the ideal opportunity to have a pee. One day I did and was startled by someone whistling and then calling out “morning milky”. It was embarrassing but she did not seem to mind as she had a big smile on her face and had come up to collect her milk and pay the bill. Another good stopping point was in a quite lay by; I would take a little walk behind the bushes and have a pee in the field. As I stood there with the little acorn doing his business I was suddenly aware of eyes on me. I looked up and to my horror a double decker bus had stopped in the road alongside me and a load of schoolgirls were peering down and giggling at me from the top deck. One thing for sure , you see life and I remember one customer letting me use her loo when I called back for some money, I have never in all my life seen such a dirty toilet but from outside the house you would never have had that impression.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Sunday mornings would bring some ecstatic noises from the bedrooms and I remember well hearing one of my favourite customers yelling in her bedroom at her husband to get his hands off her t*ts, of course I had great delight in informing her about this the next time I saw her. As I said before I had a good trainer in my old dad and it did not take long to build up a repertoire with my customers. I had some well to do customers and a lot of working class people who lived in terraced house, no walking up and down long garden paths for them, once you remembered what your customers had delivered it was just a matter of walking along with a crateful of milk and plonking the milk bottles on each doorstep as you passed by.
Mental mathematics improved greatly and in time the bookkeeping became easy. These days you see milkman with baby computers for book keeping but in my days you had a book with a page for each customer and you had write out a new one every couple of months. At the end of the week you would spend one evening at home adding up what each customer had had for that particular week and many had extras like butter, milk, cream or even potatoes, calculators were not readily available then.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
You had to know your milk. In those days it used to be pasteurised, Channel Island (Gold top) and sterilised. Skimmed and semi skinned milk had just been introduced and the few people that used it were considered health freaks. How things change, we use nothing else now. A simple maths test had to be passed and then strangely enough even although I had a driving licence I had to pass a driving test in an electric milk float identical to the one doing the rounds in the animation above. A man from the Ministry of Transport would come down and give the test. Then of course you had to be able to carry three full bottles or five empty bottle in each hand as it was considered impractical (poofy was the term used then but it is now probably considered polically incorrect) to use a hand crate as it took so long to load it up. Occasionally you would get a day off and the supervisor doing your round would need to know who the awkward, and “over friendly” customers were. There was a special code for customer “type” that would be written at the top of the page. Most milkmen I knew would walk at a very fast pace or even run like I used to first thing in the morning, it meant you would get home earlier and would also keep you extremely fit.
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
My wife at that time was most unhappy that I could not keep her in the luxury that she was used to and constantly nagged me to find a better paying job. The problem was that a flat went with the job and if I left I would be evicted. I eventually plucked up the courage to get a better paying job as a welder (Something I had learned at the wrought iron company) and hoped that the council would re-house me if I got evicted. The welding job was awful, I suffered from Arc Eye and absolute boredom and as my dad was still a milkman he suggested that I should give it a go. I did not have a car and lived out in the country so my wonderful old man used to pick me up very early in the morning to take me to work. He was a supervisor and fiddled it so he could train me. In those days you were accompanied for about a month until you got to know your round and those early days were some of the best days of my life. It was spring time, the people on the round were brilliant and I had one of the best instructors possible to become a milkman. Even although I say this myself it takes a very special person to do this job. You have be able to get up very early in the morning, be prepared to work a seven day week, get used to being soaked through, it is no fun trying to walk up and down garden paths with wellington boots and heavy waterproof clothing on, have the ability to talk to and sell your produce and to be able to balance your books at the end of the week. If you came short you were expected to make it up. It is simple fact of a milkman’s life; you have to fiddle a little to make your books come straight at the end of the week. It is easy to forget to book half a pound of butter or have something nicked from your float and it has to be made up somehow. How is just another story?