Friday, 25 March 2011

An old milkman

As you may know from previous postings my father was also a milkman. At a very early age I can remember him going off to work very early in the morning and returning early afternoon. He always smelt of tobacco as he smoked about 30 cigarettes a day and I can still remember that distinctive smell of the leather money bag that all the milkman had. On Christmas day he would work and my brothers would get up early to help him with the milk delivery. I had to wait for his return to open the Christmas presents and in later life took my turn to help with milk delivery. These days milkman do not work Christmas day as they double up the milk delivery the day before. I can also remember the sadness in him when they took away his horse and gave him an electric milk float, all milkmen had a special relationship with their horse and it must have been a very sad day for them all. Of course you did not get milk from a supermarket then and it was expected that you got a milk delivery,whatever the weather and in the middle of a snowy winter he would start at 5 in the morning and return very late at night. He was a very keen union man and when he worked for a private dairy formed a union and became shop steward. Suddenly I had many new uncles as they used to meet in our house and would call each other brother. The dairy decided that they did not want a union and locked out all those who were part of it, but unions had some power in those days and they stopped the delivery of milk so the union had to be accepted.

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.

1 comment:

  1. That made me laugh - a few times, he does indeed sound like a right character.

    Especially the shoes.