Hubby and I were on our way to work a couple of days ago, when we spotted a milk float. At a risk of sounding like a couple of people who don’t get out much – and maybe we need to after this – but we got all excited! Neither of us could remember the last time we saw a milkman doing the rounds on his milk float, when as kids we used to see them every morning. Furthermore, Hubby said he didn’t think milkmen existed in the States any more (if you’re a milkman in America, please feel free to prove us wrong!)
When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was as common to see a pint of milk on someone’s doorstep as it is to see someone yacking away into their mobile phone today. My mum always used to ask the milk man to deliver several pints a week, and I remember her leaving the empty bottles on our doorstep for him to collect as well as the occasional note she would roll up and pop into one of the bottles when she needed to amend the order. And of course milkmen used to deliver products other than milk including eggs, bread, cheese and other dairy items. They were pretty much a corner shop on wheels! And they were also a huge help to stay at home mums with very young children who perhaps couldn’t pop down to the shops as often as they needed to.
Today, even though milk men are still driving around in their milk floats, they are few and far between. Perhaps with supermarkets open twenty four hours a day and other local shops open even on a Sunday, most people don’t think it’s such a struggle to pick up a pint of milk themselves, which is quite ironic considering we live in an age where we like to have everything done for us.
However, most people realise that they could save themselves a few pennies by nipping down to the supermarket to pick up some milk. Furthermore, the introduction of long life milk; adequate packaging and good refrigeration means that it’s not necessary for the milkman to have to deliver milk to your door every morning. There’s also the possibility of milk being taken from doorsteps, especially today when certain people are likely to walk off with anything that’s not nailed down. On a more sinister note, the reason we stopped using the services of the local milkman was after our house was broken into. The neighbours were convinced it was the milk left on the doorstep for too long that gave away the fact that no one was at home at the time. So Mum cancelled all future orders and took herself off down the shops if ever we needed milk. A sad end to many happy years of seeing our cheery milkman! I suppose all of these factors have contributed in the dramatic decrease of milk delivery people.
And seeing a milk float always reminds me of Open All Hours, a BBC comedy starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason of which my dad was a huge fan. Jason’s character Granville, is romantically involved with the local milk woman and he waits for her to go by in her milk float before dashing outside to talk to her. So milk floats remind me of the happy times we spent as a family watching Granville’s escapades.
The milkman and his float is a big part of my childhood memories. Hubby’s too. According to the Dairy UK website, there are five thousand milkmen and women today who deliver to around 2.5 million homes. When you consider what the population of the UK is, those figures are alarmingly low. It’s a pity that milkmen seem to be disappearing and I would hate to lose yet another iconic symbol of my childhood in the 80s. Furthermore, we live in an era where ther’s something of a green revolution so surely environmentally friendly reusable bottles are a great idea. Hopefully more people will start to use milk delivery services again – but I have a feeling it’s going to take more than nostalgia to float people’s milk floats!