Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The White Stuff...

One morning, just after I had Miss B, I was sat by my bedroom window, feeding a tiny baby in the soft light of dawn. When I heard a familiar...almost iconic...buzzzzzzz-clink-clink-buzzzzzzzzz!

Someone on my road still had a milkman.

Did Milk Men....Women (?)...persons, still exist?

I was thrilled by all the childhood memories such a simple sound brought back.

One winter so cold it left the tops of the milk frozen, milk slushies; watching a blue tit pecking its way through the top of a neighbour's gold top; the feeling of bottles so cold they made your hands ache and your heart a little anxious that you might not make it to the table, with your heavy glass burden;

the yearning to drive the float...and then the envy when Jim'll Fix It, fixed it for some lad to do it (and some girl danced with Shakin' Stevens....but thats another pipe dream....?!)

As a grown up, I wanted the bottles...much more aesthetically pleasing!

The ease and simple joy of opening the door and finding pints of Fresh Milk (Mr B and I frequently half joke about our need for a cow!). Putting an end to the mountain of plastic bottles we accumulate in the B household. And truthfully, I wanted my children to have these same memories, tradition, to have a part in keeping 'Milk Persons' buzzing about in their floats!

So yesterday we got one!

What a revelation! You can now email these lovely people(click for link to milkandmore site); change your order right up to nine o'clock the night before; order everything from eggs to dog food, fruit to fresh juice...! It is only pennies more expensive and in my mind worth it for every one of the above reasons!

Master B was as excited as when "Farmer Christmas" came...(don't know why either, but we can't make him say anything else!!) He was tangibly disappointed that he wouldn't be seeing the milk float and burst into the bedroom at 6.45 this morning, yelling: "quick, the milk man, we have to get the milk"...

Down we all ran in our PJs to marvel at the delivery!

Are we all silly and city like?!

You know, I really don't mind! It does make me feel settled having a milkman, just as I feel settled because I know my postman, who gives a cheery hello when I pass him; because I know the man at the corner shop by his first name; because the lady in the knitting shop who is grumpy to strangers is friendly to me and adores my children, whom she has known since they were both 'bumps'; because I know my neighbours....I've even borrowed a Rug Doctor off them...not just the infamous cup of sugar!

I heard a lady on Five Live, yesterday morning, fiercely defending why she felt no need or desire to know her neighbours or community. 'Why would I?' It made me feel sad and a little bemused...?

And then on came the Neighbourhood Watch lady....groan...?! Well no, she was charming, warm, friendly, caring...why would you not want to know her? The first woman was so aggressive in her stance of isolated distance.

Now don't get me wrong I like my privacy as much as the next lady and frequently need alone time - but really? What happened to make us all so insular, so anxious, shy or lazy that we no longer want to spend just five minutes, making the effort to introduce ourselves to the people around us?

Master B, going to school has definitely opened up and introduced me to the community around me. Perhaps because my routines are now similar to others, so I bump into folk more. But is it also that I make more of an effort now, for him, for Miss B. So they can grow up knowing what it is to be surrounded by familiar faces, a sense of community, the now 'old fashioned' simple pleasures...milk bottles, a cheery hello from the postman, sweeties from Jim and Shona at the corner shop....?

What do you all think about this 'community' debate? Would you rather get on, on your own? Do you like the idea, but find it doesnt seem to exist? Do you go to groups that make you feel part of something outside yourself?


(all this from the humble milk bottle?!)


MelMel said...

Hi Mrs B.....we have a milkman called Steve I've known him since I was a baby, he still does the milk round, with his son, when my Brother died he came to see me and brought me milk and chatted to me, we had a lovely slightly wistful conversation about my Brother riding on the milk float, cos we did do silly things like that when we were little....Steve never did mind us being playful!
We have a good community spirit going on here in Moss Side, even though it can sometimes cheese me off, its comforts me to know that I know lots of people and always find someone to chat to on my way to the shops or round to my Mum's, My sister lives acroos the road from, my aunt and Parents live a 5 min walk away and aI have lovely neighbours......for now I'm happy,
Gosh quite an sum is vital....:>))


MelMel said...

P.S...I'm also not that shy and can easily tap ppl on the shoulder and surprise then in places like Quarry Bank....:>)))))

Mrs B said...


You see I am quite a shy person, but that just goes to show, it is possible to make an effort.....even if it is just a regular good morning to someone on the same path as you....

I was quite saddened by the woman on the radio...I understand she probably has lots of friends and has social ties...but I think knowing the community around you, makes us feel part of something, a little more secure and safe, and perhaps though I know it can be a four letter word, responsibility.


oh i am worried I am sounding like an MP now, so better shush up!


nickynackynoo said...

We got a milkman last month and it is a revelation! My littlest also gets very excited when the milk arrives and he even delivers on Bank Holidays. Marvellous. Living in a village you can't help but be part of the community. This is the lifestyle I wanted when I was at university in a big city - that feeling of living in the same street as friends, bumping into people you knew all the time and having impromptu get-togethers. But once my door is shut, that's my private, family time, and although I know my immediate neighbours, they're not friends and I like a healthy distanec.

nickynackynoo said...

Oh, and just to say when I was a child, our milkman was Mr Rose, and he let us drive his milkfloat on our drive. Wheeeee!

charl said...

oh i so loved having a milkman when we were kids.. we always knew him by name.. our order was immense becasue there was 6 of us.. mum immediatley thinking she hadnt cancelled the order when we went on holiday.. i always wanted them to order orange and chocolate milk aswell but they never did never mind!
its funny how having children does make you more open to the community.. we know our newsagent by first name. the women in the late shop know our children and they are little local celebs when we go in..
i never used to know anyone in my neighbourhood before i had the boys
my hubbys more socialable than me though he'll talk to anyone wereas it takes me a bit longer to pluck up the courage!!!

Mrs Yappy Dog said...

I thoroughly agree - we used to have a milkman but he either didn't turn up or came at 12pm and left the milk after we had gone to work! But I too have lovely childhood memories of the wonder of finding the birds had got to the foil first and sipped the cream!

Menopausal musing said...

I have a friend who has been a milkman, a fireman, a park keeper and now is an IT Consultant. He says the best job he EVER had was being a milkman. He loved the job, the people he met etc, but it wasn't enough to feed him and his family. I loved this post, it was so beautifully photographed and (as usual) so intelligently written. Well done you!

Lisa said...

I know what I would like to write as a comment in reply to this fabulous post, but as usual I get totally tongue-tied and find it hard to put down in words exactly what I do mean! But I'm sure this enthusiasm and interest for vintage and retro items/clothing paraphenalia (which I share) has a lot to do with us wanting a part of time when community was so important. We may not want the live-in-each-others-pockets part of it but modern day living has become so insular and selfish, but some of us want to share our interests again for the good of ourselves and our community.
I hope that makes sense, apologies if not!
Lisa x

Mrs B said...

awwwwwwwww I am loving the responses to this post!

Thank you for taking the time to say what you think, its great! (Lisa - complete sense!)

The more people that support these traditional businesses the better! Its hopeful as people start to recognise value for money and refuse to quibble over say 27p a pint, difference for a local product, better service, actually more convenience and a finger in the eye for the Food Giants!



Mummy Boo Bear said...

Hello there Mrs B,

I just love your post. So thought I would stick my oar in if I may? lol.

Where I live is just outside a large town centre and you would think it would be a bit... well rough and horrible and not very friendly. But although there are sometimes some dodgy things that go on, there is amongst all that a sense of community. Its not in your face but we know the people in the local shops enough to say hello. The posty is really friendly and his daughter is in the same class as my eldest girl. We know our neighbours, on one side very well and sometimes I go round to crochet and chat with her and my DH is always on line game playing with Mr neighbour. I know most of my neighbours well enough to say hello if not chat. And I love it! Its the best of both worlds really not too curtain twitchy but friendly enough, I know if I ever really needed help I only have to ask. I think that is so vital and important in life. To just say Hello how are you? Great morning isnt it? Such simple pleasures.

We did have a milkman but we only got the horrible plastic bottles and I am afraid to say we found ours really expensive! eek, it was a shame as I rather liked having one.

Great debate, post and pictures. Sorry for the essay!


clarabelle said...

We always had a milkman when I was reading your article bought back memories. We have recently moved to Cornwall and one thing I have loved is shopping locally and actually getting to KNOW people. I have just registered on Milk & More and my milkman is called Steve - I can expect my first "clink clink" on Friday! YAY - I am actually quite excited. Thanks for the push...I have been thinking of this for a while!

Bobo Bun said...

Not one to brag, but my dad was a milkman for a while. He had always had a boatyard and so when he sold that he wanted something that would let him just be. His round ironically was to a lot of farms. In the holidays I used to get up at 5am and go and help him. I loved stopping for our breakfast and eating the mothers pride doughnuts on board washed down with a bottle of Corona.

Where we live now you can choose to jump in or out. It goes wider than just our village to all the market towns too. I stop for coffee at the wool shop, don't get involved with the do goody church ladies, but like the vicar who drives an audi quattro. Some people here haven't left the village their entire lives, but they're good people with a bit of fun. We all feel very protective over the ducks on our pond and I think we've made a hit next door as they cut our verge for the first time in four years. So it can take a bit of time with some I guess. I think community is really important, but so's your privacy too.

Really enjoyed thanks Mrs B.

Lisa x

meplusmolly said...

Just a little comment from me, as I'm a bit tired to write more, lame I know. But I wanted to make you smile - my dad in his time has been a milkman, but even funnier - a butcher, a baker and yes has even made candles in the back garden, so a candlestick maker??! ;0 X

MissSearles said...

We used to have a Milkman up until a few years ago :-)
I've never been that keen on milk tho, much prefer my tea with soya milk now!
Anyway lovely lady, there is an award waiting for you over on my blog :-)


A Thrifty Mrs said...

I hate milk (I force myself to drink a pint a day though, I is good)!Bleugh! But I get what you're saying.

I love that grounding in the community that comes with knowing the people in the shop, what time the postman picks up the post from the postbox and that he'll wait if he sees me running with a last second card in my hand. Great feeling.

I'm a member of the neighbourhood watch and a residents soc for our park and it is amazing how many people we have got to know in two months. The lady next door knits and helps me out with scary patterns, the woman across the road taught me how to make an indian dish I was stuggling with in return for me teaching her how to make pizza.

The tale of the woman on the radio made me quite sad. I'd feel so cut off if I didn't know my neighbours. Even if it is just for a cup of sugar. Or more likely round these parts a bottle of wine and a dvd (we swap instead of buying on our street!)

P.S. I shall only go to the knitting shop with you, for I am vay scared.

PaperFish! said...

uuuuhhhhh, our milkman had Carrot-Ginger hair and ONE LEG! no word of a lie - life dealt him a bad deal... then, i kid you not, he killed himself when his wife ran off with a neighbour. A little too much community spirit where i grew up... x

Mrs B said...

or psuedo/mock community spirit....thats the stuff we all fear....


niftyknits said...

Since before Easter I have driven for an hour and a half each way, daily, to care for my elderly aunt, newly released from hospital. So YES I'd love to think we (or at least SHE) still lived in a world with a community of neighbours who'd pop in. But I can't see it :-( and maybe I'm not really nostalgic - just tired. To be honest, any number of my own neighbours could be in a similar vulnerable situation as my aunt, and I wouldn't know. Maybe it's time to change? (And no, I don't mean to sound like a party political slogan!)

Cate said...

Hi Mrs B,

what a thought provoking post!

since i moved out of the city to the coast i've actually got to know my neighbours, and i regularly go to a knit night at the local yarn shop to drink pink wine with the lovely ladies there, who will let me loiter in there shop chatting and stroking things when i need company, it's nice to have a little sense of community1

Cate, x

p.s. love the pics of the milk bottles, think i'm gonna have to get some of those to add to my bottle collection! (do you get to keep yours?!)

mairibeans said...

i would love to have a milk man, unfortunatly our milk and oj would be swiftly stolen before you even heard the clink :-( one day though.

Jackie said...

I have enjoyed coming across this post quite by accident and am always surprised when others find the Milkman so unusual. I made my own 'homage ' to the milkman recently. You may be interested.

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