Barry’s latest memoir is a story about his time as a milkman – and he swears it’s all completely true…
Recently I received a holiday postcard from Carol Parton – the lovely girl I left behind in 1960 when heading ‘Downunder to Australia. Carol and her sister were on holiday in Blackpool and were browsing one of those ubiquitous postcard racks when she spotted a ‘milkman’ card showing a boy rushing in on his mum and dad as they were making love and the boy shouting to his dad he was doing it wrong because the milkman always kept his socks on.
For those of you who know me will remember I was a milkman before I came to Australia. Not surprisingly, this memoir revisits a moment in time when, as a 15 year old, my education in such matters came into sharp relief – so to speak.
They Were Both Stark Naked
No doubt you’ve all heard stories tall and true about milkmen, tradesmen and door to door salesmen peddling their wares. My story on this occasion is true. Yes, it did happen. However, and for obvious reasons, no actual names will be mentioned.
Before I kick off go and grab yourself a cuppa or a glass of your favourite tipple. Go on! I won’t start until you return.
Comfy now!? Right, here goes.
Until I came to Australia I was working for the Co-operative Dairy located at Holden Bridge, Sneyd Green. Looking back the weather seemed always to wet, wet, wet – even in summer.
The official working day for me and the other milkmen was 5am to 1pm. We got one week paid annual leave, but all sick-leave was unpaid. For my weekly wage of £3.7s.6d I was required to work seven days before proceeding to a one day break.
Over a seven week period I would get Monday off the first week, Tuesday the second, Wednesday the third, and so on. Then in the sixth week I would get Saturday for the week just passed and Sunday for the week ahead. In short, one clear weekend off in seven. Add to that the fact that we rarely ever finished our milk round before 1pm – especially when it was pouring rain or snowing – our average working day was closer to 10 rather than 8 hours. But I loved the work.
Each Monday to Saturday our milk round started in Whitmore before continuing down the Whitmore Road to Loggerheads. At the Loggerheads Café we would stop for breakfast before meandering back toward Newcastle through Ashley Heath, Maer, Hill Chorlton, Chapel Chorlton, Standon, Cranberry and Stableford. When the Gymkhanas were on we sometimes dropped off milk, cream and orange juice at nearby Hookgate.
Our customers included toffee-nosed Manor folk – who seemed always to speak as though they had plums in their mouths – to everyday people like yours truly doing what was needed to earn a crust. Some of the rural folk – especially men and boys – seemed to grunt inaudibly whilst waving their arms as though to swat away imaginary flies – and believe or not, several of the older tenant farmers still wore smocks to protect their day clothes.
Sunday delivery always took longer than 10 hours due to folk wanting to chat or offer cups of tea plus little snacks. Some mums even went to great pain to presenting their daughters as the catch of the year. The usual trick for the latter would be deliberately not putting out the milk money which meant I would need to knock on the door.
Now I’ve got to tell you dear friends it didn’t take a genius to know what was about to transpire and with a deep sigh I’d wait for an answer. It was always the same scenario. Door opens, mum gives a cheery ‘Hello Barry’ whilst at the same time presenting and prompting her teenage daughter to pay for the milk and cream (Okay, no smutty stuff please) and begging such questions…”Do you have a girl friend?”…or…”Do you agree with teenage marriage?” The daughters would variously look down or turn away whilst giggling or shuffling nervously and looking sheepishly embarrassed.
Where was I? Oh yes, Sunday delivery.
As I mentioned before, Monday to Saturday we started in Whitmore. But on Sundays we started in the Westlands. That is, we delivered to one customer only before heading over to Whitmore. Why? Well, according to my driver the customer in question was not prepared to wait until late morning for her own milkman and her husband – being well heeled in banking circles – was able to persuade our ‘Dairy manager to organise an earlier delivery and because it was on our way we got the job.
It was routine stuff: as we approached the house, sorry, bungalow, we would see the master of the house walking the beagles in the direction of Newcastle; he would wave a cheery hello to us, in return I’d wave back whilst my driver would salute by touching his cap; I’d deliver the milk; then it was off to Whitmore. Once in awhile I would need to leave a note asking for outstanding monies to be left out the following Sunday.
As I say, routine stuff.
However, there was this one time when the milk money was well and truly overdue and I was under strict instructions to knock on the door and collect all outstanding. Even though it was 5.30am I nodded my understanding but was a tad nervous at the prospect. After all, these were posh folk who lived in the Westlands and banging on the door at such an early hour wasn’t sitting well with me.
Still, I had my instructions and I followed them to a tee. Knocking on the door as ‘politely’ as I could, and standing away, I waiting several minutes for a response. Eventually the lady of the house answered and gave me a cheery ‘Hello Barry, how are you today’. To this day I cannot remember if I said ‘hello’ back because my teenage mind went into a dizzy spin. The lady of the house was stark naked. That’s right dear readers – absolutely nothing was left to the imagination.
I was just 15 summers old and standing before me was a, well, err, was a naked, shapely woman whose loveliness simply left me speechless, and trying to maintain eye to eye contact with her was absolutely impossible.
Struggling to make sense of it all I somehow managed to indicate there was an outstanding account of £2 to settle. Without blinking her eyes she turned and called into the next room with the air and grace of someone born to the Manor ‘Darling, do you have £2 for the milkman’.
By now I was completely baffled, and still struggling to maintain eye to eye contact with her.
Remember me saying how this first Sunday morning customer was a routine call? Well, we did see the master of the house walking the beagles in the direction of Newcastle; he did wave a cheery hello to us, and I did wave back whilst my driver saluted him by touching his cap; I did deliver the milk; but now the routine had gone awry.
Darling!? Who the hell was her ‘Darling’?
My own question was quickly answered when a much younger man appeared with the £2 requested. Crikey! He was stark naked too! With a peck on his lips she took the money and handed it to yours truly. I do remember mumbling ‘Thank you’ before turning quickly on heel to head back to the van.
When I asked, my driver said he had seen everything.
After that my driver delivered the posh lady’s milk.
See you later…
September 23, 2016
Milk bottle image from bbc.co.uk