Triple P was out having morning tea with a young (20) lady this week and she ordered a glass of milk as she doesn't drink tea (or coffee). Now although Triple P likes milk in his tea and porridge he cannot abide drinking the stuff.
When he was small milk, in dinky little quarter pint bottles, was compulsory at junior school at around eleven in the morning every day. We were forced to drink it but while just about palatable ice cold it was, especially in the summer, often warm as it had been delivered to the school at about seven in the morning and had not been refrigerated.
Milk in Britain, as in other countries, was delivered by the milkman from his electric milk float. Not only did these vehicles, with their distinctive whine and chinking sound, deliver milk (and bread from the little cupboards at the rear) they also clogged up the roads given their limited top speed. The milk would be left on the doorstep in pint bottles and the birds would inevitably peck at the foil tops (which you opened by gently pressing your thumb into the centre of the foil until it popped open) to get at the cream with floated to the top. In the winter, if it froze, the solid cream would push the foil lid off and you had a cylinder of frozen cream which Triple P's mother would put into bowl, sprinkle with sugar and serve to my sister and Triple P as a 'treat'. Notes for the milkman, such as 'no milk today' or 'an extra pint please' (blancmange for pudding!) would be rolled up and put in the empties at night to be collected the following day.
It is odd, given the increasing presence of refrigerators in British homes in the fifties and sixties (Triple P's family always had a fridge from as early as we could remember) that the necessity for daily deliveries didn't reduce much earlier than it did. Initially, in Britain, milk deliveries were three times a day and it was only during World War 1 that austerity measures reduced them to a daily round. Milk bottles only became common in Britain after WW1 following their introduction from the US; up until that point milk was ladled from churns into tins provided by the householder.
Triple P's fridge in his first year at university was the window ledge on the left of the top floor of the four storey white building in the centre. The window on the right was our bedroom and was unheated so was nearly as cold as the outside.
At university, Triple P bought milk from the Co-op in cartons, largely because there were no fridges available to students so milk was stored outside on the window ledge, which could have been extremely perilous to pedestrians if glass bottles had been used. Many was the time that Triple P sniffed his milk before some young lady was due to come round for tea only to find that a quick dash to the Co-op was needed.
It was really the deregulation of the milk industry in 1994 that saw supermarkets selling milk in bulk for the first time and marked the death knell (almost) for home deliveries. In 1970 in Britain, 99% of milk was delivered to the door in milk floats but today it is less than five percent. In America the figure is less than 0.4%. Strangely, in Triple P's road there are still people who have their milk delivered by electric float but they are a very rare sight these days, although there are still several thousand milkmen in Britain.
The only time Triple P remembers drinking a glass of milk since junior school was when he was training for the London Marathon in 1987. We had just finished an eighteen mile training run on a surprisingly warm April day and got home and drank a whole pint in one go. Since then, no. When we were small we had standard full fat milk which had a silver foil top, although my uncle and aunt who lived next door had gold top (Jersey) milk, which had a higher fat content. Today Triple can't take full fat milk in our tea and we prefer skimmed as it doesn't have that nasty, milky taste.
So as our young companion drank her glass of milk it actually made us feel rather nauseous. Milk. Yuck!