Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Mind that child
Part of the training of British policemen is (or at least was) giving evidence in court. They arrive at the fake courtroom and are given a subject on which to burble facts about for a few minutes in front of their peers. Rachel is complaining about writer's block, and I said that if she has nothing to write about, it is a good exercise to write about it anyway. Today's subject is Ice Cream.
People of my parents' generation - i.e. the ones who lived through the war - are (or at least were) obsessed with ice cream. Not the fancy, good-quality stuff sold in tiny lumps in expensive restaurants, but the fatty great blocks of vivid yellow, with the overpowering aroma of chemical vanilla - like the infamous Walls Family Brick. They even called it a 'brick'.
Not realising that my father's roots were firmly in the working-class outskirts of East End London, our local ice cream van would by-pass our enormous house in a very rich neighbourhood of Surrey and make straight for the little estate which lay beneath the tree-lined embankment which was the bottom of our large garden.
Most Sunday Summer lunchtimes, we would hear the tinny jingle of 'Greensleeves' drift up through the dense vegetation, and my father would rummage about looking for a half-crown peice to give one of us to run down the bank with, trying to catch the van before it left the estate.
He always had a huge stock of stale wafers, left over from when he himself ran a shop which sold ice cream, and if we brought back a Brick, he would carve it up and slap it between the wafers, usually eating most of it himself.
Every Summer we would spend a week or two in Brighton with his sister, and every day he would eat ice cream, sometimes on the beach, and once - to my mother's intense embarrassment - with a knotted handkerchief on top of his head. It was like a dirty postcard, but without the innuendo.
I heard an ice cream van jingling away the other day, and was disappointed that they have replaced Greensleeves with some other peice of mildly classical music, but I was heartened to hear the driver maintaining tradition by cutting the melody off halfway through a line, just like the old days. Things have never been quite the same since 'Mr Whippy' arrived on the scene, and things have never been quite the same since its inventor - Margaret Thatcher - arrived on the scene either.
In the interests of preventing the deaths of their prime customers, most ice cream vans had a large notice on the back saying, 'MIND THAT CHILD - HE MAY BE DEAF!'
At the time this bothered me, not just because the child was always assumed to be a boy, but that he may be a deaf boy and, as such, represent only a small percentage of potential ice cream sales.
Surely it would have been better to say, 'MIND THAT CHILD - IT MAYBE AN IDIOT!'