Foil tops, feckless youth and fabulous memories

By Country News

As a tacker I remember being awestruck at the sight of a bottle of milk with a foil cap.

I had gone to the city to spend the holidays with the maternal (read non-farming) grandparents.

To the little Curmudgeon, that was really cutting-edge technology.

Back home milk still came on four legs, or if we needed more we could always do a deal with the dairy farmer down the road and come back with gallons of the stuff.

But a foil cap.

I just sat there and stared at it.

“Whatever next?" ran through my mind on more than one occasion.

Mind you, by this stage in my life I knew things were starting to move pretty fast.

It only seemed like a year or two earlier when even this city grandma was still getting milk delivered into her billy at the front door.

By a man in a horse and cart. The bread too.

And if you weren't quick enough on a summer morning you would end up with every ant in Christendom industriously swarming up and down the sides of the billy, carting away what riches they could before they were discovered.

Then you would have to brush them off and take the billy inside and hold the tea towel while grandma poured the milk through it to strain out the rest of the little black devils.

You might wonder why this has suddenly popped into the mind of the Curmudgeon.

And no, I have not reached that point in my life where I am starting to remember things from my childhood better than I remember things from five minutes ago.

It just so happened I fell into this conversation at the saleyards the other day with a mate who is even older than your faithful correspondent.

He was the one having the childhood flashbacks and we were both laughing over the good old days when a young lass from the local agent, who was standing near us, burst out laughing.

She reckoned we were making it all up. Every word of it.

When we told her that as children we had never seen or heard of a supermarket she switched gears from mockery to downright derision.

“But it's true,” we insisted.

“And not just here in the bush. They didn't have them in the big smoke either.”

“Get out of here, you silly old buggers,” she said.

Well, when we told her about the horse and carts, and grandma having to go to a butcher, a greengrocer and a corner store just to do the weekly shop she had had enough.

“You two must think I came down in the last shower,” she snorted.

Mind you, we got a better reaction when we told her about the big days when milk with foil tops arrived in the bush.

We told her the government had decided every child needed to drink more milk so crates of little bottles, with little foil tops, would arrive in the schoolyard every morning.

And sit there, rain, hail or shine, until morning recess when monitors would fetch the allotted number for each class and dole them out.

Rain and hail was no problem.

But when the milk had been curdling under the summer sun for a few hours it was a different kettle of fish altogether.

“No-one was allowed to go out to play until their milk was drunk and the empty bottle returned to the monitor,” we told her.

“Sometimes it came out like custard,” we said. At which point she started looking a little lumpy around the gills.

“But don't worry,” I told her.

“The Curmudgeon didn't come down in the last shower either. I carried an empty in my pocket to hand in on those days and took the other bottle, now well on its way to yoghurt, outside and tipped it down the drain.

“That way I was ready for the next hot day.”

As it turned out, our new friend rarely saw the inside of a shopping centre herself these days, doing all her pantry filling online.

So we have come a long way but are still not that far apart.

We never knew what a supermarket was, and she doesn't care because she never has to go there.

I wonder what her computer does to come anywhere near matching the magic of the milko and the baker in their horse-driven carts.