The only time I have been to Paris was with a milkman. I watched as he left pints on doorsteps in Montmartre, posed with a bottle in front of the Eifel Tower and travelled on the Metro, clutching his gold tops to his white coated chest.
It was a publicity stunt dreamed up by the then Milk Marketing Board, promoting doorstep deliveries. The winner of a ‘My Favourite Milkie’ contest came from South Yorkshire and the Sheffield Star sent me, along with a photographer, to cover the event.
Quite why we should go to Paris, a city which has never seen a bottle of the white stuff on its doorsteps, I never did understand. Not that I worried too much because it was grand day out and included a free lunch on a barge restaurant moored on the Seine and a complimentary mug from the MMB.
The photographer didn’t get one because the Milk Marketing Board ladies didn’t like him putting up a strop at photographing the milkman in front of the Eifel Tower. He claimed he couldn’t get it all in the picture. So how come he would fail where millions of tourists succeeded? I asked, abandoning diplomacy.
I have always been a fan of doorstep deliveries and invariably buy my milk that way but it’s getting harder.
For a start, I have to ask myself why I pay 71p for a doorstep delivery of my semi-skimmed pinta when the cost in Tesco is 49p. The answer is that you could call it a social duty although I have never been a Guardian reader: it keeps a Milkie in a job and helps support a Mrs Milkie and all their little Milkies. It ensures there is someone friendly on the streets in the early hours, making the kingdom potentially safer, and guarantees deliveries to pensioners who can’t get out. A milkman is often the one who alerts the police or social services to a problem.
Sadly, few share this doctrine – only one pint in 12 arrives on the doorstep (and these are 2012 figures. Now it will be worse).
The dairy companies don’t help themselves. Much of the milk locally was delivered by Dairy Farmers of Great Britain which went bust several years ago, putting some farmers out of business. The Hillsborough dairy, on Leppings Lane, is still operating although I am unclear who now runs it. There is no website and deliveries have contracted from daily, except Sundays, to just three days a week, Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Nor, for the last two Christmas, has there been a leaflet detailing holiday rotas so you can ‘double up’ orders if, say, New Year is a Sunday. You would have thought a business which sells its product for almost 50 per cent more than the supermarkets would want to pull out all the stops.
I’ve every reason to ditch the milkman and buy from the supermarket yet something stops me. It’s tradition and that sense of social duty. According to the http://www.findmeamilkman.net website there are still half a dozen dairies doing deliveries in Sheffield. You might want to give it a whirl.