What brought the memory back, was seeing a small boy wailing over his dropped ice cream tub. Stood crying, looking down at his Ice cream puddling on the floor, left clutching a sad wooden spoon as a reminder. He was crying for another and his Mum was adamant, “What did I tell you? Sit down with it I said, or you’ll drop it! And what happened? You dropped it didn’t you? Why? Because you wouldn’t sit down! Well, your not having another one!!”
Seeing that tub took me straight back to being a child, and the lengths I’d go to to try and get and talk an ice cream out of my Dad. I think, in fact I know, my Dad took a lot of pleasure out of a good wind up. And a wind up could come in many forms. With his children it took the shape of outrageous lies and stories. I know this is so. I learnt from the best and did it to my own children on many occasions. And laughed every time. My Dads exaggerations were varied and flamboyant. One of my favourates was who he went to school with, (Elton John and Rod Stewart) When asked if we knew anyone famous in class one day, my arm nearly popped from its socket, so energetic and urgent was my waving. “Yes Michael, who do you know?” asked Miss Macarthy, my teacher in Junior 1. “Actually, my dad sat next to Rod Stewart and Elton John in school,” (They weren’t separated from my father just geographically either. Rod was a year younger and Elton a year older.) And smugly proclaimed this fact, looking disdainfully at my class mates, with a pigeon chested pride, that only a 7 year old can demonstrate. Miss Mcarthy knew my dad well and just said kindly, “Very good Michael. Just sit down there’s a good lad” I was probably about 18 before I actually had that, “Awwwww you lyin bastard,” moment. The one I’m going to tell you about though is my Dads best mate, the ice cream man.
It was that time in the 70’s when two sound’s got an immediate reaction. The Ice Van and the Rag and Bone Man. You’d hear the Rag and Bone Man coming because he advertised his presence in the area by shouting, “RAG BONNNNNE! RAG BONNNNNNNNE!!!” And eventually he would hove into view, sat on his horse drawn cart, with all sorts of clutter on the back that his daily round had brought him. That shout would have people searching through their houses to see if they had anything they wanted to get rid of. Any stuff they didn’t want. Anything from old clothes to any old scrap. If it was worth anything at all, I can’t remember ever receiving anything of financial substance. Usually you’d make a bee-line for him if only to pet the horse. Or, if you were one of the lucky kids whose mum had some rubbish she wanted rid of, he’d hand out sweets in exchange for what you brought him. Which was all the encouragement I needed. The other sound was that magical twinkley music that the ice cream van resonated in the air, casting a spell of its own. You were never quite sure where exactly he was, you just knew he was headed in your direction, as the sound drew closer to your street. You would then be running round in a frenzy, begging confirmation of a 99 or an ice lolly from your mum or dad, before the van even reached your own road. Every time the music stopped you’d wait with baited breath, for it to start again, so that you could hear whether or not he was still heading in your direction… Or had taken a different turn and the tinny, twinkley music faded, stopped, (serving some lucky fat bastard) started again, then finally disappeared into the distant evening.
When he did hit your street, there were small bodies flying out of houses from all over the place, and a queue of hyper kids would jostle out side the van. You would then spend your queuing time trying to decide if you wanted,
A cornet. A cornet with a Flake. A cornet with sprinkles. A cornet and a flake and raspberry sauce and sprinkles.
Assorted ice lollies. An Oyster. A tub. A tub with a flake. A tub with 2 flakes.
I only ever got a screwball Just for bubbley gum ball on the bottom. I always sucked mine first to see if I liked the flavor then gave it my brother,
“Spit? No that’s ice cream. Whys my tongue blue? Dunno. I must be dying because you won’t share your Rice Krispies!! Snap, crackle and fucking pop doesn’t sound so good now I’m dying does it??? ”
.My personal – and I don’t say this lightly – probably Gods favourite too,
A box of flakes, in a tub, with a cornet, raspberry sauce, sprinkles and a bubbley gum ball rammed on top.
I could happily have lain, draped across the serving hatch, below the ice cream dispenser, with my mouth wide, and a funnel poked in the side, to pour in sprinkles and raspberry sauce as needed, with the ice cream dispenser on OPEN.
Its surprising how quickly you learn mind. I remember asking my Dad for a cornet, nearly swooning in my rush to get to the ice cream van before the music started up again and he drove off down the road. And my dad said,
“Course you can son.”
WooHoo! “Can I have some money dad?”
“You don’t need money son.”
“Noooooo! Have what ever you want and tell him his mate “Mick” said thanks.”
“Really Dad? He’s your mate?”
“Best mate son.”
“He is? Best mate?? And I can Have what I want??”
“Yeahhh. Off you go son. Oh. And get me a cider lolly – And don’t forget to say ” His best mate Mick said thanks!”
This to the small thunder clap and retreating dust cloud, as I rocketed away.
I caught the ice cream man just before he slid his window shut.
“Whooaaaa! Mister! Misterrrrr!”
“Calm down son. I see you. What can I get for you??”
No time to think! Too many choices! keep it simple before he drives away!! Jesus Christ I’m hyperventilating!!!
“Jesus kid! Breath! Your going blue!”
It took a minute or two for him to sort the order, passing each item over the service hatch as he completed each work of art.
“There you go son, that’ll be – Oi!! Where D’ya think your going!!??”
“It alright mister. My dad – Mick – said it would be ok. He’s you mate see. Best Mate. He said to say “Thank You Very Much.””
There’s nothing worse in this world, than having something so splendid in your hands, close to being eaten, then having it yanked from your grasp, and being given a message to take back for your dad.
“Tell my mate -sorry, Best Mate – your dad – Mick – to “FUCK OFF.”
“Can you remember that sunshine?”
“Forget the Cider lolly mister! He can do with out!!”
I ended on my knees, arms wide in supplication, looking to heaven shouting ” Please God! Whyyyyyyyy Arrrrrrre Youuuu takinnnnnnnnng myyyy Oysterrrrrrrrr??” As he drove off down the road. With and angry note to the previous tinkley music. My dad was flabberghasted when I got back. “He said what?? Ahh I see what happened here. It was the wrong best mate son. I thought it was the other best mate of mine who drives the ice cream van….” My Mum and Dad laughed quite a lot about it. I got my own back. I gave all my mums knickers to the rag and bone man for a lolly pop. I think she caught him further down the street.