IN 1971 Benny Hill sang about poor Ernie (eeeerrrrrnieee), who drove the fastest milk cart in the west.
It was a saucy seaside-postcard of a song with unsophisticated lyrics. (I give you: ‘If you treat me right, you’ll have hot rolls every morning and crumpets every night.’ ) But the past is another country and they do things differently there and Ernie’s dairy-related antics topped the UK Christmas charts and we all sang along.
We had a milkman in our village (of course we called him Ernie). There were stone steps opposite our house where milk churns were collected from the farm and taken to the dairy; the link between the cows in the field and that bottle of green top (yes, we had the unpasteurised kind) were closer than they are today.
Mind you, I hated the taste of milk and still do. Perhaps it was because of the creamy sickly warm stuff we were forced to drink through as straw at school or the way it sometimes made floaty bits on the top of your brew, or because I once drank some that had really gone off and was sick as the proverbial.
I still see the local milkman every morning. He delivers to several houses in our street, and he says business is booming. It seems millennials in London keen to save the planet from being strangled by plastic are demanding their milk comes in recyclable glass bottles and London dairies can barely cope with this retro resurgence. Here in Yorkshire the Blue Planet effect can be seen too. “After David Attenborough’s programmes, the number of new customer requests increased massively,” said Victoria Goodall, whose family dairy is in Scarcroft, north Leeds.
It is all welcome news, but I can’t see Benny’s song about poor Ernie’s having quite the same comeback.