The English Patient

The English Patient

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Milk Cart

The one special part of my childhood that I remember so when the milkman came. As we lived so far out in the country our milk was delivered every day by the farmer from the local dairy. He had his own horse and cart. The horse was a huge old shire horse which was a working animal. It pulled the heavy loads, especially the milk rounds. The days of using a horse to pull the plough had long since gone. However our roads were little more than tracks and cars were no use, especially in the deep snow drifts and puddles.

The milkman came very early in the morning. He had milk churns on his cart. It was my job to go out and collect the creamy milk from him. I had two big china milk jugs. I could only carry one at a time. Grandad always made our morning oatmeal with fresh creamy milk. It was so tasty with a little honey on top.

I loved that huge shire horse. I used to take apples and suger cubes out and give him a snack. While the farmer filled the jugs with still warm milk.When the house became so full of family, we needed a churn every so often. Especially on bake day. My nan made the most wonderful creamy sweet rice pudding. She always grated nutmeg on the top. She kept nutmegs in her pinny pocket. It was an old fashioned gypsy rememdy, to put a blessed nutmeg on or about your person to help the pain of arthritis. If I had a penny for everytime nanny handed out a "charmed" nutmeg, I would be very rich today.

Our old farmhouse was in the bottom of a valley. There were steep steps leading from the front door. I climbed those steps every morning, carefully  counting each one. Then I used to swing on the front gate and wait for the milkman. I could hear his horse before I could see them. The loud clip clop the horse  made as came around the bend. Then the creak of the wooden cart.I loved it, even in the cold weather. I was given a strict talking to in the winter if I went outside in the cold without a coat, hat,scarf and boots.

In the summer the garden smelled of roses and honeysuckle in the morning. There was lavender to help you sleep, we put it under our pillow.. Sage to flavour greasy meat. Rosemary was used to make a rinse for our hair. The wonderful aroma of those plants and flowers after the early morning mist was lifting from the valley, was heavenly. I still have all those plants in my garden today.

The milkman brought us new laid eggs from his chickens. I loved the brown ones. It was supposed to be good luck if you got two yolks in one egg. We called boiled eggs "chukky eggs" and we had then soft boiled with bread soldiers for lunch. Dipping the soldiers of bread into the yellow yolk. Nanny always drew a face on my egg I loved that. Grandad's father was a sea captain. He taught us to make a hole in the bottom of the egg shell after we had eaten the contents. He siad it stopped the witches using the shell to sail out to sea. Nanny told us it was nonsense but being a fisherman is such a dangerous job, sailers have so many old wives tales like this to tell.

 Butter came on his cart as well. The milkman used to put a buttercup flower under my chin. If my chin reflected the yellow of the buttercup it was supposed to mean, I liked butter. All these old country ways are lost now. I knew every plant that grew wild in the garden. Maybe that is why I love my garden so much now. The smell of roses, lavender, sage and honeysuckle reminds me of  my childhood at Rose Villa. My son used to love me to tell him about the horse and cart over and over.

Now we go to the supermarket and we all drink skimmed milk. Everyone worries about their weight and all the extra calories. But nothing tastes as good as milk straight from the churn newly lais eggs and fresh butter.

1 comment:

  1. Ginny, I'm happy to tell you that many, many times I put a buttercup under my chin as a little girl. So not all is lost! I bet that horse loved you as much as you loved him. :)