Skip to main content


Younger readers may find it hard to believe, but when I was young there were still gas lights in our town. When I was very young my Grandma's street in Smallbridge still had gas lights, and Rochdale station had them until 1970. But they were already long doomed. As soon as electric lighting became widely available, gas lighting was inevitably on its way out, and the sooner the better. Yet I am sure it had its fans in its day.

I mention this because I am wondering if there's a similar picture with the milkman. I'm probably of the first generation that has never had a milkman. My parents did as a matter of course - and at one point it made a kind of sense, when most households didn't have fridges, so you really needed fresh milk every day. But things are different now.

I had always assumed that people still used the milkman because they were prepared to pay a few pence more for the convenience, but I was shocked the other day to discover just what the premium is. Someone I know using a milkman is paying 40p a pint more than I do at the supermarket. I found that quite shocking. Assuming a family gets through about a pint of milk a day that means the milkman customer is paying around £150 a year to have their milk delivered. To be honest, there is a lot I'd rather do with £150 than subsidise a milkman.

Like all change, there is a cost attached. As milkmen cease to be employed there is a loss of jobs - but is it the kind of job, with its antisocial hours, that we really want to be preserving? You can talk about the social benefit, but frankly there's not a lot. The fact is, the milkman is the retail equivalent of the gas light. It is a concept that has had its time, but is now past.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope