Friday, 25 April 2014


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.

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