Thursday, 28 May 2009

Memories of The Ice Cream Van

It is typical Summer's day on a housing estate, the sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze.
Every garden has washing hanging out; sheets billow in the breeze, school blouses and shirts of white and blue, school skirts, their pleats in sharp regimented rows, roll like an accordion with no tune, and there are socks in odd numbers.
Somewhere on the estate, a motor mower drones away and there is the scent of new mown grass on the air.
Children are playing; little girls stumble about on roller skates, which are far too big for their match stick legs, one little lady clomps around in her mother's old dancing shoes, pearls, a scarf, despite the heat, and a hat, which looks as if it has come from Royal Ascot.
A group of boys shoot at each other from their fighter planes, even though it is only their arms which keep them aloft.
Suddenly, the relative calm of the estate is shattered by the indefinable tune from an approaching ice cream van. Panic sets in, children dash in all directions, their games and bruises forgotten.
The van pulls up, belching out diesel fumes and still blasting out its tune.
A group of mothers gather, their skirts and aprons flapping in the breeze, no jeans in those days, some of them clutching their offspring of various sizes.
Just as you are beginning to realise what the tune might be, it stops. There is a swish of a sliding window, which only increases the excitement of the assembled children.
One little girl walks around, dragging her favourite rag doll by its ear. A small boy runs about with arms outstretched, pretending to be an aeroplane and the little girl looks at him as if he is from another planet.
One little urchin stands by the queue, he is dirty, and has holes in his socks, just to add a touch of irony, he wears a "Dennis the Menace" T-shirt.
Inevitably, there are tears, as some are told that it is nearly tea time, or reminded that they had previously been naughty, and what the punishment was.
Dennis was obviously one of these unfortunates. He watches longingly, as the little girl with the rag doll, shares her ice cream with a dog, and briefly he wishes that he had been a dog. He looks around, to see another mutt, lapping some spilt ice lolly off the pavement.
This is all too much for Dennis and he heads towards home crying. His wails echo down the passageway, as he slams the back gate. A shout from his mother, a slammed back door and his cries are muffled.
Soon every one has been served. After a swish of the sliding window, the little girl with the rag doll waves to the unknown vendor. The ice cream van heads off down the street, blaring out its unrecognisable tune. It is chased down the street by a group of boys on a varied assortment of bicycles, each one with cigarette cards flapping in the spokes. All hoping to scrounge a broken cone, but the ice cream man has seen it all before.
As they round the corner, all goes quite, the peace of the neighbourhood returns.

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