Ea­monn O’Neal

Sale & Altrincham Advertiser - - COCOA CABANA -

ONE day this week there were three su­per­mar­ket de­liv­ery vans down our road all at the same time.

The op­por­tu­nity to shop on­line is ob­vi­ously very at­trac­tive to busy peo­ple and the luxury of hav­ing ev­ery­thing dropped off on your doorstep couldn’t be more con­ve­nient.

It’s be­ing sold to us as a great new idea but as you and I both know, hav­ing your gro­ceries de­liv­ered to your front door is as old as the hills.

We didn’t have lap­tops and iPads – we had an or­der book. Ours was a small, dog-eared note­book with a red cover, which my mum would have bought from the post of­fice as she was sign­ing her fam­ily al­lowance dock­ets with a nibbed pen dipped in ink (can you still buy blot­ting pa­per?).

The red book had our name and ad­dress on it and the weekly or­der for the shop­keeper was writ­ten in pen­cil over a cou­ple of pages.

The or­der hardly changed week by week and the cost didn’t vary much.

I would be sent round to the bot­tom shops to hand the or­der to Gra­ham, the grumpy gro­cer in a smudged brown coat. Once the or­der was made up, the ‘boy’ would load it into the cage con­trap­tion welded on to the front of his big black bike and de­liver it.

Stand­ing the heavy bike on two front forks, he’d lift a packed, bat­tered box and carry it to the door. Ev­ery week with­out fail.

Ev­ery­thing had to be bought fresh be­cause un­less you were posh and had a fridge, it all went into the larder, although we called it a pantry.

I still feel bil­ious at the mem­ory of the smell and taste of warm milk on the turn.

It was a big day for me when I got a job as an or­der boy at Wilkin­son’s the Green­gro­cers on Bur­ton Road.

The health and safety brief­ing I got be­fore I was al­lowed to hit the road was ex­ten­sive: “Do you know your way around? Right, there are the or­ders, there’s the bike. If you fall off make sure you don’t buckle a wheel.”

So next time you see a su­per­mar­ket’s shiny de­liv­ery van, think of lads like me, wob­bling along the pot-holed streets of Manch­ester with your weekly shop.

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