Yesterday marked the first birthday for the Gladbloke blog. Originally started as an exercise in writing discipline (for an aspiring Columnist!) I’ve come to really enjoy posting here, and reading the emails that come my way from interested readers. This week I’ve decided to make this the last, Last Mondays’ Column entry, and from now on will insert the column used each Monday in The Observer… yesterdays column will appear later this week, to bring us nicely up to date.
I miss the merry jingle of music playing from the ice cream van, which is odd, because I was the one who insisted that we avoid that van at all costs. “The last thing the kids need is more sugar riddled treats,” I said, “and we don’t need another weekly expense,” I added, opening my empty wallet for emphasis.
So each week, as the ice-cream van tinkled by our house, watched by wide eyed children from behind locked doors, I would smugly think, ‘Another penny saved!’
My plan fell apart one sunny Sunday afternoon while babysitting child number two. As The Wiggles kept her entertained, I was in the backyard fiddling with the gate, trying to prevent Dumbdog, the family terrier, from escaping at will. How he was getting past my fiendishly clever lock was a complete mystery. As I toiled away, I heard the jingling van approach and come to a halt outside our house. Making one final adjustment to the lock, I winked at Dumbdog, and slipped back inside the house to find a clean tea towel to wipe my hands on.
To my horror, the faded spot on the rug in front of the tele was bereft of a small child, and a quick look round the house revealed that my chances of winning the Father of the Year Award were about to take a bit of hammering. My distressed gaze was drawn to the driveway where Junior was standing on her tiptoes, receiving an ice cream from a friendly looking lady.
At the front door I tripped over the little stool she had used to reach the lock, but determined to stop the transaction, I crawled on all fours up the drive, arriving too late. The lady looked down at me; “Oh isn’t she gorgeous!” she smiled, pointing to the sticky, cream covered gnome at my side, “She was just standing there holding out a five cent coin, how could I say no?”
“Quite easily,” I replied, then added, “so, what did the dog pay you?”
Dumbdog, having escaped the backyard again, was scoffing down a cone like it was his last meal. “Oh, he was sitting up begging like a good doggie,” she answered. I was shocked. Dumbdog, had never begged, or shown any inclination to do anything I’d ever asked him to do.
As I stood there in a state of stupor I was handed an ice cream, “Here you go luv,” she said, “you look like you’ve been working hard.”
“Ta,” I replied, leaning against the van, “actually just I’ve invented a self closing gate to keep the dog in.”
She gazed down at Dumbdog lying on the footpath, “Well,” I mumbled, “it’s a work in progress…”
At that moment, the family hot rod pulled up and Long Suffering Wife, towing child number one, came over, “So much for a penny saved,” she started.
“Have an ice cream!” I cried, fumbling in my pocket for some spare change, and another two ice-creams magically appeared.
Soon, we were joined by our neighbours, and a merry time followed, fuelled at first by sugar loaded dairy products, then beer. At sundown I fired up the old timber barbie and burnt my way through a bag of snags, while a tribe of children chased each other through our yard. It was quite a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
So each Sunday we would rush outside as the van approached, with Dumbdog appearing magically at the head of the queue, and over the years we got to know the Ice Cream Lady and our neighbours, as we sat on the concrete driveway stuffing our faces.
But alas, one day the old van broke down, and our little gatherings came to an end. We tried using ice cream from our fridge, but it just wasn’t the same. And now, when I recall those wonderful afternoons, I don’t think of the money we spent, but of how much happiness and friendship a five cent coin bought to our street.