Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An innocent milk carton

I'm certainly old enough to remember the days when milk was delivered to the house each morning, in real glass bottles with a tinfoil cap. The local magpies loved it; what simpler than to perch on the side of the bottle, peck through the cap and drink the cream right off the top!

Not a problem in winter, too damn cold for em. But come spring and it was my task to rise at sparrows fart (dawn) and fetch the milk in for brekky. Misery wanted the cream to pour over his cornflakes. Can't blame him for that; occasionally I'll settle down to a bowl of cornflakes; a very very light sprinkle of sugar over the top, pour on some heavy cream and follow it with a little milk. My heart probably doesn't thank me for it but I reckon the smokes are doing more damage!

And I reckon there's nothing wrong with enjoying food!

Come summer and there was a more urgent reason to rise early; the milk was delivered during the morning twilight and it really was better to get it into the fridge before it warmed up. I have no idea if there were milk deliveries to Phoenix houses during the summer but if there were I can picture many many early risers anxious to get the milk in before it curdled!

Sometime in the early 70's we lost both the milk bottles and the morning deliveries. Those new fangled milk cartons were hard to open! Heck, they defeated me more than once until I learned to read the 'open this side' symbol! It's symmetrical, why on earth should one side be easier than the other?

The necessity of fetching the milk from the local milk bar or the supermarket or, in later years, the local petrol station, ensured that it was usually transferred from refrigerator to refrigerator in a short time.

In late March of 1975 I had to move out of the house I'd been living in. A long and complex story I may essay sometime; suffice it for now that I had worn out a welcome by a considerable stretch and it was time to move on.

So I spent a couple of weeks sleeping in my car. This was a few months before Turtle Video moved from Altona to Williamstown; the Altona location was just a shop front; the Williamstown location was a house and, if we'd been located there at the time, I'd have probably been able to spend half a year or more living out of the car. As it was, personal hygiene in the form of showering was problematic. I can't imagine how it was possible for King Louis the 14th (or was it the 16th?) to have gone through his entire life bathing a mere three times. I no longer remember but I probably turned up at my folks house a few times asking to shower.

Sleeping in a car was a lot easier then than it is now. We didn't have cops roaming the streets looking for cars that looked out of place and flashing their torches (flashlights) into the back seat! Well mostly we didn't, but one night I chose the wrong place to park. So this cop flashes his torch in my face; wakes me up and motions that I should exit the vehicle.

Victoria Police weren't armed in those days; this should tell of a change in attitude in the 30 or so years since...

I now share with you the secret of getting away with nicking a car. Of course it was my car. But he asked me what the registration date was. As far as I remember it was May 24th. He compared my answer with the date on the sticker on the window. A match. No further questions but a very strong recommendation that I take myself and the car elsewhere!

A few days later the minister at my church offered to let me stay in the caravan parked at the far end of his yard. 'Only for a few days'. Where have I heard those words lately? I was more than happy to take up the offer and a month later I'd completely worn the welcome out. Not that I intended to but...

Thus it was that I found a room to rent for fifteen bucks a week! Not a very good room but it did have an outside door so I didn't have to pass through the house to get to my bed. The landlord graciously allowed me to use the outside toilet but using his shower was out of the question. On the other hand, it had a real bed and that was a damn sight more comfortable than the back seat of my Morris 1100[^]!

On more than one Friday night Heino, I, Graeme and the two Daves retired to my room, with much shhhhhing, to drink Brandovino and joke.

By this time it was June, wintertime and much too cold to use the outside toilet. Yep, you guessed it, an innocent milk carton was pressed into service and, once filled, it was placed under the bed. To my shame it wasn't a solitary carton.

A few days later I happened to be at the local hamburger shop. The guys name is long since forgotten but not his generosity when he noticed that I was hungry; he asked me if I'd like a burger. I would but had not the price. He cooked me one up anyway, with the lot! And it turned out that he was the real landlord of the house in which I was a subtenant. He couldn't believe his ears when he learned that I was paying 15 bucks a week for the room; the entire house was rented at 11 bucks a week!

What a coincidence that a day later I was kicked out. I'm guessing that words were exchanged. Well, if I was going to be kicked out on no notice whatsoever it was hardly surprising that in the mad scramble to collect my clothes and books those abused milk cartons were forgotten!

A couple of weeks later, having found new living quarters, I was leaving the church (the one who's minister had allowed me stay in his caravan) when the gracious landlord, he of 11 bucks rent, caught sight of me! Apparently he'd found the cartons! If you weighed 125 pounds and a meathead of 270 pounds was running at you roaring for your blood what would you do???

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