Friday, September 14, 2007

Magpies milk

I've mentioned home delivery of milk[^] before.

When we moved to St. Albans, a Melbourne suburb, at the end of 1966, we lived in one of three houses huddled together in a little group; the next nearest house a mile or so away. At the time St. Albans was a 'new' suburb, though I note that parts of central St. Albans date back to at least the 1930s.

Isolated as we were we still got the daily milk delivery and it didn't take long to notice that the miserable bastard living next door had a thing about his milk. If a magpie had happened to peck out the tinfoil cap and helped itself to the cream he'd pour the milk away in a fit of anger. Never failed!

I'm sure you can guess what came next. Uh huh. In those days I was usually awake at dawn (the legacy of parental notions that 13 year olds ought to be in bed by 9:00). I can just imagine what would happen if we tried to enforce any such rule on Andrew. It's hard enough to endure the wailing and gnashing of teeth when we enforce a 10:30 room curfew on school nights!

Thus I was usually awake at about the time the milko came by. I'm not sure, at this distant remove, whether it might not have been the rattling of bottles in their crates that awoke me. Then a stealthy operation, sneaking out of the house, penknife in hand, to stab a hole or two in the tinfoil cap and, an hour or two later, the joy of driving my neighbour into a frenzy as he poured away yet another bottle of milk.

What a bastard I was.

It seemed to take him forever to notice the forensic evidence though I suspect that's because we're talking forty years ago and a kids sense of time. I certainly remember it as being months though I suspect it was no more than a couple of weeks, before he realised that those holes in his milk bottle caps looked like they'd been made by a knife.

He had no kids, the neighbours on our other side (we were the middle house) had no kids, so it probably took nanoseconds for him to realise who the culprit was. Thus the trap was set. Out I crept, one cold dark morning, penknife in hand. I still remember the horror I felt as the dark shape rose from behind the fence and a bony hand grabbed my ear. Cunning bastard waited until I had that damn milk bottle in my hand before pouncing! No chance of a denial of ill intent!

Let's not go into more detail of that frozen minute than is necessary to say that sitting on a hard chair at school that day was a trial!

And did my folks feel the need to run to the cops about him? To the best of my knowledge they still don't know about the incident. I certainly wasn't going to drop myself into it by complaining that our neighbour had kicked my backside! Experience told me they'd want a reason and would probably consider I'd got my just desserts.

I had, too!

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