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Knock, Knock...
by Gwen Boswell

High-tech nowadays aren’t we, what with telephone and Internet banking, video links etc. We can even shop without getting off our fat computer-chair shaped bottoms. But let me tell you that it’s a sad and lonely time compared to the happy 60’s when there would be a variety of men knocking the door during the course of the week in order to collect a payment, or deliver a delicacy or two.

First of all there was the milkman, all white and cheery, with his pencil behind his ear, delivering a selection of milks easily identified by their tops. "Dya fancy a gold top today love," "No, I bloody don’t, d’you think I’ve won Spot the Bleedin’ Ball or something, I’ll just ‘ave me stera if it’s all the same to you!"

The bread man, chubby and smelling delicious, especially at Easter because of his warm hot cross buns.

The dreaded rent man. "Kids, when the rent man calls tonight, just tell him dad is out and I’ll see him alright next week." "But dad, you’re not out, so that’s a lie and if I tell a lie, I’ll burn in hell?" "No-one has ever burnt in hell telling lies to that robbing bugger. God will be watching and will understand, because he doesn’t like rent men either!" Strange, I thought God liked everyone?

The insurance man with his oversized mac, trilby hat and horn rimmed glasses, smelling of Foxes Glacier Mints. When someone was gracious enough to ask about his wife’s health, we’d get a blow-by-blow account of all her allergies. If we were really lucky, some weeks she’d have haemorrhoids, so we had the visual of her (I imagined her to look like Hilda Baker for some reason) easing herself onto her donut shaped cushion in order to gain some small pleasure in life e.g., watching Ena Sharples drink her stout. The whole family, cat included, considered mass suicide after the insurance man’s visit and he only charged us three bob.

The pools man calling was always a positive experience. Well, he was part of our hope for the future, because if we won the pools and had lots of money, he’d checked the coupon and sent it off; he’d helped. We could invite him in and offer him a celebratory miniature or two from the cocktail cabinet and perhaps even a Jaffa Cake. Extravagant I know, but after all, this was the start of life at the top.

The scariest caller was the coal man, as the family would be sitting quietly watching something really enthralling on the TV like Crackerjack, and all of a sudden there’d be a noise that sounded like a huge underground explosion. Then some dirty great bloke with a sooty face and mad white eyes would hammer on the window shouting he’d just delivered four sackfuls. Really? That noise in the cellar was you, was it?

Little did we know then though, that the coal man, for all his noise and sootiness, created an important fashion statement, he was the first bloke to wear his cap back to front and this way, way before it was considered cool or sexy.