There’s a grey van coming down the road

Perhaps it arose from a feeling of consolation that Monday had been safely negotiated. Nothing too bad had happened at school. The spellings to learn for Friday were not too complicated (learning the spelling of sixteen words was the only homework ever given, how did we eve learn enough to pass any exams?). If not actually sunny, it wasn’t raining. There was a sense that teatime on a Monday was a good time and there was still Star Trek to look forward to on BBC television at ten past eight (Why did the BBC have such odd timings for programmes? The news was the only thing that started on the hour).

Monday teatime would not have been complete without David Macey coming down the road in his mobile shop. The shop was the interior of a big grey van. It was a 1950s vehicle with a long nose and long wheel base. It was the sort of van that might have served as a horse transporter.

At the back of the van, there was a step up through the rear door, which allowed people to come into the shop.  Inside the van, along both sides, there were wooden shelves which were filled with groceries. David Macey himself would stand at the front end of the shelves, collecting the pennies and the shillings that would be spent.

Perhaps we were very frugal with whatever money we were given, perhaps there had been nowhere to spend money over the weekend, perhaps parents did not mind finding the few extra pennies required to buy sweets from David Macey’s van on a Monday. Barrett’s Sherbet Fountains were 3d each, armed with a sixpence, I could buy one for myself and one for my middle sister (our younger sister still being too young to cope with the intracacies of eating white sherbet powder with a stick of licorice).

It is hard to imagine David Macey made much profit from the gaggle of children along our road who would crowd into his van to buy sweets. Perhaps the older customers, stepping into the van to buy food offered bigger margins. Perhaps it was remarkable that the mobile shop had kept going in times when almost every household in the village had a car.

The memory that remains from those Monday evenings is of an overwhelming sense of wellbeing, of being utterly contented with a thruppenny sherbet fountain. Would that there were still such vans with such a capacity to bring happiness.




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