The ice cream man must have known just the right moment at which to pull into the mostly empty car park for there were no less than twenty-three people who joined the queue that quickly formed. Perhaps they were reacting to the months of lockdown when such opportunities were few.
Fifty years ago, the sight of twenty-three people waiting to buy an ice cream would have been a delight to the two ice cream men who came to High Ham. Unless there were huge profit margins in vanilla cones, it is hard to imagine that the little business done in our tiny scattered rural community did much more than cover the running costs of the van. the costs of running the van.
The arrival of the vans would be announced by a familiar tinny-sounding jingle. Perhaps there was some money to be made, otherwise why would there have been not one, but two vans that would visit the village?
On Fridays, the pink Reema van would come along the road. Ice cream on a Friday would have been a rare treat and the Reema ice cream van did not attract as much as custom as the Wall’s ice cream that came at teatime on Sundays. The Wall’s van had a classier look, a summery shade of yellow compared with the garish pink of Reema.
For us, Wall’s had the upper hand because they sold “Cornish ice cream”. Who knew whether it was Cornish or not? It didn’t matter; “Cornish” meant special. We might have lived in the West Country, but Saint Ives in Cornwall was further from our village than central London, and probably took longer to reach. “Cornish” was exotic, it was classy, it was the taste of summer.
Wall’s Cornish ice cream on a Sunday afternoon was something special. Rich, yellow and creamy, there was nothing to rival it.
The other treat sold by the Wall’s van was peanut brittle; a layer of toffee containing nuts that was smashed into pieces and served in paper bags. The choice was one or the other, Cornish ice cream and peanut brittle could not both be experienced on a Sunday afternoon.
Ice cream had an extraordinary capacity to create the feeling that all was well with the world. Even on a Sunday teatime, when the weekend was past and the shadow of school was looming, ice cream could make you happy.