Pale sunshine in the late afternoon brings memories of forty years past.
The ice cream man would come at just such moments. The little business done in our tiny scattered rural community probably hardly covered the costs of running the van, but around 4.30 there would be the familiar tinny-sounding jingle. There was 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 we never liked the Reema ice cream as much 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.
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 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.
Perhaps those Sunday teatimes gave me the sweet tooth that leaves me struggling to stay below 13 stone, but they come back as “feelgood” moments; small, simple, almost insignificant, the arrival of the ice cream man could transform a day.
Yesterday’s newspapers are filled with gloom: the Financial Times is reporting that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are in serious financial problems; the Daily Telegraph property supplement tells of sharp house price falls in once fashionable seaside towns; every page seems to have bad news. The only brightness is in the bedding plants advertised in the gardening pages; perhaps they will be more popular this year, the processes of nature being amongst the few things immune to the economic depression.
The critics of Obama’s recovery package say that it might be a pointless exercise; that unless banks start lending money again, that unless businesses can obtain credit, that unless confidence returns, then the massive sums involved may simply be lost.
There needs to be a “feelgood” factor; there needs to be something that, like a Wall’s ice cream, can change the whole mood of a day, that can make you feel different. Governments need to be able to find an economic equivalent of the Wall’s man, something which is welcomed with enthusiasm; something that prompts people to run out to spend their money.
It took rearmament and cataclysmic war to lift the world out of the depression of the 1930s; that is not an option. We need no find a whole fleet of metaphorical ice cream vans.