Shop local for great service and the milk of human kindness

Headlines, deadlines and modern life,  journalist Gay Bolton celebrates six decades on Planet Earth.

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Of all times to break down, a key piece of household kit had to give up the ghost.

Replacing a fridge-freezer at the end of a hot summer in a year of lockdown posed a big headache. We wanted the same model as the one that had given us seven years of loyal service and spent close on a fortnight searching countless websites.

Some firms said the model would be back in stock soon which was far better than those that lure you with flashy adverts and you pay the bill, only to get a phone call a few days later to say that they’re not in stock.

An order was placed with one representative who said we would get the appliance in three weeks, then back-tracked saying it could be longer. A second firm trotted out the copycat waiting list spiel only to say, when pushed, they couldn’t guarantee delivery at said date.

Thank goodness for a brilliant salesman at a company down the road who bent over backwards to try and help when I rang up after seeing an advert online.

Lengthy wait

He went into our chosen fridge company’s database to find out that deliveries weren’t expected in this country until February next year! He also told me that fridge-freezers generally were in short supply due to the hot summer and lockdown.

And, despite going through every appliance that he thought could fit our bill, he finally had to admit that his company was unable to service our requirements.

When I told him about the delivery dates spouted by other sellers, he told me to “be very careful”.

Service like this is rare these days when some firms are out to make a quick buck. It certainly reinforced the message that it pays to “shop local”.

Meanwhile, still without a way of keeping stuff cool and fresh and with temperatures soaring outside, my biggest worry was keeping milk from going off.

One suggestion from internet contributors was to freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop out a piece when you needed milk for drinks. Another was to put it into cool bags and pack it with ice.

Milk round

So how did people keep milk fresh in the old days?

When I bought my house, an Edwardian terrace, it had a room under the stairs with a stone slab where food would be placed to keep it cool.

Internet sources say that customers would order just enough milk to see them through that day, others suggest that milk was only drunk by those who lived in farming  ommunities in the countryside.

The most bizarre method of keeping milk fresh was used in Russian villages where a small frog would be dropped into it!

Back in 2020 England, I threw in the towel and finally ordered a different make of fridge-freezer to the one that I’d originally set out to replace ... and it’s doing the job!

Here's hoping that other household essentials like the  washing machine and cooker keep working in this most extraordinary year!