I have long been a much bigger fan of Christmas Eve than Christmas Day. There’s something about the intensity of the build up to Christmas that makes December 24th somehow more of an occasion than December 25th – a day which, for many years in my adult life, failed to live up to expectations (not, I hasten to add, through anyone’s fault but my own).
The other reason why I love Christmas Eve so much is that it brings back many happy memories of helping my Uncle Allan on his milk round. I can’t remember how many years I did this for – several, certainly – but it was always one of the best things about the run up to Christmas.
I enjoyed every minute of the Christmas Eve delivery – even the time when we were left sitting for hours because a delivery lorry had overturned on the way to the depot and no-one could get out to restock us. There was the getting up stupidly early (I certainly remember 2.30am one year), then the long ride out to the village that Allan delivered to, followed by hours of trying to deliver milk as quietly as possible, whilst the village dreamed of Santa Claus.
The big challenge was how to deliver as much milk as possible that morning, sot that Allan could have as many days off as possible over Christmas. This then created another problem, because a milk float can only hold so many bottles (hence the need to be restocked 2/3 of the way round) before it either overbalances, can’t move or, in our case, can’t get up the very steep hill on the way to the village.
No matter how long it took, or how cold it was (many days we would eat our lunch whilst warming our hands on the gearbox of the float), it was always fun and very much a part of my own Christmas. Allan is no longer a milkman, and I’m writing this stuck in an office. I miss those days.