Not if the nation’s greatest milkman, Tony Fowler, has anything to do with it!
Under pressure from all sides, with milk prices at an all-time low and handy shops everywhere, it’s perhaps surprising to learn there are still 5,000 milkmen and women in the UK.
But that figure is declining and they could be on the way out, another British institution gone forever.
“Not going to happen!” insists Tony Fowler, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen for the good work he does while on his milk round in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
“It’s not going to happen in rural areas like mine, anyway.
“You know how big a part our milkmen play when you hear the Prime Minister singing Ernie, The Fastest Milkman In The West!
“When I first started my round in the early 90s, the depots opened at five in the morning, the men went out to work and the housewives were at home to collect their pint.
“Now, both husband and wife work, so it’s delivered at a different time and you never see a city milkman.
“Go back to the old days, and you always see the old boy with his milk cart.
“I heard a commentator on Five Live saying recently: ‘Blackpool have as much chance of winning the FA Cup as I have of seeing a milkman.’
“Someone else was telling him that in 1975 there were 35,000 of us and the chance of the milkman being your real dad was 50%!
“It’s a shame, really, that the city milkmen are disappearing.
“It’s so bad, I noticed when Jeremy Clarkson left Top Gear he didn’t know what he’d do next, but he didn’t want to be a milkman!”
Sir Sean Connery famously started life as a milkman before becoming 007, and singer Sting’s dad delivered milk, as did many of our grannies during the war.
Benny Hill, too, had been a milkman in real life, long before Ernie.
Tony, 56, who wore a most unusual piebald cow-design suit to meet the Queen (pictured left), can’t imagine doing anything else — nor can his many grateful customers.
He not only brings milk, this man — he also brings all sorts of goodies, even stops burglaries, helps lonely older folk and is the ultimate “pillar of the community” on his rounds.
“I had an unusual experience recently,” he reveals. “It was pitch-black, at the end of my shift, and a car flashed by, but I couldn’t see anyone in the driver’s seat. It was three in the morning. At first I thought: ‘I really do need more sleep!’
“Anyway, I drove after it to see what was going on, and it stopped at a dead end where there’s a railway crossing. There was a nine-year-old boy at the wheel, perched up on cushions, his brothers on the back seat, aged three, six and seven!
“I rang the police, and they were taken to the station and then home. It was their uncle’s car.
“Just imagine somebody that age had been taught to drive. I reckon they had driven about 12 miles, so just think what could have happened.”
Tony has, in his remarkable milkman career, blocked a getaway car with his milk float, been shot at, prevented burglaries, saved animals’ and humans’ lives, and brightened many a solitary pensioner’s life with his chatter and smile.
“It’s been horrendous lately with the floods, and I’ve had to remove trees from the roads,” he reveals, “and you’d be amazed at how often horses, sheep and cattle stray onto quite busy roads.
“The WH Smiths van here hit a badger the other day, and you wouldn’t believe the damage it did to the van, so just imagine what a horse or bull would do to my little milk float.
“I rescued a few lambs that nearly drowned recently, and I’ve seen telegraph poles come down, water mains burst, manholes stolen, all sorts. You see it all first thing in the morning!”
His greatest work, however, is the kindness he brings to older people. In fact, Tony can find himself doing the work of nurse, doctor and social worker all in one.
“Some people are not coping and they become neglected,” he admits. “I got a letter last week about a couple of elderly sisters, completely out of the way and off the radar.
“There were cards there for one lady’s birthday, and she didn’t even know it was her birthday.
“However, if Social Services knock on the door and you don’t let them in, they can’t come in.
“And if the authorities ring up to ask how people are and they say: ‘Fine,’ they can’t do anything, either.
“So I got a retired doctor to shake the apple cart, and now a letter has come, saying: ‘Thank you very much for bringing to our attention the plight of the two sisters who were not coping and were becoming neglected.’
“It said they’d had no GP, but because of us getting involved they had definitely averted what was about to become a serious crisis.
“They got a doctor to visit, contacted Social Services — backsides were kicked and people were shamed!
“It’s pathetic, the way things like this happen these days,” Tony says.
“It’s all paperwork, with nobody just acting instinctively. People are living longer, and Alzheimer’s is the big problem.
“People are very proud and want to stay in their home and remain independent.
“I am not being big-headed to say that I hope I provide the support to let them do that.”
The end for milkmen would be very sad — but if Tony Fowler’s round ever ended, it would be a complete disaster.