Donald MacInnes: 'Yes, it’s true - kids really do scream for ice-cream'

At the sound of an ice-cream van children are transformed into chimpanzees

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The Independent Online

Like the perpetually warring lands of Lilliput and Blefuscu in Gulliver’s Travels, Glasgow and Aberdeen have long had decidedly mixed feelings about each other. In truth, they have often been at each other’s throats. But while this inter-city animosity doesn’t nowadays tend to take a particularly literal form, it most certainly does when it comes to jokes and good-natured razzing. They think Glaswegians are benefit-accruing soap-dodgers, while we regard them as being joyless, thin-lipped skinflints. Indeed, it is my favourite joke about Aberdonians’ legendary carefulness with money that inspired me this week.

It goes thus: why do parents in Aberdeen always install triple-glazed windows in their homes? The answer: because that way their kids don’t hear the ice-cream van.

I was reminded of this silly wee joke over the weekend. I was in the back garden, taking yet another wash down from the clothes line. As I unpegged another Babygro from the line, one of this country’s most evocative summer sounds trickled over the rooftops and elicited an immediate response from my neighbours’ kids, who were playing with a bubble-making machine. At the sound of the ice-cream van’s plinky-plonk siren playing a shrill approximation of “Pop Goes the Weasel”, next door’s children, who are about four and five, were immediately transformed into bouncing, screeching, 99-obsessed chimpanzees. Their mum, who is Polish, was then subject to the traditional ice-cream whine from her brood. But she took it in good humour. It’s obviously a tableau that is repeated throughout the summer months in eastern Europe, much as it is in London.

But it got me thinking. Just how much does the average ice-cream van make in a good week? Having done a bit of research, I find that the suburban “Come and get it, kids!” which I witnessed is really only the vendor getting rid of the stock which he has been unable to shift while parked near the local park or your town’s top tourist attraction, where the bulk of his business will have been done. The only limitation on trade is A) if the weather turns, or B) PC Plod shows up and tells Mr Flakey to sling his hook.

I know ice-cream vans’ takings plummet over the winter months, but there are ways around the dry spells. Indeed, when I was a kid, one van in particular used to supplement his income by parking outside our school and flogging single cigarettes to my classmates. But I’m sure this doesn’t happen any more.

If you are an ice-cream vendor, if your chilly chariot is the van with the intoxicating, music-box siren, do get in touch and let me know how much wedge you would expect to take in this summer. I won’t tell anyone, promise. It’s just for my files…

Twitter: @DonaldAMacInnes

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