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Ian Beardwell, milkman
Photograph: Rob Greig

Things you only know if you’re a milkman

James FitzGerald

…according to Ian Beardwell, 49.

Foodies are keeping the milk delivery business afloat

‘Traditionally, we’ve been seen as an old people’s service. But I now deliver to all sorts of customers on my Milk & More route around Southfields and Wimbledon – my new, younger customers particularly request organic milk and sourdough bread. Online ordering has given us two or three real boom years, compared with the uncertainty the industry was facing before.’

…and so is environmentalism

‘We call it the David Attenborough effect. People are concerned about plastic pollution, and they reference it when they chat to me. Milkmen have a unique selling point there: we’re seen as the original recyclers because our glass bottles are reused 25 times each. Over my 30-year career I’ve delivered and re-collected about 5 million bottles.’

The milkman always knows when something’s up

‘I’ll always try to lend a helping hand. If you deliver to the same house 150 times a year, you can tell when there’s so much as a window open that shouldn’t be. I’ve managed to interrupt a couple of burglaries: when I rang the doorbell, the thieves ran off.’

Londoners do bizarre things after dark

‘Delivering in the early hours, you come across people wearing all kinds of clothes – or none at all. One hot summer’s night, I was out doing my deliveries, and I heard a voice calling for help. There was a middle-aged man on the roof of a four-storey house. He had been sleeping up there to keep cool, but he’d locked himself out in his Y-fronts. I had to call in the fire brigade, who found his purple pants hysterical.’

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