The Water Boys and the Orange Man
I clearly remember the daily deliveries of bread and milk to our home when I was growing up in rural Lincolnshire. However, over time, many of these much-valued services ceased on the grounds that they were no longer economic to operate. Local shops and small supermarkets were supposed to take over this much valued local service, and the days of the milkman and bread man’s daily deliveries now seem to be a thing of the past in many of the UK’s towns and villages.
Although we do not receive daily milk deliveries in Gran Canaria, many homes still receive a range of other welcome local deliveries of essential products. At broadly the same time each week, the dogs in our road begin to create a commotion. It is a cacophony of angry barking, designed to let humans know that intruders are approaching. The barking begins at the top of our road, and passes from dog to dog down the road until our dog, Bella, picks up the urgent signal, which cruelly disturbs her from her slumbers, forcing her to join in and pass on the message in her shrillest possible bark. Why all the fuss? Of course, it is the water boys delivering supplies of mineral water to those homes that have ordered it.
Although we have water delivered to our home in large bottles, it is often amusing to see a large pipe being dragged into buildings from a tanker in order to fill up a collection of not too clean looking reusable containers. Often the inhabitants are not at home, and the water boys have to return two or three times before they can complete their delivery and collect their money. It is a time consuming process, but as most people sensibly drink mineral water rather than tap water, it is an essential part of everyday life.
We also receive regular visits from local farmers offering their current range of produce; often it is freshly picked tomatoes, bananas or onions, and sometimes vegetables that we have never seen or tried before. Occasionally we will try these unusual offerings, but only after the farmer has told us how to prepare and cook them. It is usually possible to identify which farmer is visiting simply by the sound of their vehicle or horn; one farmer even plays a tin whistle to alert potential customers of his arrival.
The latest addition to our fruit and vegetable service is the Orange Man, as many locals call him. He parks his van just outside our village on most days of the week, always offering a cheery greeting to all who pass by. His small van contains a treasure trove of fresh fruit, which is a delight to the eye. Plump, juicy oranges, boxes of ripe, sweet apricots, strawberries and cherries are all on offer from his and his neighbour’s local smallholdings. The Orange Man readily offers samples of his produce for his customers to try before purchase, and I doubt many leave him empty handed. Inevitably, we buy far more fruit than we originally intended, but the prices are so reasonable that it is difficult to ignore.
Fresh bread and bottled gas are also delivered regularly in our village, as well as bottled water from a range of competing companies from Tenerife, and even from the Peninsular. However, the economics of such a journey, as well as the carbon footprint does raise many questions about the wisdom of such long distance deliveries.
Home delivery services in the UK now appear to have morphed into a weekly delivery service from an out-of-town supermarket, together with a steep delivery charge. However, time and economics have yet to catch up with the islands, and we still enjoy regular, local delivery services, which are invaluable to the local community, and particularly for those working, the sick, elderly and disabled. Long may home deliveries continue.
Barrie Mahoney was a head teacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands to launch and edit a new English language newspaper.