The mystery of the cow and the cart

5 Comments 01 May 2012

There’s a hint in this image…

When my daughter was tiny and she and I lived in a tiny house in town she started coming into my bedroom at about 4 am some mornings. I cuddled her in under the duvet with me and snuggled into her warm hair and told her we could go back to sleep for some sweet dreams.

Then one evening I was tucking her in her bed at bedtime and she said ‘Can I sleep in your bed tonight?’ She slept like a starfish and I needed my sleep so I said no, but I crawled into bed with her and cuddled her until her eyelids flickered closed, then I tucked her in and started to leave the room.



‘What about the cow?’

‘What cow?’

‘The cow with the cart?’

‘Where is the cow with the cart?’


‘Outside… here?’

‘Yes, on our road.’

Pause, trying to think if there had been anything she could have mistaken for a cow and a cart.

‘Sweets, I don’t think it was here. Maybe at Grandma and Granddad’s?’

‘No, here. Out there!’ Indignation as she pointed to the window. ‘It’s the one that waked me in the middle of the night!’

Frown of concentration. I simply couldn’t work out what she meant.

‘Next time you hear the cow with the cart come and tell me. Ok?’


Four am. Tiny, warm child crawled into bed with me. We snuggled.



‘It was the cow with the cart.’

Ah. She was having a recurring dream.

‘Ok Sweets. Let’s cuddle and have sweet dreams.’ She cuddled in and we went back to sleep.

The cow with a cart became a sort of joke until one hot summer evening a couple of months later when we had all the windows open and my little daughter was worried about her window being open while she slept.

‘But what if I fall out?’

‘You won’t. Not unless you sleep on the windowsill.’

‘But what if someone takes me?’

‘They won’t.’ Fear grasped my throat. ‘Would you sleep better if you slept in my bed?’


‘Ok, lets switch beds.’

That night I woke at about 4 am. It wasn’t because my daughter was waking me this time but because I could hear outside, a cow with a cart. The cow was mooing gently, and the cart was softly clanking. I sat up, immediately awake with the possibility that I could at last solve the mystery!

I peered out the window to the orange lit street below and there I saw a milkman quietly doing his rounds, setting two pints here, one there, three at that house across the way. He got back in his electric milk float and drove on, making cow and cart sounds softly into the night.

I love having a milkman. Once we solved the cow and cart mystery my daughter slept through the night, and we continued to order our milk.

Having a milkman seems so old fashioned and so modernly convenient at the same time. I love the sentiment attached to it, the reassurance that even on a bank holiday the milk and other dairy products (if I’m not having black coffee, I like cream in mine) arrive in time for the first cuppa. But I also love the wonderful convenience that you can do your food shopping online the night before your next delivery, so if you have a change of plans, you’ll still get enough milk, or juice or biscuits or whatever else without having to nip to the shops quickly (no such thing as nipping to the shops quickly from where I live). And now that there’s as many as seven of us, we often have a change of plans with this many people coming and going in our house.

The cow and cart story has slipped into family folklore and is referenced from time to time but I think mostly forgotten by all except me. Now, almost every time I pick up the milk from outside our door I think of the early morning cuddles with my tiny daughter and the mystery of the cow and cart and I sort of miss those moments, wishing that time didn’t fly so quickly. At least we still have the reliable milk delivery, even if it isn’t delivered by a cow and a cart.

* * *

This post was paid for by Milk & More, but it is a true story :)


Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Iota says:

    Back in the ’70s, it was one of the big fears that people had about joining the EC – that we wouldn’t be allowed our milk delivery to home.

  2. Having a milkman is so cool. I think it’s probably dying out in England now, which is a shame. It’s such a British sound, the low hum of the milk float.

  3. Expat Mum says:

    I used to love the milk floats too. Never really heard them as sounding like cows though, I have to admit! At my grandma’s house we also used to have a grocery van come round full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Oh, and the ice cream van too of course!

  4. My Dad was a milkman for many years (in the morning and at night) to make extra money besides his day job. I loved riding with him to the milk treatment station early in the morning and we called “dirty water, dirty water’ when we went over the bridge. Thanks for getting me to remember that memory…

  5. That is a gem of a story. Good old milk floats, a Britishism I also enjoy!

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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