Ice cream vans

There’s a scrap yard on the other side of the tracks at New Cross Gate station. Even during the summer months it always seems a wet and oily place with an overhanging sense of ‘End’ about it. It’s guarded by a big German Sheppard, or it could be an Alsatian, who wonders around trying to find something interesting to do amongst the bent up cars.

Up until a few weeks ago there where several ice cream vans lined up, awaiting patiently the inevitable destruction coming their way. I’ve always liked ice cream vans: The layers of faded stickers with no prices, cracking fibreglass and scratched Formica work tops , the smell of milk, diesel and sugar, the sound of tickover. Even as an adult they’re still exiting places because there’s always something different to see, no van is ever the same. From Aldebrough to Fishguard, ice cream vans have always seemed to be individual in their presentation: No coherent identity, colour scheme, franchised logo or standardised menu. The loneliness of its travels throws up sinister clown like fantasies. Always plenty of jewellery, stubble, chest hair and occasional Glaswegian murder.

I started to notice the scrapped vans at New Cross at about the same time that Pizza Hut launched a TV ad campaign about their own ice cream product. It depicted my lonely ice cream van against the sanitised colourful experience to be had at participating outlets: Uniform, clean, reliable, you know where you stand, cartoon synergy, knowing smiles for the little ones.

The new order make no attempt in covering their blatant disdain for the traditional icey, the honesty is shocking: No more playing fields or promenades, tarmac, ground in dirt and faded paint. The new ice cream product comes as part of the whole family dining experience: Pedestrian town centres, herringbone car parks, corrugated retail for lowered Escorts (Kent Cams).

What is the world coming to?

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