A childhood memory now, made pertinent by the discomforting grip of the current global pandemic. Although my recall is fragmentary – and your immediate reaction, dear reader, may be one of incredulity at the imminent unfolding of a supposed fantasy – The Corona Man did indeed exist.
In my minimal, limited and clumsy research for this piece, I came across varying definitions of the word ‘corona’. The most prevalent of these related to auras around the moon, although in the context of today’s particular rambling, I much preferred the allusion to a ‘crown’ since that better implies a regality or superiority to the range of overly-sweetened, flavoured carbonated bottled waters (‘fizzy pop’ as it was known in my childhood years.) So yes, all hail The Corona Man, with his yellow lorry and door-step effervescence.
If memory serves me right, this was no small, tin-pot, localised venture either. Large, open-sided lorries carried crate after crate of Corona: a nationalised fizzy pop in myriad colours, each of which vaguely represented its purported flavour. Vibrantly radiant red and fluorescent green denoted Cherry and Limeade respectively; Ginger Beer sported a curious semi-opaque beige cloudiness; lemonade was transparently clear (and therefore too dull to be a flavour of desire) whereas Cream Soda – whilst also disappointingly clear – enjoyed the exotic mystique of a surprisingly torpid creaminess and was therefore all-the-more desirable to my uneducated palate.
My 90 year-old Mother, whom I have recently quizzed about the subject, seems also to recall that Dandelion & Burdock was another family favourite – a darker, treacle-coloured concoction which neither myself nor two younger brothers could be convinced was derived from plant-based ingredients, especially as none such items could possibly have formed a key element of either our diet or refreshment regime, as far as I can now remember.
Every week, whilst there was little anticipation of his arrival, once the yellow lorry rolled to a halt outside our house, excitement would escalate to fever-pitch in the scant seconds it would take us to tear across our small suburban lawn; leap the low border wall like a troupe of thirsty gazelles and peer excitedly into the rows of crates, each arrayed facing outwards at a slight angle so as to present an easy method of selecting and removing the choicest of our selections.
As I now look back on that heady childhood era, this door-step delivery seemed to be but one of many which kept us supplied with provisions. Alongside the more obvious Milkman, I also seem to recall a Coalman (we had a shed dedicated to the bulk storage of ‘coke’ for our aging central-heating boiler). I also seem to remember erratic deliveries of boxed groceries from the Co-Op Lady, whom I once surprised at our back-door by wishing her a polite ‘Happy New Year’ one morning in what was probably mid-February.
To cap it all, every other Saturday, a man called Brian would arrive on our doorstep clutching a bucket and sundry other paraphernalia in order to wash my Dad’s car. (I mean, how Nigel Slater is that?) At some point during my blatant observations of his working practices, I know I also asked him if he’d wash my bike – presenting myself, I’m now sure, as a completely snooty and precocious arse of a child – which I probably was.
And whilst it couldn’t be classed as a door-step delivery, I also recall we would acquire fresh wet-fish from an avuncular and white-coated fishmonger named Edgar, whose overlarge and ruddy ears were fascinatingly elephantine, flapping in time to accompany his fishmongery monologues as he joshed semi-suggestively with his queue of adulating suburban housewives.
Then, to conclude these Covid-induced reminiscings, there was Uncle Matt – a tweedy gentleman possibly sporting a tightly-clipped, greying military moustache – who ran the local sweetshop. Here, when the mood took us, we could also indulge (nay, rejoice!) in the height of adult sophistication. Clustered in an excited gaggle around an ancient, wheezing freezer, we could choose between two iced lollies – Lager & Lime or Cherry Brandy – each as garishly over-coloured as our favourite pop. These pocket-money trophies clearly implied ingredients which involved the mysterious and as-yet forbidden alcohol, upon which we would therefore regularly pretend to get – as overheard during our parents’ infrequent suburban dinner parties – just a little bit squiffy.