Arla: The Milkman and the Rocket Launcher

I wrote this letter 9 years ago and ended up reading it to twelve million people on NPR Radio in the USA. It concerns Barry. Barry is our local milkman and he’s an absolute plonker.

26th April 2010


Milk&More Customer Services

47 Aylesbury Road Thame



Copy by e-mail to Arla Foods


Dear Customer Relations,

I am trying to avoid having a complete and utter sense of humour failure.

Unfortunately, that is what is going to happen if I don’t receive some help from you.  My reserves of self restraint are at an end.

Perhaps I can preface my explanation by saying that I always had a healthy respect for that fine British institution, the milkman.  Indeed, being a milkman (or a junior assistant milkman to be more accurate) was my very first proper job.  Although I long since stopped having sour milk delivered because I could buy fresh milk from the supermarket, I retain a genuine affection for the concept of the doorstep bottle.

However, over recent years, this affection has been tested to the absolute limit.

As luck would have it, I today happened upon your website – Milk& – and what a useful little website it turned out to be.  Not only did it confirm that you were responsible for my local milk deliveries but it even gave me the name of my local milkman.  His name is Barry.

For your information, Barry is an ignorant, thoughtless, moronic prat and he is about as popular locally as the bubonic plague.

As your website quite correctly points out: “Your Milkman delivers nice and early”.  I’ll say he does.  Barry delivers the milk (to the one remaining house in our quiet little cul-de-sac that still has deliveries) between 2.00am and 2.30am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  How do I know the time?  Because Barry never fails to wake me (and every other resident of the 73 houses on our development) between 2.00am and 2.30am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

For some years now, Barry has been trying to break his own record for just how fast he can complete his round.  Sadly, Barry does not possess one of those nice quiet little electric milk floats.  Oh no.  Barry has the noisiest, nastiest, diesel-engined racing float known to man.  From what I have heard (I have never actually managed to see him because he simply moves too fast) he enters the cul-de-sac in first gear with foot to the floor, brakes abruptly, jumps out to make his delivery and then reverses back the way he came with the needle on his rev counter well into the red zone before a quick handbrake turn then back to first gear before screaming off down the street to wake up other people.  Barry evidently has yet to discover second, third and fourth gears.  He may as well deliver the milk in a Harrier Jump Jet.

I have considered setting my alarm for 01.45am and lying in wait for him but I just don’t think I would be able to confront him without stuffing a few token bottles of silver-top (and possibly a milk crate) where the sun doesn’t shine.  I have even thought about buying a ‘stinger’ – one of those spikey things the plods use to stop the little sods that spend their time nicking Golf GTIs – and laying it across the mouth of the cul-de-sac to teach Barry a lesson.  Most therapeutic of all, I fantasise about buying a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, aiming carefully out of my bedroom window and blowing Barry, his diesel-powered monstrosity and gallons of milk and yoghurt to kingdom come.  That’s the one that usually helps me get back to sleep.

Of course, its not very likely that I will resort to the use of heavy weaponry but a total sense of humour failure is certainly on the cards.  That would involve long conversations with the Noise Control and Anti-Social Behaviour Departments at East Yorkshire Council and the local Community Police Officer.  I can’t help feeling that it would be infinitely preferable if one of your staff could have a quiet word in Barry’s ear and tell the lobotomised, inconsiderate half-wit that it is actually possible to drive a vehicle without waking up the entire neighbourhood.

I would be eternally grateful if you could let me know when this conversation has taken place so that I know when we can once again open the bedroom windows at night like we used to in the good old days.

Yours in desperation,


I received a call a couple of days later from the Andrew, Head of Customer Relations for Dairy Crest.  Apparently, my letter did the rounds in the customer relations department where it caused much hilarity and was then read to Andrew over the phone.  He asked for a copy and then promtly took it to a Board Meeting of the company where it was read to the assembled directors of Dairy Crest who, by all accounts, were equally entertained. 

Andrew was a really nice guy and promised to persuade Barry the milkman that he isn’t in fact The Stig.

Meanwhile the area manager (who presumably hadn’t seen the letter but was in receipt of Board level instructions to molify an angry customer) arrived on the doorstep later the same day equipped with a profound apology and a hamper of Dairy Crest goodies including lots of my favorite biscuits and cheese! 

Full marks to Dairy Crest for their prompt and good humoured response.  They should do a customer relations seminar at EasyJet. 

Let’s hope that they’re not too hard on Barry, even if he is a complete plonker.

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