Unexpected visitor

The lamp-posts in the village where we used to live were the old-fashioned type that looked like gaslights.

Waves of February sleet fell like a chill veil over each.

I can’t remember why my brother and I were walking back up the deserted main street that evening: it was unusual for there to have been anything for us to go to. Perhaps we’d just decided to head out in the foul weather, down to the river because there was nothing on TV and we were bored. We probably hadn’t even bothered putting our cagoules on.

We’d nearly got home, round the curve leaving the river out of sight, when from back behind us we heard the clear chimes of an ice-cream van.

We looked at each other.

We headed back down and hadn’t been mistaken: parked at the bridge was a genuine ice-cream van – with the light on and someone inside.

In those days I wore dungarees, with huge pockets. We both had money on us. I couldn’t quite believe someone would sell us an ice-cream in this weather, but he did.

We headed back up the street, smiling into our 99s.

No-one else came out.

Four decades later I still have no idea why someone would take their van out in the depths of winter, nearly 20 miles from the nearest holiday resort, to a village of only 400 souls fewer than a couple of dozen of whom were children, and try to sell ice-cream at nine in the evening.

In all the rest of the time we lived there, we never told a soul.

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