Now who will help if you fall over and break a leg?

rare turtle
rare turtle

IF I had my time again, I would probably be a window cleaner. Or a milkman.

Out in the open air all day, not a care in the world, plenty of water - or milk - to splash about and the chance to say the words “Chamois leather” to anyone who would listen.

Old ladies especially love the word Chamois, it makes them feel exotic in the same way they felt the first time they ate a kebab. I have heard tell in the past that some old ladies even faint at the first squeak of soapy cloth on glass.

This is probably why the art of the chamois is dying out, replaced these days by a squirty pole hooked up to a pump.

I suppose the excuse is health and safety - no more clambering up tall ladders.

In reality, I reckon it’s more to do with wives who have banned their window cleaning husbands from peering at naked women through curtainless first floor windows.

Window cleaners are like priests though - what happens on the job, stays on the job and remains a secret between the parties involved.

When I was a youngster, it always made me smile when the window cleaner knocked on our door. It meant he either wanted payment for services rendered or he wanted to “borrow” a bucket of warm water - although in my life I can never recall even once when a window cleaner returned the following day with some water to replace the borrowed liquid.

Maybe that’s another reason window cleaning has changed. The installation of water meters in many houses make people reluctant to “lend” water as it costs them to do so, which means that not only do they pay to have their windows cleaned but they also supply the means to do it - might as well do it themselves.

But old style window cleaners provided a valuable service which doesn’t really exist any more.

They kept lonely pensioners happy by shouting “Chamois” while admiring their wrinkly nakedness through first floor windows and they called the police if they spotted anyone who had collapsed on the floor with a broken hip.

Strangely, folk lore surrounding window cleaners seems to deem them less attractive than milkmen.

I have often heard people say that someone’s child has ginger hair - just like the milkman.

But no one seems to say that about window cleaners, or perhaps there are not many red heads among our double glazing cleansing operatives.

Milkmen are also less prevalent than they used to be too, which has always puzzled me. I cannot think of anyone who provides a better service.

They rise early in the morning and travel the streets aboard almost silent electric vehicles to make sure their customers wake to find the day’s breakfast on their doorstep - milk, eggs, orange juice and chives.

The demise of milkmen is even more puzzling when you consider that most people are lazy - why go to the supermarket for your milk when you can have it delivered to your very own front door by a man in a white coat who can whistle.

You know the milkman is outside at 5am because you can hear him whistle. It’s his calling card to tell you he has arrived at your door with your breakfast in his silent electric wagon. His whistle tells you he’s not a burglar, he’s a friend with benefits.

And his whistle is not just any whistle, but a tuneless whistle of several random notes joined together in no particular order. This sets him apart from other things that whistle at 4am, such as birds, cats with thumbs plotting to steal milk or neighbours trying to re-create a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind without the synthesiser.

Whistling is also crucial to industry. It bonds large groups of men together, and announces their presence in a more acceptable way than scent marking property with urine. A building site wouldn’t be a building site without whistling, and single young women in search of a compliment would have nowhere to go after buying a dress.

I know a few plumbers, and it has occurred to me that they probably communicate with each other by whistling down copper pipes, or by playing them as though they were trumpets. In fact, I bet all plumbers carry the mouthpiece from a euphonium in their back pocket at all times as a way of testing the quality of the pipes they are laying.

Certainly, my plumber is known to test the quality of a toilet by singing into it and recording the result on his iphone for echo quality.

And I’m sure that electricians electrocute each other for a similar reason, which is why electricians always have spiky hair and a startled look on their faces.

Painters too have their quirks, which involve drinking turps - which is short for spirit of turpentine, a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from live trees, mainly pines.

So, the next time you hear a painter singing the famous Laurel and Hardy Song “In the blue ridge mountains of Virginia, on the trail of the lonesome pine,” you will know why.

Laurel and Hardy also sang a song called “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” which included the lyrics: I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls, With vassals and serfs at my side.” But that’s nothing to do with this article.