The Alpine pop man – For decades an extinct species akin to the dodo, Spangles and an inspirational politician. Sadly, no longer cheering up the homo sapien fledgling young with his bottled soft beverages; drinks whose sugar content was so high just pouring it from the bottle started the process of tooth rot.

His crates of kaleidoscope coloured pop turning him to a pied piper on each street where his wagon came to rest. Unlike the child catcher in the movie Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang when seeking adolescent attention, his remit wasn’t to deprive the local youth of their liberty. Moreover, his aim to lure kids into purchasing the fizzy wares he peddled; the popmeister’s sole goal was the earning of an honest bob.

The collateral damage of a parental admonishment for a raucous belch after a swig of the drink, along with dental decay, the main downsides to us kids succumbing to the Alpine pop man’s allure.

The highly audible burps that manifested from unceremoniously gulping down the heavily gassy beverage were no doubt disapproved of by mothers. However, in a pre-teens psychology the exaggerated belch and it cacophonous resonation around the room were comedy gold. If Alpine pop had’ve been consumed in Alpine countries, these uncouth reverberations would’ve risked avalanche manifestation.

A friend (Ken Cowell) in my street Dorchester Gardens, Gateshead became so vocally dextrous during the act of burping he was able to recite Newcastle United’s back four before concluding the gas emission.

That being said, on the day they were hammered 3-0 by Liverpool in the 1974 FA Cup Final, for some reason Ken was only able to recount two of the defenders during his ‘trick’. I was never inquisitive enough to find out why, but concluded it may have been a psychosomatic consequence of his beloved team defending as if  they’d only played two at the back on that fateful day.

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When the Alpine pop man did make his weekly Friday appearance in Dorchester Gardens the occupants of chez Strachan ordinarily plumped for flavours of Dandelion & Burdock, Lemonade or Cream Soda. If mater was feeling flush she’d sometimes buy two of the three options. The extra glass container acting as a contingency in the event of backwash. An occasional occurrence during the times my brother Ian or I drank straight from the bottle.

With soft drink and confectionary/snack options so readily available and significantly wider than the 1970’s, it’s sometimes hard for today’s youth to believe the rush of childhood excitement generated by witnessing a Alpine pop wagon drive up your street.

The post-school walk home on Friday always a good one. Not just from a perspective of happiness at two days of playing football on Allerdene field, but also that within a matter of hours we’d be drinking from a fresh bottle of Dandelion & Burdock, Cream Soda or Lemonade.

If memory serves me correctly, the empty glass pop bottles from previous weeks purchases were always returned to the Alpine pop man seven days later. Well, that’s if our kid hadn’t decided to use the bottle as a container from some harebrained scheme, like making his own aftershave.

His attempt at making his own aftershave incorporated the use of the following ingredients:- Water, vinegar, pepper, rhodedendron petals, flakes from an Imperial Leather soap bar, more vinegar, a splash of dad’s Brut aftershave, salt, tomato sauce and soda crystals.

This idiosyncratic amalgam produced an ungodly smell that, although better than dad’s Brut aftershave, possibly broke at least one of the United Nations chemical weapons edicts. The fact the Alpine pop bottles were so big meant that we’d to put up with Ian wearing it for months!

Our kid’s storing of the potion in an Alpine pop bottle meant great caution was required in poorer light. Ensuring you didn’t inadvertently pour yourself a glass of his aftershave. An eau de toilette he’d rather uninspiringly and unoriginally named Low Karate.

To this day, I still love the taste of Dandelion & Burdock (D&B) pop. I always buy a can of it when eating a takeaway portion of fish and chips. Although, since my heart attack in January that something I’ve cut back on.

One taste of D&B immediately evoking memories of childhood Friday afternoons when the Alpine pop man called. Times of comfort, security and instances of my dad saying to my mum “I tell you what, Marg…. That pop in the Alpine bottle with Low Karate written on the label tastes strange!”

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