The Ice Cream Van

A random and rather dark memory of office life.

An ice cream van would sometimes pull up outside the building, playing its cheerful ice-cream-van melody from the car park.

Sometimes, a few office workers would actually go outside to buy ice cream cones, returning to eat them at their desks. The first time I saw this, I found it rather charming: suited-and-booted middle-managers sitting on swivel chairs, licking their Mr Whippies.

Anyway, the only tune the ice cream van ever seemed to play was “The Liberty Bell” by John Philip Sousa, better known as the theme tune to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

When that music started up, we’d all laugh nervously. We weren’t laughing because it made us think of Monty Python or even because it reminded us of those better, sunnier, Ray Bradbury days spent playing outdoors as children.

We laughed because the trundling, tumbling first few notes of that tune provide a strangely delirious, imbecilic, we’re-all-going-to-Hell-but-that’s-okay, carnivalesque “descent”. Listen to it and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

It reminded us all that, sitting there in front of our computer screens day-in day-out, we were slowly–and with some complicity–losing our marbles.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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