In deepest darkest Surrey a feud that has spanned decades rages on. Whispers of tension can be heard in parks and cul-de-sacs across the south of England. However, it is only with the chimes of battle that you will truly know you have entered a war zone. I am speaking, of course, about the territorial struggle between two of the biggest family operated ice cream vendors this island nation has ever seen. It is an all consuming conflict that has left both families more divided than a banana split, and while people say it’s not worth crying over spilt milk, it would be impossible to count the tears shed over frozen cream.
The origins of the feud are difficult to trace, but it has been suggested that there was originally a singular dominant ice cream van empire. However, when a rogue protege was discovered leaking family secrets in the form of unfrozen ingredients to a popular ice cream parlour the young trainee was exiled from the area and told never to return. Of course, for the youthful outcast, revenge was a dish best served soft. The history of the turf war is vague but former employees have suggested that only two years later the protege returned with his own van and the technology to make lighter more whippy ice cream than ever before. From that point onward there was no way back for either cream fanatic, and as time passed the rift grew between them. The legacy of this betrayal weighed heavily upon the families of each vendor, and with each new generation a rivalry as bitter as lemon sorbet emerged.
Nobody quite knows which of the now established family van brands started first, but the incidents they have caused are well documented. Some of the people who are closest to the summertime catering industry have recounted occurrences of high street brawling and deliberate abuses of designated parking bays in order to create dairy filled roadblocks. In fact one such blockade led to a major cone shortage that left two suburbs reliant upon their local Spar to fuel their lactose habit. The battle for control of the most significant hotspots in Surrey crept into the public eye most dramatically following a targeted campaign of spray painting where an assortment of Disney decorated ice cream vans were left with marginally more deformed images of children’s favourite characters.
In fact the ongoing battle between these two families is so prolific that it may have had an enormous impact on popular culture. People familiar with the feud have suggested that it has been part of the inspiration for Game of Thrones. The story goes that while holidaying in England George R.R. Martin bought a screwball from one of the famed ice cream vans and bore witness to one of many frequent tyre slashings. Struck by curiosity and hungry for knowledge he indulged himself with a Cornetto and inquired as to the grudge someone held against this ice cream van. It has been suggested that upon hearing of the great conflict between the families he felt compelled to document the story. Inspired by a tale of frozen foods and burning hatred he began to write the series A Song of Ice and Fire.
The modern world has shifted the way wars are fought, and while at a glance this cold war may not resemble the one that involved nuclear weapons, there are some shocking similarities. Espionage has become a vital tactic in the ice cream turf war with tales of reconnaissance and sabotage paling in comparison to those of double agents and enemies in disguise. Due to the selection of closely guarded secrets that each family keeps regarding shift times and parking locations, having an employee on the inside is invaluable. The most fascinating story that has emerged to date is of a young female’s involvement in the business during her time working as part of an ice cream van double act. The system of van pairs is well established, and is regarded highly for efficiency. In this case, the girl in question was known as a ‘whipette’, a term for female employees who serve customers. Her partner, and boyfriend at the time, was tasked with freezer operation and van driving. However, this cream mistress wasn’t all she appeared.
Rumour has it that after a supposedly chance meeting in a Guildford nightclub the pair had started a relationship that swiftly enabled the girl to meet many of her new beau’s family members. She was quickly offered a position in the family ice cream empire, and over the course of a few springtime weeks she progressed from lowly scoop cleaner to the respected position of whipette. However, doubts emerged about the girl’s legitimacy in her role when a distant niece returned from a holiday in Ibiza and revealed that they had met previously on a night club podium in Basingstoke. A conversation had been overheard that same night about how best to infiltrate the infamous ice cream family. It was revealed that the whipette was in fact the estranged bastard child of the rival van clan’s patriarch. She had been raised in secret away from the rest of the family in order to tear the enemy apart from the inside without anyone knowing who she might be.
As summers pass there seems to be no indication that this feud will cease. While some efforts have been made to broker peace, the willingness to set boundaries and avoid violence has always been flaky at best. It is hard to see how future generations will be able to build bridges when relationships remain so frosty. Of course, many people in society remain clueless to the senseless suffering that occurs all in the name of ice cream, but maybe with further exposure the two families will finally be able to come to terms with their shared history. Maybe some day a small child running to greet a smiling whipette will be safe in the knowledge that only their own saliva will be involved in the process of eating a sweet dairy treat no matter what their surname is. Maybe some day, but not today.