Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Camping it up at the seaside

So, let’s get the Easystart out and clean the plugs and see if we can’t coax this baby back into pulsating life.
It's summer 2001, and I’m about to be sent off on a 12 week training course to darkest Hastings.
This causes something of a kerfuffle,  and instead of spending the money my delightful employer is prepared to cough on a bed and breakfast I have a much better idea.
I’ll buy a camper van and live in that.
A quick scout of the classifieds throws up a Ford Transit, my affection for which I have previously waxed lyrical upon.

It’s a 1986 mark 3, long wheelbase diesel and yer man wants £750  for it – almost exactly the allowance I’ll get for being away from home.
Yeah, it's a bleeding Winnebago

 Using the rules governing man-maths, this means I’m going to come out of this with a free camper van, obviously.
They bloke selling it is a bit, ermm, odd.
A funny little homunculous with a scraggy beard.
The van is a home conversion job on a minibus. There’s a single bed, a cooker and sink – which is what you need to have a vehicle  registered as a camper. It’s the laughably named Hi-roof – five foot from floor to ceiling. There’s gaffa tape holding the rust together on the back doors.

Disturbingly, it’s got a rubber floor.
“I go away with my dogs at weekends” he says, “ They get very muddy and the rubber floor is easier to keep clean.”
“Yeah, and it’s easier  to get the blood and entrails of your victims washed  away as well, mate,” thinks I, as images of Hammer Horror movies rocket across my brain.
I'll have a bucket of popcorn and a Kia-ora please

But hell, it’s got a long Mot and a bit of tax, so what the hell.
We get it for £650.
It’s a chunky bus, first of the wedge Transits with the engine out of the old model and a four speed overdrive gearbox.
The overdrive is a button on the top of the gearshift. When you reach 60mph, and the engine is roaring like a distressed walrus and making noises like it’s about to leap out of the bonnet, you flick the switch. 

The engine starts to make a noise like a distressed sea lion instead, and continues to propel you at 60 mph.

We load it with essentials, shove the BMW in the garage, lend our rural idyll to some homeless chums and head for the south coast belching  a cloud of black smoke behind me, while my beloved  follows on in the white Escort.

With only five feet of headroom in the back, and a single bed, the van is a bit cramped. So we take a two berth tent to actually sleep in, and a  steel pole gazebo to mark out our territory and move onto a campsite situated in a bog.
The first day we leave the camp in the van the heavens open and when we get back the tent has been flattened by the deluge.
We move campsites, and as the law prevents us from actually living there,  we have to move pitches three times. It’s an interesting experience.
 If you ever feel like destruction testing a relationship, live with your partner in a van for twelve weeks in an English summer. If it survives that, it’ll survive pretty much anything.
We make it through to the end of the twelve weeks,  load up and head for home. The Transit has done jolly well.
A few months later we move house, and the van serves as removal vehicle, and it gets hacked up and down the M5 for a while as a thoroughly unsuitable commuter, blocking the works car park.
The new gaff has plenty of off road space, and I start to acquire more and more motor vehicles, until I sit down one day and decide that having five - or is it six?  is a bit excessive
So I sell it to a Glastonbury hippie for £400. Which seems like good karma.

Vegetable rights and peace!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hang on. You did the Hastings course while living in a van? I think I just got out-Glastonburied.

L :)