Diehards

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The Camper Van Years: It's Ours



In order to be successful when viewing a VW camper van you need two things: to be first, and to have the cash on you. They invariably get snapped up by the first viewer, unless he (or she) doesn’t have the cash. Although Stevie had put off coming home to go see the van he wasn’t the first in line. Someone else had arranged to see the van at noon and the seller, being an honourable sort, wouldn’t hear of Stevie going over earlier. He was to sit at his parents house and wait for a call.

On the Friday night I could barely sleep. When I did doze off I would dream of empty roads and beach bonfires. That morning I paced the floor like an expectant father, and kept trying to tell myself we wouldn’t get it, the first chap would buy it. I was due to meet my best friend for lunch in Glasgow and from the minute we got together we talked of nothing else. And constantly checked the time. At last the call came: the first bloke didn’t have the cash!!!! Stevie was on his way. Rhona and I could hardly contain ourselves, we hit the second hand (vintage, antique, charity) shops in the west end, and hunted. I bought: two eiderdowns, one a beautiful pale grey-mauve paisley print, the other a riotous yellow seventies floral; a picnic hamper with china plates and cups and bone handled cutlery; a small bar of lavender soap; several old multi-coloured blankets and a sea green enamelled tea-pot. Exhausted we stopped for coffee and cake and as we sat down to gorge my phone rang: it was ours. Now we just needed to get it home.

We devised a very simple plan: Stevie would get in his car, drive up to Scotland, pick me up and drive back to Bedford. The next day he would go off to a sporting event he was taking part in in Wrexham and I would get a taxi to the village of the van and then drive it home. Bob agreed to come along to keep me company. These vans only do about fifty miles and hour so it would be a long drive back to Scotland.

The three of us arrived back in Bedford at about midnight. Stevie’s parents were leaving for Scotland first thing so were sound asleep by then. Bob and me didn’t actually see them as they had gone by the time we dragged ourselves out of bed. Stevie had gone too. We had breakfast and ordered a taxi.

We told the taxi driver all about our mission and he became the first of many middle aged men we would meet who once owned a VW camper, or knew someone who did, and got a glint in their eye at the mention of one. Although we had the exact address of the house we didn’t need it, it was an Elizabethan thatch roof cottage with the van parked right outside, we spotted it immediately.

Gleamingly yellow it stood in dappled sunshine in front of the old stone house as if a giant had dropped his can of lighter fluid. The taxi driver came out for a closer look. We all grinned as we walked round it and read the stickers on the window – ‘FUN’, ‘The BAY’, ‘France’ - and took note of the brown floral back seats. Bob was particularly taken with the blue and white striped curtains, I swooned over the grill: we’d be able to make toast. The taxi driver wished us luck and went on his way. We rang the doorbell.

Christian, the young chap who was selling it, took us out for a ride to show us how to work it: he drove it for a couple of miles and I drove it back. Oh lord! It needed a certain ‘touch’, it wasn’t like driving a car at all, but I seemed to manage and was sure that by the time I’d driven it back to the in-law’s house I’d have it fully mastered.

After chats and a cup of tea Bobsey and I set off, it was only eight miles to Bedford. We thought we’d get there in fifteen minutes, stop off to have a spot of lunch, then pack up our stuff and be on the way home in no time at all. But that eight miles proved to be more problematic than we could have anticipated.

21 comments:

Conan Drumm said...

:)

Finding reverse is fun, isn't it, or is that just our gear box?

A neighbour who's into fishing looked at ours when we'd just got it and said it's the same with boats, "You've two happy days with a boat, the day you buy it and the day you sell it."

Eryl Shields said...

I once reversed out of a parking space in a very busy Sainsbury's car park and then couldn't get it out of reverse for twenty minutes. A huge queue built up behind me with people honking frantically and all I could do was shrug and keep trying. Eventually it just popped out as if nothing was wrong.

Your neighbour has a point. I'd been dreaming about getting a boat recently but a cousin of my husband put me right. So now I'm thinking of one of those tiny caravans that look like sardine cans. But perhaps I should stick to the tent.

Carole said...

You know how to keep me on the edge of my seat. Great story. Can't wait to hear about the trip to Bedford.

Conan Drumm said...

Tents are good, but must have a minimum 3,000mm 'water column'. I've had Vango tents for years (originally made in Govan) and they've been great. I saw a fantastic tiny caravan recently called a Puck or Puk, and made by Hymer, I think. They're droolicious.

Mary Witzl said...

I want to hear about that trip to Bedford too! This is a To Be Continued post, isn't it?

Eryl Shields said...

Carole ~ hope you're not too uncomfortable on that edge.

Conan ~ you had me spending several hours this afternoon, when I should really have been working, searching the internet for pictures of mini pucks. They really are the stuff my dreams are made on.

Mary ~ To be continued next Tuesday.

debra said...

the first vehicle with standard I drove was a VW. (Some day I wil tell you about the trip from Ohio to California with a somewhat wacky fellow in a VW). I can't wait for Part 2, Eryl.

PI said...

I'm assuming they are difficult to get hold of. But what glorious fun you'll have. Is there somewhere to pee in the middle of the night?

Eryl Shields said...

Debra ~ tell me now!

Pat ~ Bushes.

Kim Ayres said...

Hooray! Return of the Camper Van tale! Looking forward to the rest of it :)

PS do you know about Spring Fling next weekend? Maggie's in it and will be opening her studio to the public if you can find your way down here. Will blog about about it soon

Eryl Shields said...

Yes, we'll definitely come down and see you for that. I have another friend to go and see too, the sculptor Liz Waugh up in Langholm. We'll probably come to CD on Saturday, that way I can stop in at the Deli and get some Chorizo. Will Rogan be selling slices of cake?

Kim Ayres said...

Quite possibly. Because Saturday is also the Castle Douglas Food Town Day, we've suggested he try and open a stalland sell some home baking, but give away some free tasters of cake along with leaflets

Anonymous said...

http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/KNO/7192~The-Only-12-1-2-Writing-Rules-You-ll-Ever-Need-Posters.jpg

Eryl Shields said...

Kim ~ Great, I'm all for child labour!

Anon ~ Why did you tell me that?

Kanani said...

Is that an air cooled engine, or have they rigged up something attached to the side.

Sad thing about those Vans. Many were brought to California with the air cooled engines. But it gets REALLY hot here, and often you'd see the vans pulled over to the side, the drivers looking distraught!

Anyway, great story. I especially love this line: "Gleamingly yellow it stood....."

Eryl Shields said...

Kanani ~ Yes it's an air cooled engine. I can imagine that wouldn't work so well somewhere like California.

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- Want to go and order one of Rogan's cakes in CD? We could go see Maggie's exhibit, too!

Eryl Shields said...

Mary ~ Oh, thanks for asking but Stevie and I are planning to go on Saturday and do several artists studios in that area. But if you fancy a day out Esther and I are going to see a play at the university on Friday at 12, it's being put on by honours students as part of their thesis. Esther is picking me up at 10.30 and we can easily come up and get you too.

Rogan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Ayres said...

I've just noticed you placed a link to Rogan's Cakes site!

Thank you :)

Hope to see you Saturday

Eryl Shields said...

Kim ~ the link is really for my own benefit so that I can instantly pop over and see what's new. I'm going to see a bunch of people in Dumfries tomorrow so I'll tell them all about Rogan and his cakes.

Will definitely be over on Saturday :)