Saturday, 29 April 2017

What sort of van are you getting?

Here’s a fun experiment you can try for yourself at home with the kids. Start telling people you are going to quit your current job, which is the only one they’ve ever known you to have. It helps if it's a job that nearly everybody knows all about and thinks they couldn’t do because the pay is a bit shit and you probably get loads of grief off of badly behaved boys and misguided middle managers. But they also have this notion that it must be “rewarding” in some pseudo-spiritual way and say things like “You are bound to miss it, though, aren't you?”
This is where teaching becomes rewarding for the first time. When you look them in the eye and say “I doubt it.” Because what you’re really saying is, “Although I never said anything about it at the time, spending a thousand hours in the company of your kid and his mates wasn’t as much of a thrill as you might imagine. And it was only when they went home that I was actually able to get any work done.”

Next they are going to want to know where you are planning to go and live.
London is expensive and they might want to sell up and ship out themselves one day, so if there is somewhere else that is worth going they want to know where it is. When you say you have no idea where you are moving to they are going to be very disappointed.
Tell them you are going to mooch about the UK until you find somewhere you like. Be prepared for them to ask you what sort of campervan you have got. They would really like to have a campervan because it would be brilliant for going to Latitude and Bestival. But otherwise they wouldn't use it very often and so it would spend a lot of time standing parked in what is actually a very nice residential street in a leafy neighbourhood with a surprisingly low crime rate but nevertheless campers get nicked there all the time. Especially older ones without immobilisers that can still be hot-wired by the most amateurish vehicle thieves. But even modern ones with immobilisers get nicked a lot by being loaded onto the back of flat bed trucks which takes a fair amount of organisation and a lot of balls but still happens astonishingly frequently.
It has now emerged that everybody knows more about campervans than you do. They are also forgetting that you are always, always flat broke and there is no way that you could afford a vehicle that would be so expensive to buy, insure and run but that you never actually have any time to use before it gets stolen.
Once they are past the disappointment of you not actually having this campervan that you are pretending you're going to live in for a year or something, they will want to know what kind you’re going to get when your house sale goes through.
They expect you to know exactly what kind of campervan you are going to buy, as if you will be able to pick it up, whatever it is, at Dulwich Sainsbo’s because they just have everything. Do not blame them for doing so. They want to find out if you are actually serious about this or if you are just making it up to appear more interesting than you really are. You have, as far as they are aware, always been a teacher, and therefore you always must be one, otherwise the fabric of the universe will become unstable before their very eyes like a special effect from a recent episode of Doctor Who.
They want to imagine you in one of those split screen vintage buses that look cool but are very expensive and break down every thirty miles. Or perhaps they want to imagine you in one of those enormous mobile home things like the one that is always parked in front of their house blocking out all the light. They want you to take it away from London and ruin somebody else’s life with it instead.
Surely you are going to want a really big, well-appointed one if you're going to be living in it for that long? Aren’t you? Erm, no. We are going to want what is just about the smallest vehicle that four people can actually sleep in. Why? First and foremost, it has to be easy to drive and park. We only really intend to drive it and sleep in it, so it doesn't need to be any bigger. Or am I being ridiculously naive here? When I visualise myself in my new life on the road, I'm walking hills and dales, rowing a boat on a lake or just exploring a park, or a pub or restaurant or whatever. Actually it was pubs I thought of first, and I pictured me getting drunk and then just being able to sleep in this big comfy car instead of having to drive home.
The perfect vehicle for us, it emerges, is a Volkswagen T5 California, which “is much too small for a week away, let alone several months” and will make us “look like a bunch of London wankers” according to some friends who do actually own campers and use them regularly. Why are we refusing to follow kind, considered, expert advice from people whose opinions we respect? Gosh, I dunno. Maybe we are contrary. Maybe we just like a challenge. Maybe we weren’t listening properly. Or maybe we will change our minds at the last minute, which will be in about a month.
In the meantime, I would really value any input I might receive in the comments below, from anybody of a mind to share some. Thanks for the comments so far, friends and strangers. I don’t know if I am supposed to respond.
Or how to.


  1. Maybe just drive a normal car and take a tent instead?

  2. That is pretty good logic. I like it. But we will quite often be parked in urban or suburban streets, and I don't think pitching a tent in somebody's front garden is going to be a good way of making friends in Glasgow or Leeds. In fact, this is one reason why I think the pop-top on a California might bring us unwanted attention. So thanks for your valued contribution James.

  3. What about a Bongo? Although then you'll look more like a home ed family rather than a bunch of London wankers.

  4. Do you have a Mazda Bongo Pea Pea? I always liked them, but I heard they use a lot of petrol? Beginning to think we might have greater lavatorial needs than a compact camper can provide for...

  5. In the end, we got this one, of course -