A couple of days ago, as I was sitting peacefully beside Rosie the campervan, contemplating the myriad joys of camping, a new vehicle – The Celtic Ranger –arrived at the campsite. Temporarily blotting out the sun as it passed, this behemoth of a caravan, trailed by a gleaming Chevrolet truck, ground to a halt some 30 yards away.
Ted and I watched open-mouthed as legs descended from the vehicle’s body allowing it to decouple and settle into the earth. Within minutes, hydraulic rams extended an entire living room out of one side while a blonde woman in high heels brought a small Pekinese out of the other side and deposited the bejewelled creature on the ground.
Was the Trumpster in town, I wondered? Had Thunderbird 2 just landed? Had the sinking of the Titanic been a false rumour? Would alien beings emerge from the spaceship Nostromo?
The driver’s door of the Chevrolet swung open.
A barrel-chested, grey-haired man, stepped out, dressed for the occasion: open-necked striped shirt, plain dark trousers, hand-made black brogues. He stretched his arms above his head and looked around, with the air of Robert Duval stepping out of his helicopter in Apocalypse Now, to survey the scene.
“Good morning,” I called over in order to prompt a reply. I’d taken a bet with myself that he would actually tell me how much he enjoyed the smell of napalm.
He ignored my greeting and turned to his companion: “Deirdre, has that bleedin’ doggy done a doo-doo in the van again?”
I’m sorry to report that our relationship never got off the ground. But, on the bright side, the startling entrance of this articulated folly got me thinking about a few of the various camping clans that Ted and I have noticed during our three weeks on the road.
The Vanguard Clan, of which our friend in the Celtic Ranger is an excellent representative, want to reproduce their everyday domestic arrangements on the campsite. Their vehicles are miracles of engineering and contain bedrooms, en suite bathrooms, sitting and dining rooms, fridge-freezers, wide-screen TV, and a jacuzzi or two. It would be unkind and untrue to pigeonhole their owners as nouveau riche because bad taste is by no means the prerogative of those who have only recently acquired more money than sense. Their motto: Mine is bigger than yours.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Psycho-Micros who favour minute vehicles such as the Fiat Hy-Low, kitted out with myriad drawers and compartments each of which can only be opened if all the others are closed in a particular sequence. Overheard snippets of conversation amongst members of this clan are likely to include comments such as: “We’ve been travelling around Europe for four and a half years in this little beauty” – or – “Sleeps two very comfortably. One standing up and one lying down” – or – “It’s surprising how little you really need to appreciate life.” Clan motto: Mine is smaller than yours.
The Lump Sum Brigade vacuum clean the carpets in their brand new mobile homes each morning; wind their awnings in and out depending on the direction of the sun; wheel plastic containers full of chemicals back and forth to the toilet block; and generally expend much of the day keeping things polished and fettled because they’ve just spent half their pension on a Trigano Silver or Sprite Major or Hymer 465 C. Electric tools are brought out at the drop of a hat to peg down guy ropes or to assemble complex gas barbecues that produce enough spare heat to power a hot air balloon whilst frying the bacon. Their motto: Mine is newer than yours.
We members of the Van the Man Tribe are erstwhile hippies reliving our glory days in converted VW campervans. Those who insist on the original T2 model are infrequent visitors to campsites as they are either surfing in California with the wind in their hair or (more likely) stuck in a lay by somewhere near Watford Gap because the bloody thing has broken down again. The more perspicacious among us revel in the delights of a modern T5 with 85% of the glamour of the old T2 but only 15% of the bills. Our vehicles are characters in their own right with ironically groovy names, like ‘Van Rouge’ or ‘Plastic Rosie.’ Our motto: Mine is cooler than yours.
Having surveyed the competition, I would like to report, as we sit smugly in the sunshine beside our green and white VW campervan, that Ted and I are the coolest campers on the Blarney Castle campsite. Sadly we’ve been blown out of the water by a pink, customised, Airstream trailer, the owners of which are so uber cool that they are practically invisible, only half-glimpsed in the shadows as they flit about under the retro natural canvas awning. I suspect that they are performance artists simulating living a perfect life in order to piss off the rest of us, while hidden cameras record the envy and rage of their covetous neighbours as a commentary on the evils of materialism.
Sod it! No one deserves to be that cool.
Hi Geoff. Great read and laughed at your observations. I’m not of the van the man tribe. I have a T2 Crossover Bay, never been near Watford Gap in it, and, luckily, never broken down. Whilst the bus was starting everyday, it was gently rotting away all over. It was, and will be again, my daily transport. You’re right though, I avoid camper sites, and look for quieter places. Can’t beat quieter surroundings whilst cooking and having beers with family and friends. I have a few local mates with T4s. We live near the sea on the Welsh coast, am 61, so no surfer dude, and my own grown up children and grandkids have spent many days on the beach and out in the surrounding countryside. Rain and salt sea air were the reason for the rot. Now? Nearly there renovation wise. So, back on the road daily. Nice to see T4/5 dubs carrying on the lifestyle. Thanks for the read. Enjoyed it. All the best. Gray