LIVING IN A VAN
Living in a van is something of a habit with me. In fact, vans in general are something of a habit with me. I've always believed that with a van, anyone can make some kind of reasonable living with a bit of application and a bit of ingenuity.
My first ever non two-wheeled vehicle was a van, a Reliant Regal V (registration number 985 PHN) that I bought in 1971 just before my 17th birthday. That was soon pressed into some kind of income-generating activity running stuff from Crewe up to somewhere on the moors between Macclesfield and Buxton.
"Spiny Norman" came to an ignominous end in Chester in October 1973 when it was torched in mysterious circumstances, and I had to wait a year or so, until the glorious days of "Jack the Ripper", when "Ernest", the J4 van (753 YLG) came along to transport me and the other boys in the band. Ernest was a van and a half, so rotten that when you slammed the sliding doors shut, the entire front panel shot forward an inch or so. But it did us proud. In the glorious summer of 1976, I lived in it at Brereton Quarry near Holmes Chapel. Those were the days.
When "Ernest" fell apart, I graduated to my first Ford Transit, "King Arthur" (FDJ 219J) and when "Orient Express" (as "Jack the Ripper" had become) fell apart, I downsized to "Bill Badger" (FTU 711K), an Austin A60 van.
I had "Bill Badger" for years, and this is the vehicle with which people from my youth associate me most.
Despite the 5 months in the summer of '76 living in the J4, it was really the nomadic period in "Bill Badger" between 1977 and 1981 that I would class as proper dossing. This was, when armed with nothing but a camping stove and a sleeping bag, "Bill Badger" and I travelled over almost everywhere there was to travel on the west side of the UK, even making it to some of the offshore islands around Scotland and over to Northern Ireland. I have thousands of pictures from those days, and one day I'll scan them all and post the most interesting ones. There's even one of me being arrested in Northern Ireland, but that's quite another story.
Due to other circumstances involving my lifestyle, I was out of vans for a good number of years. It was only with the farm that I found my feet again. There were a few Transits and an LDV (shown here earning its keep) but they were mostly for hauling stuff between Belgium and the farm. Living in them was merely incidental.
In April 2006, my friend Paul sent me an urgent text message. There was a van for sale, a 1993 Ford Escort diesel. It had the 1.8 diesel engine in it, that would go really nicely in the red Cortina estate. And all for £150 too. Now that was a good deal in anyone's language, so I caught the Eurostar over and did a quick transaction.
Just for a laugh, and for the lack of anything better to do, I took it for an MoT technical inspection, basically for no reason other than to make sure that nothing was likely to drop off before I reached home, and much to my astonishment, not only was there nothing about to drop off, it actually passed! I don't think I had ever been so surprised in my life. Now I was really in business. What with one or two committments that I have, I'm required to visit the UK fairly recently, and I usually go on the train for a quick aller-retour. Now with the Escort, I came and went from one meeting to the next, visit a few good friends, attend all these meetings ..... just like old times in "Bill Badger".
So what tips can I give you about living in a van?