The Pikey van has come out of retirement — an updated version of the genuine Gipsy caravan, rescued from our barn, emptied of animal feed sacks and given a cursory vacuum clean. We’ve been busy for the last ten years and, as the only completely rat-proof container, it’s been busy too — minding sheep-nuts and sheltering privileged spiders. Now it’s time for a re-birth, an adventure, a pilgrimage, a journey!
Noisier than we remember, it discourages unnecessary conversation — we nod at Glastonbury Tor as we chug past (it is promised to friend-Silvia for her bucket-list trip to the festival, but we have enough mud in our every day and spend our time trying to avoid crowds). It hasn’t lost its charisma — land owners pale at our approach.
The Pikey van is explicit, a statement of a philosophy and a tester of prejudice — it is a reminder. Driving it is chastening, like going round a supermarket in a wheel chair… ‘Ah… Bless!’ as the cashier said to me as I tried to pay for my shopping. It is not just our spiders that are normally privileged. When we drive it, gates close, barriers come down — appeased only by the roundness of our vowels and the friendliness of our dog.
To us, it is cost-effective. It is a warm and comfortable bed in a light and airy ex-commercial, VW high-top Transporter — old, high mileage– empathic, no fancy electronics to go wrong and no frilly curtains but it is insulated, ventilated, has running water (usually), a fridge, a cooker and a loo. It smells of oily rags and dog, but they are our oily rags and our dog.
When parked over night in a municipal car-park it is just another white van and no-one notices it. Best of all — no one cuts you up on roundabouts — you look as if you mean business — even if it is the scrap-business! There is no fuss — you don’t have to be endlessly polite or worry about the dog barking if anyone uses the bathroom. A huge man does not stands over you while you force down the largest full-English breakfast in Cornwall telling you about his most recent coronary. No one sniffs under the door to see if you are smoking or charges you £15 extra for the dog who is on a diet and doesn’t want the sausages either.
When you get tired, you can just stop and have a sleep — it is perfect. You can drive to the beach in your pyjamas and walk the dog while your spouse snores on.