The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 A few years ago I bought a ‘new to me’ box van and set about converting it into a camper-van, it had the lot, bed, cooker, washing facilities, small wood burning stove, and last but by no means least a chemical toilet – just in case I was caught out, I used local toilets all the time I was away, so it was never used.

I travelled the length and breadth of Scotland in my old van, it never missed a beat, over the two years I travelled with it. Winter months were brilliant fully insulated keeping it cosy and warm, and I had the little wood burner in reserve, never really needed and lit mostly for its comfort. I would lie in my bunk, on those dark early winter evenings, with only the light that had escaped from around the joins of the little stove, my little magic lantern. Snug as a bug in a rug, I would watch the night skies in all their spender. Scotland is so beautiful in winter and free from two of Scotland pests, the midge, and the tourist. After my extended trail, I parked it up and started to plan a foray into Europe.

I was spotted by a lad one day, he had caught me lounging around inside the van, well, the solar panels still worked as did the CD player and I had built up a good library of books and magazines I had collected on my travels, but never having found the time to read them when I was away. The van had now been turned into my wee bolt hole. Over a pot of tea and a bit of humming and hawing, he bought the van from me. Well, I was getting on a bit and the van was not getting used.

I had a new neighbour last year and if you have moved into City Park and want that new piece of furniture assembled, that came on a boat all the way from China as a flat pack, then any of the girls will tell you Walter is the man to see. Flatpack furnisher Tick, Pictures and mirrors hung Tick. Pictures and mirrors are taken down and move to a different wall, Tick. Then again maybe that mirror would look better in the bathroom, Tick.

Later in the week, no names no pack drill caught me in the hall, “I wonder if you could put up some shelves for me?” she asked.

“I’ll have a look first” I said.

Simple enough job, if fact I have an old countertop made from Oak, it had been rescued from a skip in South Street, a bit of renovation going on in the Rule, at the time, it would cut down into a nice set of shelves.

We chatted away during the times I spent in her home and it seemed she loved to travel, but I soon found out that we lived in different worlds, I did not travel first class on the ‘Canberra’. I said I loved travelling to Europe, that my favourite country was France, but it would be a toss-up between France and Germany, and how I had been planning a return trip to the continent.

If this was not always going to be just a dream, serious plans would have to be put in place, this encounter with, no names no pack drill, had reawakened my dream, plans started to drop into place.

‘Everything comes to those who wait’.

I needed a van to sleep in, the old-age pension does not stretch to B&B. A van would also be needed to carry my bike and equipment. I had no intentions to build another camper van, this time around, the trip would be more roughing it, than Cooks Tour. Something more economical too. I put out an SOS and my nephew came up with the goods, a small VW Caddie. He had ordered a new car and, needed to sell at least one vehicle from his stable, to help finance his new dream car.

I went into overdrive and was all but ready to depart, camp bed, Tick, cooker, Tick, DVD/CD player, Tick, spare battery and solar panel to keep it fully charged, Tick. Inverter, to charge up my laptop and kindle, Tick. Then disaster struck in the form of coronavirus, shit.

On the first of August I turned over my calendar to discover that the van was due an MOT, and being a ‘cut as stick when you come to it’ kind of guy I booked it in for its MOT right away.

Up early, cleared our all the rubbish that had accumulated, over the time it has been sitting, more or less dormant in the car park. Bucket and sponge at the ready, I gave her a good going over, may as well do my bike whilst I am at it. Off up to the MOT station in plenty of time.

It was all locked up, shutters down, everything. Well, I am a little early. I spent half an hour over at Aldi doing a bit shopping but when I returned to the van, the garage was still firmly locked up. The penny dropped, “Why did you not tell me it was only Sunday?”

I returned to the MOT station this morning and yes it was now open, “Come back at 10 o’clock it will be ready for collection” I was assured.

My wee van failed, seems the whole exhaust system is shot from stem to stern, on Wednesday, after it receives it’s new pipework my bank book will be depleted by a further few hundred pounds, I hate books with sad endings. Still better to find out now than, somewhere in France.

There was also an advisory, ‘light rusting and pitting on brake discs’, hardly surprising the van has been, more or less, sitting in a car park for the last three months, they will be well and truly polished by the time I make the boat at Southampton.

“It’s an ill wind indeed that blows no one any good”.

In some ways, it was good that I did not get away last spring as planned, I will have had a whole year to iron out the wrinkles with the van and save some extra money for the trip. I have also sorted out the electrics, (inverter and solar panels) I know it sounds more like taking it all with you than getting away from it all, but I like to watch my DVD when the weather has closed me down, and my laptop and kindle requires re-charging from time to time.

Now all I have to do between now and spring 2021, is keep dodging the undertaker and hope that the coronavirus has run its course.  

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