At long last, I have found a camper van. I am now the proud owner of an Autosleeper Symbol. It is just what I have been looking for, is in pretty good condition and only has 45,000 miles on the clock. I have seen several over of these in the last five months – I like the layout – and it was from Somerset Motorhome Centre who, I was reliably told, wouldn't sell me down the river.
Oh the excitement as I set off from Winchester with my new Senior Citizens Rail Card. I had two connections to make and we were rerouted round Romsey because an idiot lorry driver had hit a bridge. I just made it to Bristol for the last leg of my journey through the no longer flooded but very soggy looking Somerset Levels, to Taunton. It felt like going to collect a much longed-for puppy. Gordon from Somerset Motorhomes met me and drove me to the garage. And there she (I'm pretty sure it's a she) was, white with racing green detail.
We spent ages going through how everything works - much of which I have now forgotten. Not the driving part – that's not difficult, and I am sure I'll soon get used to the dimensions of the van. It isn't exactly 'just like driving a car', it's a bit like driving a car - and dragging a small house behind you. Don't get me wrong, this is not The Who's tour bus, it is like a hi-top transit van. Big enough. And I love sitting up so high. Note to self, don't be distracted by the great view you get seeing over all the hedges. I drove along the A30 and tried to take in the majesty of the Fovant Badges as well as the narrow road, and that was almost a bad mistake.
No, it's the ramifications of the living quarters that take some learning. How to get water in, water out; operate and empty the loo; the fridge operates on mains battery, leisure battery or gas; pulling out the beds; draining the tanks. I have a briefcase full of information and manuals to read! I'm sure it'll all become like second nature.
I set off white knuckled from Taunton to Salisbury, juggernauts speeding past me on the A303. But the only near-incident I had was the one as I passed those Fovant Badges. I got to Belinda's house and we did some interiors' planning over a bit too much white wine. Then off to Salisbury market's fabric stall on Saturday morning. Mildly hungover, I bought yards of smart, tough ticking to re-cover the seats, and set off for home.
Now, thankfully, the three-day blues that naturally happen after a birth have passed. The day after I bought her home I looked out of the bathroom window and saw this vast white beast - and thought, Oh God, what have I done?! This is no puppy, it's a whale! An expensive whale! Then a piece of plastic falling off the inside of a window and I thought the end was nigh. But that has all passed now. The window can be fixed. I am bonding with my van, planning my route, and getting on with the covers...