Friday, 30 September 2011
But there sure is something lonesome about being on your own behind the wheel of Renault Kangoo van as the days draw in and the big city plays out around you.
As I shift gears, sometimes listening to the radio or music, sometimes not, I can't help but compare my solitary life in the van to those of the people around me: friends communing over pints outside a pub, steady couples walking arm in arm, courting youngsters in passionate embraces, businessmen hastily striding home to kiss their children goodnight.
Traffic lights and taillights taunt me; winking at me, squinting at me as I weave my way my way from through Battersea and Clapham Common before heading to Central London and onwards to the northern parts of our great capital.
Even though the music I listen to is upbeat, it seems to have an underlying melancholic tone. Perhaps it's because most the people I listen to are long gone: Hank Williams, Led belly, Patsy Cline, Nick Drake, Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin are among my favourites.
Sometimes I used to put a little bit of Amy Winehouse on, you know, just because she was "current" and alive. I particularly loved listening to Love is a Losing Game. But now Amy is dead too and I need to refresh my record collection.
But maybe I should stop comparing my life in the Renault van to the lives of those I see around me – after all, life is rarely as it seems from the outside. Just think of my musical heroes, all of whom endured personal tragedy as much as they enjoyed musical triumph.
Just this week it was revealed that when he was in his twenties and right at the peak of his good looks, Elvis Presley used to "get lonesome".
He hoped to fall in love and meet someone, he said, so that he would no longer feel so "lonesome right in the middle of a crowd."
It's comforting to think that even Elvis Presley felt his life didn't compare favourably with the lives of others – well it's comforting to this "white van man" who yet again will tonight be lonesome behind the wheel of his Renault.
Image © fsse8info via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence
Monday, 26 September 2011
Apparently, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has reported more than a 20% increase in the number of new van registrations for the year so far compared to 2010.
A commercial vehicle expert stated, "The motor trade industry was one of the hardest hit industries in the recession so it is great to see this increase in new vehicle registrations which in turn will have a positive impact on the insurance industry."
The recession releasing its grip on the van world – this is great news!
Also, to help van drivers who are planning on buying a new van, Swinton Commercial has listed some advice on what to look for in a new van. Very handy!
Some of the tips include making sure that the van you get is the right one for you and will be useful for your trade and the distances you have to cover.
Another tip that I found particularly useful, because I'd have forgotten to do it, is to check the policy since the new van could have a higher premium.
I don't want to spend money on a new van and then find that it's going to be cheaper repairs-wise, but more expensive insurance-wise!
Monday, 19 September 2011
He's getting on for thirteen now, so I may only have to wait another three years before I ask the sign writers to add "& son" to the side of the Volkswagen Crafter – it will be a proud day.
"Why, dad, why?" he pleads.
"Because it's fate," I reply. "You were only twenty minutes away from actually being born in the back of my first van [a Ford Escort, since you ask], and that was the Gods' way of telling you that you'd one day be taking over the business."
I'm not going to tell him but I'm now beginning to wonder if what the Gods actually gave him was a narrow escape.
Yes, he's quite keen on baking (he even baked me a van cake for my birthday), is nifty on his feet and is still doing potting lessons twice a week, but the main reason I think a life in the family carpentry business might not be preordained is that the fact of his being "almost born in van" turns out to be not as remarkable as I once thought it was – well, compared to some.
For example, if I compare him to the boy who was born in a van in Iowa this week, the boy who was born in a van in New York in 2010 or the boy who was born in the back of van in Hertfordshire in 2009, I can now see why he tells me that he managed to escape the fate I imagined for him. But like I say, I'm not going to tell him. Not yet, anyway.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
T-Mobile asked 2,000 teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years of age how much certain items cost and when it came to household items like food they were really clueless.
When my eldest moved out I remember him harping on for ages about how much toilet roll cost. He even used to nick the odd roll at the weekends when he came back for a Sunday Roast.
Tell you what I feel like doing now he's got his life sorted – I feel like presenting him with an invoice for the move. It would go something like this:
Weekend hire of transit van - £150
Cost of diesel for transit van - £45
Labour (back breaking due to the number of flights of stairs involved) - £200 (and I reckon that's cheap)
Years of tender care - £priceless
Help and advice on the price of stuff - £more than you can afford, my son.
There, so basically it costs a lot to have kids, a lot to move out, a lot to live and kids don't have a clue about important things like bog roll. And the only cheap thing on this page is the amount it costs to run my van.
Friday, 9 September 2011
However, I've noticed recently that I might be pretty unusual in wanting to keep my front seats in a good condition.
The other day I helped out one my mates with a job, helping him load and unload heavy building materials in and out of his van. However, when I climbed into the passenger seat I was completely shocked at the state of the front.
There were cigarette burns in the seats, even though smoking in a vehicle used for work is illegal, empty fizzy drinks cans rolling around on the floor and even abandoned bits of food scattered about which smelt revolting.
Now, I don't consider myself to be a snob, but my mate's van was completely disgusting compared to my own van!
I didn't have the heart to tell him how horrible it was for me to travel in the front of his van, but I'll certainly think twice about offering to help him out again next time! Fortunately, it's now his turn to help me – my van might even teach him a thing or two!
Image © twoshortplanks via flickr, under Creative Commons Licence
Friday, 2 September 2011
What's annoying is that it was a Sunday. I'd arranged the job for this day especially so that I wouldn't have to put up with the usually gluey crawl I find myself in while driving about London.
Perhaps I should have checked to make sure that nothing out of the ordinary was going on. But what are the odds, hey?
As it was I was stuck in my Ford Transit waiting for all manner of vehicles to move on. This is because it was the annual Bridgestone Eco Rally.
Apparently the event usually takes place between Brighton and London, but this year it started from Oxford. At the time I felt like this change had been made just to spite me.
I'll lay my cards out and admit that I'm not a fan of the electric van, but I will say that for the first time in my life I wished I'd been in one.
Yes, while I sat behind a cordon waiting for a sea of eco-friendly cars to depart, there was the Ford Transit Connect Van shrinking into the distance. I couldn't help but compare our two fates – and I had an inkling that it was the van of the future.
Tired of waiting, I stepped out for a breath of fresh air and a fag. One of the stewards there told me that there were some strange vehicles in the convoy, including one that was fuelled by cheese and alcohol.
Good idea, I thought, and went to the lovely little pub for a ploughman's lunch.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad stroke of luck because while in the pub, I picked up another Oxford job, helping gut the defunct offices of an old, independent motor insurance broker.
"Let me finish my lunch and I'll give you a quote," I said to the bloke, an old contact from when I used to live and work in Oxford.
I got the job! Who said anything about hard economic times.