Thirty Years Of Camping

The Descent Of “The Van”

We bought our first camper van about thirty years ago in the Spring of 1989. It was a white, 1971, 1.7 , automatic transmission, four berth with a pop up roof VW Westfalia .

Its previous owners had named it Bessie, but for us it was always simply “the Van”. They had travelled extensively throughout Europe right through to exotic places such as Egypt and Morrocco in it with no mishaps or breakdowns. We got as far as Leeds to Eastleigh to visit Gary’s mum and Dad. Then on the return journey as we neared Winchester it broke down. This was to be a recurrent feature of our life with this recalcitrant, temperamental, but much beloved vehicle.

On this our first breakdown I was heavily pregnant with our second child and the first, a lively four and a half years old was also in tow. So not a good combination to be stuck with at the side of the busy A33. We rang for the AA – no mobile phones in those days – and I dimly remember Gary climbing down an embankment to a minor road that ran underneath the one we were abandoned on to find the nearest phone box. Of course, not one was to be found. Would I give birth while he was away with only Laura to act as midwife?

In the end he had to go into a hotel and ask if he could use their payphone.

He also rang his mum and dad to inform them of our horror story. And God Bless Pete and Vi…….his mum packed up some sandwiches, drinks , crisps and biscuits and other starvation rations…..and his Dad drove out with them to where we we awaited the AA mechanic.

Anyhow, eventually a lovely man came and declared the van engine to be… technical terms “knackered” ……later we found out it had dropped a valve. So we had to be relayed back to our house in Headingley. The first of many such occasions!

On our first ever camper-van trip to France in August 1990.

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