An open letter to 'The Van'


This is a bit of a different post, but I wanted to do something to forever remember my car by, and as it turned out sawing off the steering wheel, papier-mâchéing it and mounting it on my wall was not going to be as easy as I thought.

So, alas here we are - I wanted to share with the world my freaking awesome car. Yep, it's that big hunk of white junk at the top there. The number plate, for no reason other than it came with the car, spelt out 'VAN'. So, because of the cars boxy, and rather un-elegant shape my family and I have always just referred to it as 'The Van'.

In 1995, when I was two, the car was bought by my nan, who I'm guessing was given a pretty strict budget by my pap, because a clunky white Toyota was most definitely not her dream car.

As so began 'The Vans' adventures. I literally grew up in the car. And whenever anyone got in the car and asked where we were going my nan always said "we're going on an adventure", and that became my nan's catchphrase throughout her life.

As a very young child I can remember sitting the the car, with my nan in a supermarket car park whilst my mum quickly ran in to get some bits (and probably had a little break from her twin daughters). My nan always entertained us with games such as eye spy, or pretended that the car floor was lava, oh oh or we'd beg my nan to take out her false teeth - that was our favourite.

The first time pap took me out in the van.

The first time I got the keys and drove it home.

As I got a little older my nan and pap would take my cousin, twin sister and I on little ''adventures'' - we once spent the day in Brighton, and it was marvelous. My nan loved to seaside, and also loved Primark so it was a win-win.

Then, as I hit my teens her car would become a place of safety, where we'd just sit on the drive for ages, whilst she listened to my worries, comforted me when the tears started to flow and gave me all that great nan advice. 

My nan (and the car) even became a hit with my friends, as whilst most of my class were probably hanging around the cinema with boys from the nearest boys school. Me and my two friends would go for a day out with my nan, which always started with a coffee* and cake. 

(*I say coffee, it was more likely to be one of those Strawberry & Cream Frappuccino things, as at that age I didn't understand the joys of caffeine).  

Also, it didn't matter how much you protested, my nan only knew one word and that was 'grande' so you were getting the damn biggest piece of cake and drink that was on the menu. Possibly with a few extra smaller Costa cakes, ya know, just to make sure you were sufficiently stuffed.  

Although by this point we were all 15-16, my nan also insisted that whenever we all went to the toilets that she would repeatedly make a 'tweet tweet' noise. Yes, like a bird. And you'd have to tweet back. Back then I really wasn't self-conscious about it, however I can only imagine the weird looks from women waiting, whilst we turned the public toilets into a bird sanctuary. I have no idea what the purpose of the 'tweeting' was, whether my nan just got nervous pee, or thought we'd be kidnapped whilst peeing, but anyway it was another one of my nan's many quirks that always made a day extra fun. Plus, regardless of whatever eccentric thing my nan did next, my friends still decided that my nan's name was from now on and evermore 'legend'.

The added bit of excitement also came as we always returned to the car park to see if the car was actually still there. You see, my nan always wanted a newer, better car so would therefore continuously leave it unlocked in the hopes that someone would maybe steal it and then my Pap would have to buy her a new one. 

Her parking technique was also equally as elegant as the car, as she used the 'back and bump' method, basically, when she banged into the wall of the carpark she knew she was in the space.

So, I've taken a bit of a tangent, but as you can tell the car held many a memory. So, when I got to around the age of driving, nan said (once again to finally get rid of the blasted thing) that when I learn't to drive I could have the van, which I was over the moon about. And it was that promise that gave me the motivation to learn to drive (FYI, I was second time lucky). 

Sadly, my nan never got to see me drive the van, as she got diagnosed with a vicious form of brain cancer, which took her way too quickly, and to this day is the hardest thing I've ever had to live through, as like a lot of nan's she was my best friend. 

My nan looking quite terrified while I drive an electric car at Disney 😂

But guess what? The car was still there, and once my pap had helped me drive it, insure it etc, I felt like I still had a little bit of my nan always with me - it was my own little safe place.

And so we had 4 great years together. My car was always the shittest car in the car park, and man, was my nan right, it's a horrible car to drive. 

It's got no power steering, the Japanese manufacturing means that the indicators are both on one side. There's no air-con, or heating (the winters were not fun) and to top it all off it couldn't even overtake a bloody cyclist. So, me and motorways are not friends. 

However, I was still happy as a clam with my tape cassettes, sat on my pastel green cushion because I was too short.

 The car has also been a great source of bonding for my pap and I since my nan's been gone (nearly 7 years). We give it a wash together, albeit twice a year, fit the hub caps and windscreen wipers ourselves, and MOT day always means 'fun day out with pap day'. 

Over the past few years it has also meant that I can regularly go and visit my pap (he lives a 40 min drive away). He hasn't had the best of luck with his health, so it's given me great joy and comfort that I can go over to look after him and spend quality time with him every week or so. 

I've got our days together down: I take him afternoon tea, and then he teaches me how to saw things or trim hedges and we run a few errands. Then, we watch Suits (he loves Suits) but can't use the DVD player (although he won't admit it). We often also have long chats where he tells me about his life, the families past and tries to remember anything remotely fashion related from the paper that day (which is always too cute). And then we go for fish and chips. 

Now, before you think 'ah I bet the car was just old and gave up'. Nope.

The most devastating thing about all this is that the van had just passed yet another MOT against all odds. The nice man in the car shop had regaled me with how, 'they don't make cars like this anymore', telling me to hang onto it for a few more years as then I'll be sitting on the pretty penny as it will be considered a 'classic car'. Someone a few months back even put a note on my car, asking if they could buy it. Pfft JOG ON MATE - nothing is ever going to make me part with my beloved van!!

But then, some man didn't look both ways coming out of his driveway onto a 40mph road and that was it. The van was no more. If that man does ever read this I would like to apologise for my language as I got out of the car, I'm sure it was just a careless mistake on your part, after all no one wants to crash. So, the number of times I part-screamed, part-cried 'WHAT THE FUCK!????????????' at you probably was a bit OTT. However, I was in shock and could see that you had just killed the most precious thing I owned - you f*cker (whoops - oh look at that, I'm not over it just yet).

So, dear van, you will never be forgotten:
  • Thank you for the adventures you've given generations of Carder drivers.
  • Thank you for surviving the sh*t 'back and bump' parking technique I obviously adopted from nan.
  • Thank you for not being stolen even when nan and I left you unlocked.
  • Thank you for still safely getting me to places still with a tyre on from 1995.
    Thank you for never making me get a speeding ticket because you can't even overtake a bloody cyclist. 
  • And thank you for still sparkling even though pap and I only cleaned you once a year.
No car will ever replace you.

I hope you've now gone on another adventure. Oh, or I hope you've been reunited with nan in heaven because she'd be PIIIIIIISED, would probably swear and then say, 'STUPID VIV' (FYI, that's my pap's name).

RIP dear van: 1995-2017.

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