Bushwhacked: Leading the way in a yellow van

J Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song continues to invade my mind: “I grow old... I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled/Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? /I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.”

TS Eliot’s poem has been embedded in my brain since my schoolboy years, but where once it was a gloomy view of debilitating age, I increasingly find it familiar. And not so scary.

It happened again this week: “I grow old… I grow old … think I need a campervan.”

Regular readers will recognise that this thought flows like pure liquid logic from two weekends ago when the 1979 Lilo gave up the ghost and I realised camping in a tent was literally a pain in the bum.

So, we tracked down an early 80s yellow Mazda campervan and are getting it ready for new adventures. Bugger the peaches: bring on the frothies “up the river” or a Thermos of tea by the Campaspe.

It’s a basic little beauty, not decked out with all the fripperies of modern life, but with the essentials – to wit, a comfy bed and a solid roof.

As so often happens in our strange, meandering lives, we are at the head of a trend. The vanguard, you might say.

It turns out there’s a worldwide “wave of interest” in retro campervans. Mostly it’s about old VW Kombis but they are dearer than sin these days, so we turned the gaze to older Japanese campers and there’s almost as much interest in those.

Young folk are buying them and dressing them up like 1960s and 70s kitchens, complete with Laminex benches, black and white tiled floors, chintz curtains. Retro everything. I saw one with a mirror ball and a picture of Abba proudly on the wall.

Not everyone understands this camper-van thing. Like my own kids, for instance.

The youngest, now a very hip young thang in Melbourne, was horrified.

“But dad, that’s a dirty hippy thing. It’s what OLD people do.”

I asked if she’d had here eyesight checked lately. “But dad, does it smell 

of marijuana when you open the door?” “How the hell would I know?” I snapped back. “More importantly, young lady, how would YOU know?”

It used to be said about Kombis that the reason they were so slow was that if gave the hippies a chance for a bit of a nap before the wheels finally wobbled off onto the gravel verge.

I was then reminded that the Mazda van used to be called Bongos, and that in Britain and Europe, the later ones still carried that name. 

“I thought I might get a Bongo sign made up to stick on the back,” I announced, considering myself very clever indeed.

Daughter Number 3 threatened never to come home again.

If only I’d known it was that easy.

“Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table; 

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, / The muttering retreats / Of restful nights in cheap yellow Mazda vans.”

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