12. The life of Brian – a tribute

In 2015 Cara and I purchased a dilapidated 20 year old LDV Convoy van from a man in the dark for £500.

Brian, as he came to be known, began life as a 15 seat minibus; he was then converted into a tour bus by a band called the High Barnets. The bloke we bought the van from intimated that he had been used to tour Spain; wow! a van with history, a back story; he even chucked in four spare tires. Goodness, we thought, what a deal.

Then it was daylight. Fuck we thought, what have we done.

I think it’s fair to say this wasn’t a ‘sympathetic conversion’. In fact, it appeared to have been done by a drill wielding lunatic. I wish we had counted the number of screws we removed, the band had installed storage lockers for their instruments and my god these were secure. For some inexplicable reason there were glasses (spectacles, as opposed to vehicles for liquid) hidden throughout the van. The quaint drill holes in the roof, perfectly complemented the gaping holes in the floor. Essentially we’d taken on a rusty heap, holier than the pope.

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It took hours of work to get the van to this state and we hadn’t yet discovered the extent of his holiness…the dampness of the flooring on the right hand side gives you a little insight as to what lies beneath!

Fortunately help came in the shape of a great friend called Mike. Mike is the type of person who see’s a problem as the beginning of a solution. He is amazingly ‘practical’ and can turn his hand to all types of construction. He’s a craftsman, grafter and all round decent fella.

Welding, unfortunately isn’t within his skill-set, so we parted with a heart stopping sum of money to get the floor into decent shape. They also charged us to get rid of the four bloody tires.

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It’s also worth mentioning that Brian was our only vehicle, so we were using him to transport us from A to B. On one memorable trip, feeling a slight chill, we looked up to discover that the newly exposed sky light had parted from the vehicle on the A4. This left us with yet another opening in the vehicle, for some time waterproofed with a large transparent umbrella.

We had big plans for Bri. we’d spent hours online scouring sites and travelling the country in the search for our ‘perfect camper’, to reach the conclusion that it didn’t exist. We didn’t want a perfect white box, we wanted something charming, with personality and functionality in equal measure. We also didn’t have a clue what we were doing.

What followed was a summer of endeavor, we worked harder on this project then we ever had before. Mike was foreman – what he told us, we did. We sawed, sanded and screwed every weekend for months. Hundred’s of wo/man hours were poured in to the van, not to mention a significant amount of money. Cara’s Dad and Brother came from Wales to help – he was a true collaboration and complete labour of love.

We were keen to maintain his curves, the main purpose of purchasing and LDV Convoy was the distinctive shape and Mike ever the craftsman, dedicated his efforts to this. We boarded and cladded throughout, with each piece of wood measured, marked, cut, sanded, piloted, countersunk, glued, screwed and oiled. Mike single- handedly designed the bed and even installed a bespoke wine rack.

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Electrics were installed by a firm called Camper Monkey’s, whilst we fitted the gas stove and sink.

Brian took us through Portugal and Spain, to Gibraltar; around the Scottish Highlands; across France to Italy and Sicily; he crossed mountain passes in Switzerland, to Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

He was our home for three weeks whilst we waited to move into our first house. He’s hosted a party and kept us warm at Christmas.

He was broken into and cruelly damaged.

He’s chugged up many a hill, raising smiles and waves from onlookers.

He has broken down in the entrance to a campsite and bewildered Spanish mechanics.

He failed MOT’s spectacularly, leaked and overheated at every given opportunity; we loved him dearly.

In September this year, just South of Lake Como, we accidentally drove into a low bridge. Sadly this was the end for Brian, too much structural damage for an old boy.

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This post may seem like a bit of a non sequitur in an adoption blog, but Brian has typified our life pre-adoption. He had two seats and was perennially unreliable – he had to go, and this felt like an appropriate ending for such a comical chap. He was towed away last week, whilst we were at work. I never believed that I could be so emotionally invested in a vehicle. Brian encapsulated our spirit of adventure and now we’re embarking on a different type of adventure.

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As Semisonic said, ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end’

Cheers Bri!

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