One of the unforeseen spin offs of owning an old VW campervan is that occasionally you get requests from friends who want to use it for special events. So far I’ve agreed to four weddings, including my daughter’s big day, and last Thursday the Sick Bay was in action at the Cheadle Hulme High School Prom.
Not every event has been an unqualified success. At my first wedding I took the bridesmaids to the wrong church, (long story covered in embarrassing detail in a previous post.) In the dash from the wrong church to the right one I met a BMW on a single bridge and lost my wing mirror to him. It is not in the nature of BMW drivers to give way to anyone, least of all to an ambulance desperate to get to the church on time. As any bay owner will know, the replacement after-market mirror has proved to be useless in comparison with the original VW version.
I was particularly nervous about doing the prom because after agreeing to do it, for a friend of Joy’s, I learnt that it was illegal. I don’t have a PSV licence and I don’t have insurance to carry passengers. Having already agreed, however, I didn’t feel I could back out and so I decided to drive very carefully and keep my fingers crossed. I was also hoping to keep a low profile until Joy told me that she’d promised the van would be festooned with balloons.
The arrangement was to pitch up at the boys’ house in Cheadle at about 6 pm and then take them for a ride so that the parents could get round to the prom hotel to see them arrive at about 7pm. Joy and I had been in the area the previous night on a trip to John Lewis. (To buy a much needed camera to replace the twenty year old antique that has provided the pics so far in this blog. Hope you notice an improvement or else I’ve wasted a hundred quid). We noticed that the traffic was a nightmare and so I gave myself loads of time, and predictably, arrived half an hour early.
This was fine though as it gave the four lads plenty of time to lark about with their James Bond poses in front of the van. And most of the neighbours came out with their kids who all wanted to to sit in the Sick Bay and twiddle the steering wheel.
I have always been a sucker for cats and amidst all the hullabaloo a real beauty pitched up and made herself very comfortable in the cab. She then proceeded to steal the show by jumping onto the Sick Bay roof just as the ranks of cameras were snapping the boys.
Joy’s friend, Janet, asked me if the boys could have some non-alcoholic wine and beer in the back on their way to the prom. She said that it was non-alcoholic as the real stuff would be illegal. I refrained from commenting that the whole damn thing was illegal and said that would be fine. Just as we were about to set off one of them smashed a wine glass on the road and so the glasses were hastily replaced with plastic cups. As we drove off I told the lads that it probably wouldn’t be the last glass to get smashed that night so don’t worry about it.
The hotel, known locally as the Belfry but recently renamed the Hallmark, was only about ten minutes away but to delay our arrival I drove around a large housing estate where I hoped the local bobbies would not bother us. The lads in the back were oblivious as they chatted away about the night to come, who was going to come and one or two other things which I’d better keep under my hat. The wine and beer seemed to be going down pretty well.
At about seven I turned round and set off for the hotel and the grand entrance. I think that one of the reasons why the Sick Bay had been chosen for the prom was because it has a flashing blue light and a very loud two-tone siren. The old fashioned ‘nee-naw’ type. When I checked the siren recently I found that it was not working as I had damaged it with water during a van wash. I went to some trouble to get this fixed in time for the prom and as it turned out, the siren was the ‘icing on the cake’ – as Janet told me later.
As you can imagine the entrance to the hotel was a chaotic jumble of limos, and all sorts of exotic vehicles, including a Splitty, trying to drop off their prom goers at the hotel entrance. Directly in front of us was a boy racer Audi with an engine that sounded like something from an F1 track. The passenger was someone from the lads’ year and they urged me to switch on the lights and siren. Much to everyone’s delight the Sick Bay siren totally drowned the Audi roar and my lads emerged from the van with the full attention of the assembled throng of prom-goers and parents. Mission accomplished.
This weekend we are going down to Shropshire for Camperjam, the biggest and best of the VW events, and then the following Saturday the Sick Bay will do its fourth and final wedding. Much as I have enjoyed these events, and the prom was really good fun, I won’t do any more. Not just because it is illegal and I don’t have the required insurance, but also we have found that committing to a date restricts our freedom to take spontaneous breaks whenever the mood takes us. And that, after all, is what having a campervan is all about.