I borrowed a van from work for the weekend and arranged to meet the highly intelligent Bro at the Swedish emporium on Sunday morning. This meant that I had the pleasure of a weekend in a van, well not sleeping and stuff, just driving. I like van driving, I really do. You sit there up high, looking down on the people around you and they treat you with an amount of respect that you just don't get when you're in a car, no matter what car that is.
The first hurdle I had to leap was parking in my space at RD Towers on Friday night. It's one of those slightly tricky negotiations, involving reversing and then turning into a tight space, ideally without hitting one of the other cars parked nearby. And, being a man, not just any man but one driving a van, means that rules and regulations apply.
There are security cameras in the car park at RD Towers and I knew that B, the helpful but significantly too nosey concierge chap, would probably be watching me in his monitor. As a man, in a van, we have to perform manoeuvres like this with confidence and ease. It's universally accepted that it's better to get into a tight space quickly and calmly even if you hit a couple of cars nearby, as long as you don't get seen, than it is to take ages and do a forty three point turn.
Of course the ideal is to get into the space quickly and easily without hitting anything but only professionals can do that. Or women. Which probably makes me a girl of some sort, as I did it with the apparent ease of a Sri Lankan politician changing allegiance. Apparent being the key word. I reversed, did a few turns and even did that thing the experts do when you open the drivers door and hang out of the cab looking behind you and almost falling out.
I wasn't sure what to look for but just peered a bit at the walls and in the general direction of the back of the van. There wasn't much point, I figured that I'd know when I hit the wall as soon as I felt it anyhow.
But, the first parking attempt was a resounding success. I dismounted from my ride, through the passenger door as I was a bit close to the wall on the driver's side, patted its head and went up to my apartment.
On Saturday I took A for an optician's appointment. After bunging K's bike in the back of the van, which had been abandoned at my place some time ago, I cruised to the girls' house and proudly told A that we had a van for the journey. She, truth be told, wasn't best pleased, muttering something about image and how it's much better for a sixteen year old girl to be seen in a BMW than in a Ford Transit van loudly decorated in my company's corporate war paint. Women are plain weird sometimes.
Parking, this time under even more pressure as I was worried about the effect on A's image if we were spotted, was even easier. I reversed, did the hanging out of the door thing then boasted a bit to A about my coolness as she looked on with what can only be described as a lethal mix of scorn, contempt and embarrassment.
We strolled off to the optician's and did a bit of divorced Dad and eldest daughter bonding, something that I treasure these days and yet was never really aware of in my pre divorce days. This time it consisted of an eye test, with me making faces at A behind the optician's back, me parting with quite a lot of money for A's next set of contact lenses and then a dash to Tescos to buy Pot Noodles and doughnuts for A and the smaller and somewhat more dangerous sister.
Off we went in our trusty steed (van to you) again, with A enjoying it but making sure that she wasn't spotted by any of her friends. I deposited A back at their place, having done yet another smart bit of parallel parking and said a quick hello to K, then climbed aboard and
drove rode back to RD Towers.
As Dave Grohl would have said, had he written the song after stopping smoking, it's times like these that I occasionally yearn for a smoke. A van, an open window and an open road. What more does a chap need than to dangle his elbow precariously out of the window and exhale a few lethal tobacco fumes?
We parked up at RD Towers, me and the van that is, and I left it to sleep and went up to my apartment.
The next morning I woke, bright and early, too early as is usually the case with me, and went and found the van in the car park to drive off and meet the little Academic Bro at IKEA. It was one of those very lovely English Spring mornings, full to the brim with a blue cloudless sky, some bright sunlight, a dash of bracing fresh air and splashings of dew on the grass.
As I pulled in IKEA things were far more peaceful and calm than I had envisaged. I'd expected chaos, poor quality people everywhere and a bit of road rage. Instead it all seemed pleasantly calm and organised. I reversed into a parking space and took my position. It was a position of reading the latest issue of Modern Drummer and watching for Academic, who was going to meet me there.
Of course, you know me, I was about an hour early.
The Bro arrived and we did our brotherly greeting thing then ambled into the Swedish superstore. My eyes were on stalks as I attempted to take everything in.
The real adventure was only just beginning......