I have finally said goodbye to my lovely Citroën Berlingo van. The trusty workhorse of my gardening days in London, for 10 years it toted tools, plants and innumerable bags of garden waste. Escapees from those bags set up their own eco system in its nooks and crannies – whole life cycles of lacewings, ladybirds and spiders took place and most mornings there was usually a confused snail gummed to the mileometer. Eventually the mechanics at the MOT centre said they wouldn’t pass it until I’d hoovered out the spectacular cobwebs. Spoil sports.
The Van Rouge suffered various indignities: being broken into rather too often (ah, Camden living); the paintwork stripped by particularly acidic pigeon droppings; an ignominious 24 hours in the White Hart Lane car pound; being shunted up the bottom by a Range Rover on the A68. But it soldiered valiantly on, spending the last few weeks carrying turf cutters and rotovators to and from the lovely King’s Stag Garage hire centre. Sadly, all those years of bouncing over Islington’s evil speed bumps proved too much for the suspension, which began to twang like a double base in a honky tonk band and I didn’t face it collapsing on some deserted Dorset byway.
As I parked it round the back of the garage among a clutch of unwanted wrecks, it felt as if I was shooting some faithful pit pony. So now I am the owner of a Teepee (the car version of the Peugeot Partner van, so now we have seats in the back, useful for giving lifts, and air conditioning which the cut flowers will appreciate). Yet despite the car salesman’s best shot at patter – “It’s got alloy wheels!” “Admire the dual coloured trim!” – I’m never going to love this beast. All the bulk of a van with none of the beauty of a car, it’s quite a little prig too – shrieking like a terrified teenager if I don’t put on my seatbelt and flashing little red arrows if it thinks I should change gear. As for the colour – Tangerine Red it says in the brochure – it’s decidedly ginger. At least it’ll be easy to spot in a car park.