My first band, Whitefire, used to have a very unreliable Ford Transit which, for a reason that is buried in the mists of time, we painted orange. Over the years I have hired or borrowed hundreds of the bloody things. A couple of years ago I resumed my journey as a professional musician and foolishly bought a Peugeot Teepee which just managed to fit my ever expanding guitar rig and PA. The poor thing just couldn’t cope and have to say did nothing for my credibility.
It was at this point that I decided to buy a van. Having owned quite a few Volkswagen cars, I thought it would be a great idea to try a VW Transporter. I called Guy at the excellent Lancashire Van Centre and gave him the spec: short wheelbase, upgraded sound-system & GPS, boarded out in the back and of course, painted black.
He came back saying all this was cool, but black would be a special order with a three month lead time. Now, I don’t know about you, but once a decision has been made it has to happen quickly, so I asked if he had anything in stock. He told me of a great deal on a pre-registered van, so asked him to mail me a picture; it arrived – the van was white!
“White van man” is a stereotype found in the United Kingdom of the driving of smaller-sized commercial vans, perceived as selfish, inconsiderate, or aggressive.
Now white van man was given a terrible reputation by late 90’s articles in the Sun and quite honestly I didn’t want to be tarred with the White Van brush or anonomised. It however made great financial sense, so I bit the bullet and went ahead.
When it arrived I took it for a spin and something very strange happened. People gave way for me, kept their distance and treated me like a king of the road.
The ‘back stage’ area of the TT is notoriously difficult to get into. I turn up in the van and was just waved straight through, no questions just a slight glimpse of fear on the eye.
Park anywhere, stick the hazards on and you are above the law: you could be delivering frozen chips or repairing someones boiler. Cut someone up at a roundabout, pull in from the wrong lane, slam the brakes on at anytime. The road is your domain, you are invincible.
The mystery of what lies inside and the fact that the driver may potentially be a very nasty and aggressive individual turns even the most fierce police officer or traffic warden into over-ripe Camembert; smelly but very soft.
The general public may curse, swear and wave their fists, but you stop, open the door and they instantly evaporate.
So the upshot is I will never now be without a white van. White is clearly the new black…
Blues at the Bay, 718 Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe TS16 0JE Stockton-on-tees, UK
Saltburn Blues Club, Markse Mill Lane, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 1QA, UK