- 1 Sep 07, 05:12 PM
The ominous parting words from the various BBC bosses have all been the same: “Have a good time, of course – but don’t crash the van, right?”
So immense, so space-age, so monstrously horse-powered is our vehicle that it appears any van-related insurance claim would leave the already shaky BBC finances on the brink of terminal meltdown.
I don’t like to spread scare stories, but whispers are that one small ding to the front bumper could be enough to force the instant cancellation of the next series of Celebrity-Chimp Archery On Ice.
Mock if you will, but you try being the one who has to tell prospective CCAOI host Vernon Kay that his dream gig has just gone down the tubes because two clowns in France were too busy arguing about whose turn it was to empty the chemical toilet to notice a large yellow bollard directly in front of them.
To be honest, at this point in the trip my concerns are all about the cartoon mug-shots we’ve been given. Dirsy seems to have morphed into David Walliams in particularly saucy mood, while I look like a cross between Frank Spencer and Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot from Curiosity Killed The Cat.
Still – it’s got to be better than last time I undertook a disorganised road-trip round France. That was back in the heady summer of 1992, when two fresh-faced mates and I bought a bashed-up Lada for £250 from a place in Waltham Cross called Nobby And Dick’s Used Car Emporium, stuck a borrowed tent in the boot and sailed across the Channel with hope in our hearts and about 40 francs in our board-shorts.
Having painted flowers all over the car in a deluded attempt to recreate the heady journeys of Ken Kesey and his merry pals, we were stopped by cops with such regularity that we barely left second gear all summer. My main memory of the trip is arguing about whose turn it was to choose the next C90 tape for the stereo, and regularly being on the wrong end of a 2-1 vote in favour of the new long-player from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin or the loathsome Kingmaker. Dark days, my friends, dark days.
Time now to sling my flip-flops and toothbrush into the van. On Sunday I’ll spark up the big boy and chug down to Romford to pick up the lean, lithe Francophile that is Ben. We’ll probably spend a few happy hours in the evening cruising down the high street - windows down, sun-roof open, Jonny Hallyday booming out of the sub-woofers – and then, after a few hours broken, nervous sleep, begin the journey down to Dover.
Let le fun begin…
Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist travelling around France in a camper van with Ben Dirs. Click here to search for all of Tom and Ben's blog videos.