Tom Fordyce

Cartoons, chimps and chemical toilets (23)

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.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:26 PM on 01 Sep 2007,
  • Prestwick wrote:

Have fun you guys! Don't touch the snails mate!

  • 2.
  • At 12:52 AM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Will you be setting up a Flickr stream so we can see some pictures of the van and your journey?

Yep - in answer to your question Paul, the plan is to have a Flickr stream which imports straight onto this blog. We hope to have that ready early next week.

So steel yourself for some unpleasant pics of Tom and Ben's mobile home - flip-flops, chemical toilet and all.

  • 4.
  • At 11:24 AM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Mike Finn wrote:

Do it for your country lads.

Cleaning out the chemical bog, that is.

  • 5.
  • At 01:27 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Alistair Newman wrote:

Still hopeful of a Wales v England Quarter-Final.
Let`s hope Wales beat Aus, and the Springboks get 5 drop goals in the e v Saf match.
Cymru am byth

  • 6.
  • At 04:14 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • ozzieexile wrote:


  • 7.
  • At 07:05 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • James Brittain wrote:

Ausieexile, when was the last time australia beat wales at the milenium stadium?

  • 8.
  • At 07:13 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Jon Tunney wrote:

Let's just hope the Fordyce 'centrefold' piece in today's Observer Sport Monthly won't turn his head on the French jaunt. Otherwise poor old Dirsy might end up emptying the chemical loos every day.

  • 9.
  • At 07:47 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Tom Fordyce wrote:

I've made an executive decision - since I'm doing all the driving for the next seven weeks, Dirsy's going to be doing all the toilet-emptying. Harsh in many ways, but it's all about division of labour on these trips, no?

  • 10.
  • At 02:46 AM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Ebbrell wrote:

What, no Tom and Ben on TMS for the next seven weeks? Awww, guess I'll just have to get your inane ramblings from here then!

  • 11.
  • At 09:05 AM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Kev D wrote:

How much is this trip costing US out of interest?


  • 12.
  • At 10:47 AM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • weejimmy wrote:

Kev D - stop being so tight!

Hope you have a great time. Re. pubs to check out - Cafe Oz in Paris (Rue St Denis) is always a good spot to catch the rugby on the TV. Its not far from the Place de l'hotel de Ville, where matches will probably be played on big screens as well. And there's always the Auld Alliance for the scottish matches! (next to Metro St Paul).
Amusez vous bien!

  • 13.
  • At 10:57 AM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • rory wrote:

Come clean guys! Who is BEN DIRS?? Any relation to Ben Doon and Phil Mc Cavity??
I think we should be told!!

  • 14.
  • At 01:05 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • hank wangford wrote:

Ben Dover


  • 15.
  • At 01:54 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • JR Hartly wrote:

Do the cartoons look anything like you?

To me they look like a couple of the faces from the classic 80's game, Mr. Pop

  • 16.
  • At 02:16 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • martin wrote:

If your van is -"So immense, so space-age, so monstrously horse-powered" - , do you have space for a stowaway? (I'll even empty the chemical toilet!)

  • 17.
  • At 02:22 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • AB wrote:

I would like to invite the BBC crew to La Baule, west of Nantes on the 20/09/07 for Beach Cricket and Beach Tag rugby followed by ale!

  • 18.
  • At 04:01 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew T wrote:

Don't forget to follow "Le route des Anglais" on your travels south.
So called because we invaded so often
in our glorious past that they named the invasion route after us. Naturally it goes past the village of Agincourt all the way to Aquitaine.
Let's hope the spoils of this venture include "Le pot d'or".

  • 19.
  • At 04:11 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Rushers wrote:

"I would like to invite the BBC crew to La Baule, west of Nantes on the 20/09/07 for Beach Cricket and Beach Tag rugby followed by ale!"

As a fellow organiser of the above mentioned sand based extravaganza I feel it appropriate to point out that my colleague has somewhat foolishly got the date wrong. It will in fact be 21/09/07 for a bit of light-hearted, casual sport. On the 20th we will still be in Blighty!

See you there Tommo and Dirsy!

  • 20.
  • At 05:29 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Andy L wrote:

Gentlemen - our intrepid band are travelling to Lille on friday and staying there before watching the game on saturday - a couple of questions - where's the best place in lille to have a few beers and watch the opening game and..... can we have a lift from Lille to Lens for the game? There are only four of us and we are pretty house trained. There might even be a beer in it for you........

  • 21.
  • At 09:14 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Raymond Manookian wrote:

Why cant I ever get a job like this!

  • 22.
  • At 10:38 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Fatbob wrote:

Tom, I have been a very close friend of Ben's for twenty five years or so. In that time I have realised Ben is a great fella but don't hang around with him too much. Make strange excuses why you have to leave him for a few days each week. He begins to hate people very quickly and was always famous for walking away from anyone mid-conversation (from about the age of four)if he felt a little uncomfortable. Don't be offended. Twenty four hours is usually the limit, so just be aware. You may need that bike more than you think. And don't believe the driving thing, he's always making up stuff like that when it suits him. Bon Voyage lads etc enormously jealous.FB

  • 23.
  • At 11:29 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Tom Fordyce wrote:

AB and Rushers - loving the sound of some monkeying around in La Baule. Keep us posted.

Andy L - alas, we'll be on our way to Nantes by then to catch the opening Wales action.

Fatbob - any advance warning on Ben's worst habit? Is it the thing with the toes?

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