Retired headteacher Janette takes to the road in her pink camper van and embarks on her own antiques roadshow

Retired head teacher Janette Wilkinson really is in the pink after buying the vehicle of her dreams.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 9:44 am
Janette Wilkinson with her pink camper van she has called Bagpuss - and a pink and white striped fluffy toy has pride of place on the dash board

Once leaving the classroom behind, the 57-year-old amateur antique expert and dealer promised herself a gift of a camper van.

“I said to myself ‘when I retire I’m going to save up, buy myself a camper van and travel round the coast of Britain.

“When I gave up work I looked into it more seriously and decided camping was not for me. I like a loo, hot shower and a cooked breakfast in the morning.

Janette's camper van has many 'Barbie-style' features including eyelashes

“I decided to get something that I could travel round in, put a lot of luggage in but I could park up at a bed and breakfast,” said Janette who worked as a teacher and headteacher in North Yorkshire and the East Riding.

After research online, Janette drove away from the Car Warehouse in Middlesbrough in a pink Suzuki Every – based on a Suzuki Subura Simba.

The company specialises in Japanese imports – therefore the sat nav speaks Japanese and the van manual is written in Japanese.

It is pink and cream with matching interior trim.

Once she had retired, former headteacher Janette had set her heart on buying a camper van and could not resist the pink vehicle with heart-shaped rear window

To give it the perfect Barbie feel it has a heart-shaped rear window, heart-shaped indicator and break lights, pink carpets and, the piece de resistance, eyelashes.

It cost £9,000 and has a top speed of 55mph – Janette has no intention of taking it on motorways.

When not being driven along the roads of North Yorkshire, the East and West Riding, Bagpuss – the name Janette has given the van – sits in the driveway of her home in Bempton, near Bridlington.

Janette’s partner Rob Walls, who lives near Beverley in the East Riding and shares Janette’s hobby of antique dealing, bought her the Bagpuss fluffy toy which sits on the van’s dashboard.

Janette intends to embark on her own antiques roadshow around the coast of Britain

The vehicle has certainly made not just the boys wink but anyone who sees it.

“The reaction has been amazing,” said Janette. “I get people waving at me and children shouting ‘Mum, look at that!’ and when I park it people come up and ask if they can take a picture.

“One day a man allowed me out at a junction just so he could take a photograph.

“It is just something different. It gets most people smiling. It cheers you up, that’s why I drive it.”

Family and friends love, mostly, being driven round by the ‘pink lady’. On a day trip to Hornsea on the East Riding coast, Rob’s granddaughter 10-year-old Abigai thought it was like being in her own Barbie van.

Her brother, eight-year-old Leeds United fan Luke, was not so enamoured. “He spent the journey trying to hide,” said Janette.

She plans her own version of the Antiques Road Trip – more an antiques coastal road trip – starting in Whitby. “I plan to buy antiques and sell them at auctions on the route,” she said.

“I may not do the coastal towns in order and may divert inland – but my ultimate goal is to go round the coast of Britain.”

Janette, who is mum to James, 21 and studying for his PGCE at Durham university, has been dealing in antiques for seven years.

She and Rob go to vintage, collectors and antique fairs across the country including to Louth, Horncastle Tynemouth, Hornsea, Harrogate, Beverley and York.

To accompany Bagpuss, Janette, has she does not speak Japanese and cannot understand the sat nav – has invested in a road map of Great Britain.

With the guide to Yorkshire tucked under her arm, lookout for the pink lady coming to a town near you – and do not forget to give her a wave.