Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

I can only apologise to those of you who take some interest in where we are and what we are doing.  My blog entries have been pretty irregular for some time now.  I could offer you a raft of excuses.  For example, our propensity to book trade shows late in the day.  This effectively means that we semi-unpack the van late on Sunday night, gather our thoughts and brace ourselves for yet another Trump headline on Monday morning (or any given day for that matter), muddle through to mid week catching up on online orders, fielding enquiries, etc. before setting ourselves some impossible challenge (usually in the form of new stock), which we then attempt to turn around in time for the coming weekend.  By the time I’m in a position to update the blog, the next show has arrived and the moment has passed.

I could also blame a whole host of other things, but this time, in a typically British manner, I blame the weather.  The heat wave we had (remember?), meant that I ventured outside and whenever I venture outside for prolonged periods, I discover that we actually live on the edge of the Amazon rainforest.  

In short, I’ve been “on some shit” in the garden.  (Trust me, that’s the best phrase to describe the job, which confronted me. Here's the link. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=on%20some%20shit )

I will endeavour to give you a potted history of our recent shows.  Gaz has a 1964 Mini Cooper.  Given that we sponsor the annual Mini and VW Bus Meet in our hometown, it made sense that both the Mini and the T4 make an appearance on our stand.  The main stumbling block was the fact that the Mini has been languishing in a relative’s garage for 17 years, playing winter host to Fred, the tortoise and somewhere along the way picking up a new furry occupant – a mouse.  But Gaz was on a mission.

Cleared of mouse droppings and boxes of long forgotten keepsakes (including a remote controlled skateboarder straight out of the 80s and a wooden Woodpecker cigarette dispenser), Gaz grabbed the toolbox and WD40 and set to work.
Unfortunately, the gods had other ideas and progress was slow to say the least.  The inaccessible fuel filter within the petrol tank was blocked and by Friday, the engine was sparking but still not drawing fuel. 

Knackered, jaded, beaten; all words, which could have described Gaz on Saturday morning as he left to set up.  All that hard work for sweet FA.

By the time I arrived to help set up, I was greeted by two familiar faces, Ben and Cerys, a couple we met at Dubs on the Wye.  Ben’s a VW enthusiast and Cerys is a Mini owner.  They had decided to take a punt on the show, breaking up their journey with an overnight stay in Shrewsbury and, luckily for us, Ben had brought along his heavy duty Towing Dolly, which he insisted on hitching up to our Golf to collect the Mini.  What a star!

Within 30 seconds of the Mini’s arrival on site, a tearful Gaz (bless) had had an offer on it and was soon surrounded by a dozen men - all staring, prodding the engine and offering advice on what to do next.

Having built the 1 litre race engine from scratch in his youth, we are thankful that Gaz had the foresight to retain most of the original parts, as the consensus was to return it to its original 1964 Cooper engine. 

The thing all classic motoring enthusiasts have in common is passion and a desire to see their favourite rides on the road.  That is why one parts dealer, throughout the day, systematically boxed up all the requisite parts for our Mini (worth just shy of £100) and allowed Gaz to buy them from him for 30 quid!  Talk about good karma!

Setting up at leisure only 5 minutes drive from home is always a pleasure and I don’t think the stand has ever looked more organised.  We also managed to squeeze in a couple of cheeky drinks with this man, better known as “Cookie” from E4’s Tattoo Artist of the Year, and his lovely family.  The creative juices were flowing on Saturday evening, so all we can say is watch this space…

Next up was Camper Jam, which is always one of the highlights of the calendar.  We managed to launch a new T-shirt design with hours to spare before the start of the show.  Talk about hot off the press!

Camper Jam was hot - very hot - and very busy.  In it’s 10th year, it was a great show and we had great neighbours on both sides, which included one fireman aka Brutebox Baz, four labradors (one who uses Jedi mind tricks to secure pork scratchings) and two "Happy Campers" from the Republic of Ireland.  

We also had the luxury of chilling around the campfire with our super organised friends on Saturday evening.  By “super organised,” I mean they brought the wherewithal to mix lip-numbing cocktails.  The only downside was our first experience of theft at a VW show.  Someone stole a rat from our rat bike.  No biggy, just disappointing.

Campfire and cocktails
Since then we have been posting out pre-orders of Vdubs in the Valley show tees and working on re-stocking an early Voodoo Street design, which seems to be suddenly in demand.

In our down time, we’ve made our first visit to Nozstock Festival, in deepest Herefordshire, notable for 3 reasons:-

1.  Excellent music, including Remi Harris (a leader on the Gypsy Jazz scene and highly rated by Jamie Cullum) and up and coming band and Nozstock regulars, The Stiff Joints.

2.  A fireworks display with a distinctly pagan feel.

3.  We managed to get Bez from Happy Mondays, to wear one of our bucket hats on stage.

Bez doing his thing

We also squeezed in the Camper & Bus Show at Eastnor Castle last weekend and decanted the 9 gallons of water, which fell on Saturday night from the top of our gazebos into saucepans.  It didn’t spoil our fun.  Gaz, on his own on Friday night, spent the evening with Retro Classic Clothing’s Adam and co. and on Saturday night, we whiled away a few hours (and a few cans) in the company of Simon and Celia (and family).  Thanks for your company and the amazing brownie Celia – we were fighting over it!
Pictured above, is Nala, Celia's canine niece, in her Voodoo Street bandana.
Getting ready for the Soap Box Derby at Eastnor

I will be updating our web store very soon, but with Skeg Vegas looming, it’s possible that we will need to re-stock before then, so bear with us. 

We’re excited about our first visit to Skeg Vegas.  It’s the furthest we will have travelled to a show and therefore we will all be shoe horned into the van, but we’ve heard many positive stories and have high hopes.  Maybe see some of you there!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Dubs on the Wye was booked as our wild card; a charity run first show hosted by, Rocky Lee's Little Feet (a commendable cause, which helps raise money for headstones for stillborn babies).  In addition to offering support for the charity, a plus point was the show’s location - the picturesque Wye Valley.  Even better, was that as we neared show time, apocalyptic weather warnings were nowhere to be seen (unusual for us). Instead, blistering temperatures rivaling the seventies were forecast!

View from our Trade Stand

We set off on Friday afternoon in our fully loaded T4 and our on-borrowed-time Mk4 Golf.  One hour twenty minutes later, we weren't disappointed with our back yard for the weekend.  With Ross on Wye's landmark church spire poking out above the hillside towering above us, there was the intimate feel of a first show and campers and traders sharing the field adjacent to the sports' centre.  The sports' centre facilities were made available to all, so instead of festival toilets, we were able to use proper porcelain toilets, a couple of showers and the centre's bar which supplied refreshments and a full English breakfast each morning.

After a fairly lengthy set-up, we just about had time for a chat to our neighbour (a very talented artist called Corine) before sun down  and had a wander around the site, before hitting the sack.  It was interesting, but we can’t remember a show where there was a notable absence of fire pits.  No need.  Man, it was shaping up to be a hot weekend!

Sunset, Ross-on-Wye
After not nearly enough sleep, we hit the ground...strolling.  Yes, I think it’s fair to say it was a very slow start.  On the Friday evening, with the traders and campers combined, it could have made for a decent party; one where you get to talk to everyone.  You get the picture.  Everyone should have been on first name terms...  

Saturday morning looked to be the same.  Gaz jokingly said to one of the organisers that he’d seen tumbleweed blowing around opposite our stand.  

(One early visitor to the stand - looking for some stickers for her bay - was this Cornish lady, back home for a visit with relatives, all the way from Australia's Gold Coast.  She had even made her own skirt for the occasion!)
Check that skirt!
The organisers agreed that more footfall was desperately needed, but we were assured that more would be arriving for the evening’s outdoor cinema event (independent of the show but next to the venue) and this would help generate trade.  Although we were sceptical, this proved to be the case, as once again, the British weather laid waste to plans.  As cinema-goers began to arrive, the decision was taken to postpone the showing until 9pm (should have been 7 pm) as the sun was too bright!  Luckily, folks were content to watch the band and buy stuff from us, so we enjoyed a little spike in trade.  However, it's fair to say that this was not one of our busiest shows.  Here are just a few things we did when we could have/should have been trading:-

1.  I had breakfast with Boba Fett.

Boba Fett, Steampunk stylee

 2.  We had a mooch around Ross-on-Wye (well Gaz held the fort, but I was on a photographic exploration and foraging for food (local burgers and sausages).

Heading into town
This dog was enjoying the hanging baskets being watered.

3.  We BBQ'd.

Gaz and his other love, cooking.

4.  We had a water fight.

5.  Gaz flew a kite (yes, believe it or not in these record breaking temperatures, we briefly had enough wind to fly one).

6.  I visited the site bar in the afternoon – just for respite from the intense heat, you understand.

7.  We all visited a riverside pub for a swift cider.  Technically, this was after 7 pm so perfectly legit, but we were able to do so guilt free.

The Hope and Anchor riverside pub, purveyor of cider.
8.  We took in a film - Grease - embracing the full outdoor cinema experience.  Last June, we were battling against driving rain and trying to prevent several gallons of water from pouring in through the gazebos and drowning all of our stock.

The one down side to the weekend was that I had a bad reaction to pollen, sun cream and the general environment! After sneezing like a train all afternoon, with a nose running like a tap and eyes stinging to hell and closing up like a prize fighter’s, I was forced to don sunglasses so as not to alarm folks at the night time screening.

Security even robbed our limited supply of booze on entry, as folks were being encouraged to buy from the bar, so really feeling full of allergens and in need of something cold, crisp and alcoholic, Gaz disappeared to purchase drinks from the bar.  Forty five minutes later he reappeared.  Apparently, he had been doing the other thing we weren’t expecting to do this weekend, and so, coming in at number 9:-

9.  Booking a band for the Mini and VW Bus Meet we’re trading at in our home town next weekend.  Long story.

Whilst Grease wasn’t our choice of film, we all enjoyed the experience and by 11pm the temperature had settled to a mere hot (not hot as buggery).
The film will start...any second now.

After a slightly more comfortable night, Sunday brought yet more pollen, a further rise in temperature, several familiar faces, much shooting of the breeze, getting sun burnt and the obligatory show 'n' shine.  

Show 'n' shine splitty.

Congratulations to Celia, who won a prize for her amazing T5, Vader.  Commiserations to Jason whose immaculate T4, lost out to another.

Vader, the winning T5.
Celia with her trophy.  And her prize for winning Best T5.

In summary, against the odds, we did OK.  Not the best, but by no means our worst trading weekend. But regardless, we didn't care.  The show was for charity and we had a brilliant weekend.  Yes, it was a little too hot, but how often do we get to say that?  We had a chilled out weekend on the Wye, with a little bit of work thrown into the mix.

Pootle, the Beetle.
Naturally, it wouldn't be a Voodoo Street trading weekend without some kind of drama.  Gaz managed to badly kerb one of the wheels on the T4 whilst trying to negotiate a tricky pull out (a jutting kerb stone certainly played its part in this).  And when packing up, he left the gazebos until last to maximise protection from the sun.  Unfortunately, at a key point in this process, the wind decided to make a brief return.  Gaz spotted one of our telescopic banners was about to be slammed into the front of our van and ran to rescue it.  Whilst his back was turned, he heard a whooshing noise and turned to see our two cable tied gazebos about 10 feet in the air.  The wind then upended them and slammed them down inches from our neighbour’s black BMW.  A close call.

Spotted leaving the show ground, this bay with our rear mounted logo sticker.

After spending Sunday evening repairing the buckled gazebos, Gaz has spent the last 2 days reviving his Mini Cooper for next week's show.  
We've got an incredible 15 feet of space, so room for a couple of show vehicles. Maybe see you there!

'Til next time!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sails and Splitties

After several long months in the wilderness, we both decided on Thursday last week that we really fancied doing a show.  We put it to our Facebook followers and had several suggestions, but one in particular caught our eye: Avoncroft Aircooled – a one day show taking place at Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. 
I had vague recollections of going there as a kid; notably being frightened to death by one of the costumed staff warning me that “The whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead,” when teaching us about the flour milling process.  To this day, I have residual guilt whenever I choose white over brown. 

Still, all I could really remember of the place was the windmill, so the prospect of being able to explore everything the museum had to offer in between trading, seemed like a fine plan.  A quick glance at the forecast suggested warm, dry weather until 8 pm, so plenty of time for us to pack up and head home before the rain.  Gaz made the call and we were booked in and ready to go. 

Typically, we can’t go anywhere without producing a souvenir sticker and so here’s the first ever show sticker produced for Avoncroft Aircooled.  Note the FLAT 4 number plate – a little nod to the organisers.

After a relatively dry Eurovision party on Saturday night (early start), we awoke to glorious sunshine.

On arrival, we were greeted by friendly staff and directed to an idyllic setting in amongst the trees, just in front of the Mission Church, a Victorian “tin chapel” rescued from Bringsty, Herefordshire.

The Mission Church and Wedding Bus

The whole vibe was low key and chilled out.  We took limited stock and downsized for the day.  After an initial downpour, the sun returned and the numerous green spaces were awash with picnics and ball games.

The Voodoo Street Stand

In readiness for this year’s Star Wars themed Vdubs in the Valley, we took along some flyers to help promote the show and our Steampunk Boba Fett helmet, which I could have sold several times over!  Coincidentally our neighbour was trading under the name OB1.

Trade was steady and we were the sole provider of music, courtesy of our BruteBox.  I recently replaced my phone and stupidly omitted to download the vast majority of my music to enable me to play it offline.  The one album I had remembered to download was the new Blondie album, Pollinator, so apologies to any visitors who can’t stand Blondie (can’t imagine there are many), but it’s all I had!!

The Privy

During one of our trading lulls, Cal and I discovered this 3 seater privy.  It was probably up there with some of the nicer festival toilets!
Ye Olde Festival Toilet

A must was a visit to the iconic post mill windmill, perched at the edge of the site, overlooking a sea of campervans.  Visitors to the museum and VDubbers mingled in the sunshine.  One elderly museum visitor made the priceless comment on a rat look split screen:  "There's one that they're going to do up!"

View from the Windmill

The 19th century post mill – one of only three surviving examples in 

the Midlands – was rescued from Danzey Green near Tanworth-in-

Arden in 1969 and reconstructed at Avoncroft.

Having undergone an extensive programme of structural repairs over

many years, disaster struck the windmill in January 2012 when high

winds brought down one of the sails and damaged the supporting round 

house.  The sail was broken beyond repair and a new one had to be 

manufactured to replace it.  However, by October 2013 the work was 

completed and the windmill was restored to full working order.

Splitscreens were out in force
Spot the little rat skeleton on the roof rack!

One of the first to grab a show sticker was the owner of this cool rat look bus.
The day flew by and punctuated by a little Mobile BeerBuz cider 

(thanks Gaz and Hayley), left us with a rosy glow and a desire to do it 

all again next year – a perfect start to the outdoor show season.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

A Drop of the Black Stuff

You may have noticed that Trainspotting 2 is released next year.  Now, we are 90s kids, from the same generation as Ewan McGregor and Trainspotting was a seminal film for us.  Putting aside the plot's dark heroin underbelly, Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and Underworld’s Born Slippy are guaranteed to get us up on the dance floor, blowing our whistles and waving our hands in the air and the “choose life” slogan has been etched into our psyche. 

Robert Carlyle on the set of Trainspotting 2...
...is it a Voodoo Street bucket hat?

Before I go any further, what you are about to read is not a Ewan McGregor fan page, but a series of life events/coincidences which has led to a period of reflection and indirectly informed our work in recent weeks.

If you’re on Instagram, you may be aware that Ewan McGregor loves VWs and motorbikes and has in fact previously graced the pages of Hayburner Magazine, the cool independent magazine dedicated to all things Vdub (look out for our ad in the forthcoming issue). 

Hayburner Issue 20, out soon.

This week, he uploaded a photograph taken during a visit home, with his dad, on a break from a burn up outside the Green Welly Café near Rannoch Moor. As former motorbike owners, we loved the travelogue series he and his friend Charlie Boorman produced: “The Long Way Down” and “The Long Way Around” and our Highlands road trip this summer took us past the very same café, which is surrounded by roads just built for cruising on motorcycles.  

Johnnie Fox's Pub

So, we’ve been blowing the dust off some old photos and reminiscing.  Here’s a photo taken on a road trip around Ireland donkeys years ago outside the famous pub Johnnie Fox’s in County Wicklow (oh, the Guinness really does taste better over there)...


 …and here’s another of the two of us on that same trip when Voodoo Street was but a twinkle in the eye.

Incidentally, some years after this photo was taken, I took up a post at a TV/Video Production company, best known for pre-school children’s shows Wheels on the Bus and Underground Ernie, featuring a soundtrack from Miles Hunt of the Wonderstuff and a lead character voiced by Gary Linekar, which leads me to my last Ewan McGregor story.  He was the favourite to voice the character of Ernie and I remember sending a script to his agent.  She assured me he read it on a plane trip, but sadly he turned it down.

Although we are known on the VW circuit, we appreciate cool rides comprising any number of wheels; skateboards, BMX bikes, café racers, VWs, hotrods - you name it.  If it’s aesthetically pleasing in a classic kind of way, then we approve.  Our trip down memory lane has resulted in Gaz deciding to add to Voodoo Street’s collection of rat look motorcycle inspired stickers.  Given that my long departed grandfather was once asked to ride for a certain British motorcycle company originally based in Birmingham, a Voodoo Street “Norton” sticker it had to be.

Sadly I don’t remember my paternal grandfather, as he died before my first birthday.  I’ve also been frustrated in my attempts to get more details on this story, although I can confirm that one Ernest Taylor owned and rode a Norton for some years and turned down the offer to ride for Norton, as he was a humble and dedicated farmer (and probably had little concept of potential this opportunity offered).  Apparently he was known to bring back a sheep over the tank of his bike!  Not sure whether sheep get the same thrill from a motorbike ride as us humans, but these were different times.

We've also decided to share our love for Vdubs in a more obvious way by putting our Volks Whip logo on a T-shirt - bold white screen prints on black extended tees.

Volks Whip Tees on website now

This may look like a simple design or even the original VW logo at a glance, but switching the letters around was a bastard to successfully complete in the same proportions as the original.

New little back prints

We’re constantly on the look out for something new to play with.  Our reliable VW T4 is a workhorse, but our heart belongs to ratty vehicles that have lived a life and wouldn’t look out of place in a scrap yard.  Recently we’ve been looking at Ford Pops and Morris Travellers.  We test drove a Ford Pop around a farmyard last week.  It was surprisingly comfortable, given its age, but it was full of filler, the paintwork wasn’t original (matt black) and there were some strangely flared wheel arches.  In other words, too much work for the time we have at our disposal.  Still, we like them enough to have used one for our Black Friday ad, so don’t forget to check in tomorrow.  

See ya!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Top Hat and Tales

It’s Halloween and despite the unseasonably mild and sunny scene that I’ve just witnessed, All Hallow’s Eve cannot pass without a Voodoo Street blog. 

Halloween 2016

It’s our favourite time of year but not particularly for the commercial trick or treat traditions inherited from our American cousins. 

Our weekend Halloween celebrations had a uniquely British flavour; a night time steam train journey into the darkness with moonlit fields as the vista…

There's something out there!!  View from the Severn Valley Steam Train of Arley Station

Pagan decorations…

Pumpkins and my familiar

...and feasting on a menu courtesy of the autumn harvest (think pumpkin soup and apple crumble).  Of course no Halloween would be complete without an open fire (never mind that it’s 17 degrees outside – lose some layers!) and a ghost story.  So, today seems as a good a time as any to share the story behind our logo – specifically the top hat.

Special Edition Sugar Skull version of our Logo Sticker online now

 In the 1950s my long departed grandfather was given an aged leather bound bible and a top hat by an acquaintance.  The items had originally been discovered in an old hearse the acquaintance – a wheeler-dealer – had acquired.  As a father of six (five of them boys), he was always looking for ways to keep his family entertained.

It seems impossible to believe, but long before the days of console games and iphones, kids could find entertainment in a dressing up prop and the top hat fitted the bill.

The hat was passed around but pretty soon was relegated to the back of a dusty cupboard.

The family lived in a terraced house in Wordsley, which was then a village bordered by fields.  
Photo of Wordsley, credit:  The Francis Frith Collection

1950s Wordsley.  Photo credit The Francis Frith Collection
Pretty soon after the top hat arrived, unexplained happenings occurred.  The passage of time and fading memories have resulted in only a few clear events now being recounted, but I have grown up with these stories and no matter which relative you speak to, the stories are consistent.

One spring day the family were outside in the back garden.  No one was inside the house.  One of the upstairs bedroom windows was open.  The weather conditions were calm.  Taking a break and sitting on a bench, something caught my grandmother’s eye.  A glass perfume bottle rose up, framed in mid air by the window and then appeared to be tossed outside, as though thrown by some invisible hand.  The ledge was a good few inches below the window.

On another occasion, on a clear moonlit night, one of my boys heard someone knocking on the back door.  His bedroom window had a clear view of back door entrance, but as no one was outside, he lay down again, only to hear footsteps walking away.  Again, peering out of the window, there was no one to be seen.

In the ensuing weeks, there were other incidents, unexplained, but unremarkable; bumps in the night, things going missing.  That is until one particular evening.  It was a Saturday night and the family were asleep.  Around 4 am, the family dog, a very clever Poodle called Mitzi, began to howl.  There was then a deafening crash, which raised the roof, the family and the hairs on the back of their necks.  Running down stairs, a scene of devastation greeted the family. 

Credit:  Occultopedia
The damage has been described as the result of someone…or something…sweeping their hand purposefully in one direction across the wall and the fireplace below.  All of the ornaments and pictures on the wall above the fireplace were smashed or swiped to the corner of the room.  The dog was distressed, but there was no sign of an intruder.  My Mom still vividly remembers the scene when she visited her then boyfriend (my Dad) early the next morning and recalls how shaken everyone was.

In the clear up operation, the hat was discovered in a cupboard and thrown out with other broken or unwanted items…not out of superstition, just as part of a general sort out, but, nevertheless, there ended the supernatural activity.  

My Dad is a complete sceptic and this has been a bone of contention between us over the years, as his logic didn’t always fit with my youthful enthusiasm for all things unexplained.  However, he stands by this story to this day.

So when finalising our Voodoo Street logo, aside from the Voodoo connotations associated with a top hat, this story was instrumental in our logo’s creative influences. 

Happy Halloween and sleep well!