Sunday, 26 November 2017

Do you feel lucky, Punk?

Forty eight hours of work and pleasure beckoned as we drove across the Severn Bridge and over the border into Wales at 8 pm on Friday night.  The plan?  Our highly anticipated flirtation with the steampunk scene at the Chepstow Steampunk Winter Festival on Saturday, followed by a day of leisurely exploration on Sunday.

As per usual, my hastily written directions were insufficient and failed to take into account Chepstow’s one way system and the fact that our digs for the weekend were literally in the middle of nowhere.  This caused just a little in-transit conflict.  A sat nav is now top of my Christmas list.  We seem to have studiously ignored the virtues of these handy little devices, telling ourselves that we are too reliant on technology, preferring our travels to be punctuated by a war of words and raging headaches.  This time I really mean it - Sat nav, Santa, please!

We eventually made it without having to call the cottage owner.  Even in pitch darkness, it was clear that we had chosen well (I’ll overlook the fact that Gaz missed the unlit steps, almost knackering his ankle in the process and suffered minor concussion from hitting his head on the doorframe).  Home for the weekend was a beautifully converted stable block in the grounds of a farm (so far, so nativity story) with a huge freestanding bath and a coffee machine.  Obviously there was other furniture, but those are the kind of things that float our boat so to speak. 

Too early for a Saturday morning!

At 7 am on Saturday morning, this was the view from our very frosty stable door.  Going about our normal breakfast routine dressed in full on Steampunk clothing felt surprisingly normal.  With no sign of the “persistent stray cat” we were warned not to encourage (thank God, we’d have found that impossible!), we headed into Chepstow.

Chepstow’s Drill Hall was our workplace for the day and these fascinating creatures were our colleagues.

Check out the fascinator!

Dr Cornelius Porridge

Real, smoke breathing dragons and their owners

We took a bit of a flyer with this event, fancying something to break the winter monotony and it was refreshing to be unloaded and set up within a 60 minute timeframe.  Handmade Steampunk Top Hats, bandanas, steampunk-inspired stickers and select items from our clothing range to offer the steampunk crowd an off-duty look were set out on rich red velvet clad tables.  Obviously Dr Jones had to make an appearance for the day and everyone agreed he was the most photographed individual (and there was some stiff competition).

Dr Jones doing his thang

Beautiful steampunk clothing 

Surprisingly, no music was on offer, so after clearing it with the organisers, we soon had the place not quite rocking, but definitely toe-tapping to Professor Elemental (think old chap rap and you’ll be somewhere close).  
Gaz taking five

All set up

"I've lost my wind instrument!"

The day flew by and we met some really interesting characters, plus some extremely talented creatives.  


Steampunk Morris Dancers

My heart bled for the creator of Imps and Things and his amazing sculptures.  I fell in love with these imps in baubles but I couldn’t justify £45 for a Christmas decoration, although we both agreed that if he worked out his hourly rate for making these creatures, he’d probably sink into a deep depression.  But hey, that’s not what motivates him and thank goodness there are people in the world like that.

Close of play was 4 pm and after packing the van, we had to unpack it again in freezing semi-darkness to locate the “safe place” Gaz had put the van keys. 

Saturday night we relaxed and filled our faces.

Tintern Abbey

Sunday, a much cloudier day, started with a lie in, a mooch around the atmospheric Tintern Abbey and a short detour to Gloucester. 

Such a cool sign

This kind of establishment is a magnet for us.  I talked myself down from a mohair rug impulse purchase.

Being Sunday drivers, we eschewed the motorway in favour of the scenic route, returning home to a small pile of missed delivery cards (why did I start internet Christmas shopping on Friday ahead of a weekend away?!) and a truly awful Linda McCartney Vegetarian Beef Roast.  I’m trying to clear the freezer and have long been “nut roast curious,” so tonight was the night.  Actually, it wasn’t technically a nut roast, but the synthetic flavoured pile of excrement, which promised an “outrageously succulent” veggie beef roast has killed my curiosity stone dead.

So, in summary, did the Steampunks approve of Voodoo Street?  Well, according to renowned performer, Dr Cornelius Porridge's Facebook post, he certainly did and that's good enough for me!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Wheels of Time

It’s been a funny old couple of weeks.  Still without a car and plagued by a bout of insomnia, we have had an intense and sometimes stressful time (for reasons which I won’t bore you with here), in some shape or form rooted in the past.  For starters, not having been behind the wheel of a car since the Golf gave out, I have reluctantly had to get used to temporarily being ferried around by others (I’m too scared to drive Reaper, our van, other than on remote open roads) - something I’ve not experienced since 1990!

We have been up against it with our regular Hayburner advert deadline, having put all of our eggs in one basket by asking our first and only customer from Israel if he would be so kind as to send us some sunset photos of his beautiful 1967 Karmann Ghia, featuring his order of Voodoo Street stickers.  Naturally, Murphy’s Law intervened and his first order went astray.  A second parcel was dispatched and we spoke very nicely to Vic at Hayburner, who granted us an extra couple of days to pull it together.  

My dream car

In the nick of time, Shmuel’s photos appeared in our inbox.  

They are pretty stunning, wouldn’t you agree?  

Surf Permit Stickers available at

Voodoo Street Logo Script Sticker visible on the rear window
Our latest ad, featuring a dreamy image from this shoot, will appear in the next issue of Hayburner magazine, out in December.

On Wednesday evening, Gaz attended the local hotrod meet, having produced some promotional stickers for the group, which included language that would make your granny’s hair curl.  Unless you are driving a 1950s souped up car, you are relegated to the far end of the car park.  Gaz is just about tolerated in our 70s V8 Rover (he still has to park at the back), due to his interest in these hybrid beasts and enthusiasm for a great engine sound.  Unfortunately, despite an amazing turnout of retro vehicles, in freezing temperatures, this was the only image he managed to capture before the camera battery gave out.  

As part of our preparations for Chepstow, Gaz has been cleaning up the 1920s roadster bicycle, which he’s hoping to use as a promotional prop.  

He’s so in love with this bike, he’s started campaigning for it to be wall mounted inside.  I’m not wholly convinced, particularly as I’m now starting to think it’s haunted.  

With little room left in the workshop, Gaz is currently bringing it into the kitchen whenever it rains.  On each occasion, we’ve independently experienced unexplained knocking on the patio doors.  On one occasion, the fuse box tripped out, plunging us into darkness.


Meanwhile, I’ve been educating myself on producing and sending blanket newsletters (something we have long promised to our subscribers), re-thinking our clothing packaging, photographing and updating stock on our website (Blackberry hoodies are now available to buy online so lovers of all things purple, check out our new stock)...

….and working on promotion with the help of some natty editing tools and filters.  Warning:  We may go all psychedelic on yo' asses in the coming weeks.  Our mystery boxes are available now.  More details online if you're interested.  I'm not going to do a Christmas plug in a November blog.  I love Christmas but unless I stuff my ears with cotton wool and put on a blindfold during TV ad breaks, by mid December, I'm already over it.  The only Christmas song I could happily listen to at any time of year is "Fairytale of New York".

Our clothing may be new, but our influences are pretty retro.  My style is also pretty eclectic.  There are days – many days - when I would love to float around in a Kate Bush dress or Woodstock era hippy garb and other days when my style icon is Annie Hall.  

Then there are days like today, when I fully appreciate a more masculine look – a great pair of skinny jeans, teamed with an old Voodoo Street baseball tee and this 70s jacket I spotted in a charity shop for £6.00.  (Please ignore the sleep-deprived bags under my eyes!) 

Last week, we went back to school.  We accepted a request to attend a Q&A session on T-shirt design for a group of DT students tasked with designing a T-shirt inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution.  

Armed with some clothing and sticker samples, we rocked up.  As we waited for lunch to end, the teacher, Miss Mason warned us: “They will probably come in and stare at you.”  She wasn’t wrong!  We had prepared answers to a range of questions covering everything from market research to the nitty gritty of the design process, but had omitted to prepare any kind of presentation, so my stomach did a little lurch when the teacher simply introduced us and then threw us to wolves/handed us over to the class. 
 I was always very shy at school and any kind of presentation would fill me with fear and unshakeable self-consciousness.  So with a niggling insomnia-induced headache and 45 pairs of eyes scrutinising our every move, we launched into an impromptu potted history of Voodoo Street, somehow without stumbling over our words or interrupting each other.  After passing round some samples, we took questions (and there were many), before leaving a bunch of free stickers for the kids.  

The great thing about kids is that the feedback is instantaneous.  We had a round of applause, a couple of high fives on the way out and some lovely follow-up messages from the teaching staff.  Why on earth I spent my 80s school days worrying so much about standing up in front of my peers is beyond me.  Well, they do say youth is wasted on the young!

Sticking with the 80s, in our downtime, we’ve also started watching the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” which is set in the decade of my childhood.  We're a bit late to the party, but loved the shades of Goonies/Stephen Spielberg evident in the first episode and I’m desperate for an opportunity to binge watch this before being exposed to the inevitable spoilers.  I’m hoping the rest of the series lives up to the first episode. 

We’re also limping through Blade Runner.  I’m embarrassed to say that this film has lain on our shelf for years and I don’t ever recall watching it.  I think I’m put off somewhat by the fact that I have the director’s cut, which removes the uplifting ending.  

Caleb's keen to see it before he catches the sequel, but for numerous reasons, we’ve only had short windows of opportunity to watch…and now I’ve got all sorts of TV vying for my attention; Peaky Blinders, The Apprentice, Detectorists to name a few.  

There’s also a Netflix series covering the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford starting in December.  We’re suddenly spoilt for choice.  Way better than all those “going-on-a-journey”, “this-is-the-best-thing-that’s-ever-happened-to-me”, formulaic, pantomime reality TV shows.  Not so great for curing insomnia.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Modern Life is Rubbish

After the copycat seller debacle, we decided to focus on our forthcoming mini break dossing at our friends’ house in Cornwall.  As ever, fate had other ideas and on the eve of our travel plans, Storm Brian hit the west coast and so we delayed our trip by 24 hours.  This provided our Mk 4 Golf with a window of opportunity to die a natural death.  The rattly noise we noticed a year ago and periodically checked with our mechanic, evolved into a more serious don’t-get-in-that-car-it’s-a-death-trap kind of noise.  So, Gaz pulled the plug on it and our search for a new daily drive has now begun in earnest.

Never was the phrase “it doesn’t owe us any money” more apt than in reference to our vdub.  It’s done miles equivalent to driving to the moon and is only our third daily drive as a couple (and we’ve been together for ages).  

But in recent years, it’s passenger window has stopped working, the handle on the interior driver’s door is no more and the bonnet’s developed a not-so-cool patina.  Oh and not forgetting last year, a builder’s van - fully loaded with overhanging pipes - reversed into the passenger’s door and kindly buggered off without so much as a kiss goodbye, although it did leave a wonderful array of cannon ball size dents in the door frame.  In short, we started to feel like Uncle Buck whenever we had to drop Cal off anywhere.

I could happily live in this Cornish property, but I don't think Dawn French would be very happy.

So, storm heading out to sea and transport sorted (we took the van) we had a brief, but fun Cornish interlude but still weren’t quite ready to get back to normality.  

Deciding that Blur were right and modern life is rubbish (unless the Wifi’s working), this week, we have flirted outrageously with the past.

We took a tour of the local junk/retro stores(depending which side of the fence you are on), notably, Grandad’s Attic.  Ten minutes’ drive from our house, Grandad’s Attic is located next to the Bonded Warehouse, a restored listed building on the Stourbridge Canal.

This is a taster of the delights contained within.  Folks scared of, or still scarred by the 70s – other eras are catered for.  We left empty handed this time, in view of a self-imposed one in/one out policy…

….although we have found space on our shelf for these collectible VW books Gaz spotted in a charity shop.

I should also mention this 1925 light roadster bicyle he purchased.  The frame number shows it as pre-1925, so not really sure what's going on here...

...but, perhaps we need help after all.

Saturday night marked the grand finale – a celebration of All Hallows' Eve at the Black Country Living Museum.

Gaz dressed for the occasion in Victorian garb.  I was a strange fusion of steampunk, tribal, voodoo priestess and Blake's 7 in tribal make-up.  I was wearing no less than 2 dresses and Gaz has always said that my green Zara dress looks like something out of the 80s hit TV show Blake's 7.

The site that greeted us made me instantly forget my irritation at having forgotten my shrunken head accessory.

We walked in Thomas Shelby’s footprints by gas light (in case you didn't know, they film Peaky Blinders at the museum).

Crow Bride with Bottle & Glass Inn in the background

There were weird and wonderful characters on every corner, from the exasperated professor and his student to the tragic crow bride looking for her groom.
"These are the sort of windows faces look in at."  Withnail

We sampled chips cooked in beef dripping, candy floss and some disgusting pork scratchings in toffee apple sauce (thanks Gaz).  Unfortunately, we only managed a glimpse inside the back room of the local boozer, the Bottle and Glass Inn.  We didn’t imbibe any alcohol, but the atmosphere was heady.  

The Bottle & Glass Inn (not in its heyday).

It took on more resonance for me, given that my Grandad used to drink in this particular pub in its original location (Brierley Hill), before it was dismantled, brick by brick, and rebuilt as a museum set piece.

Returning home, we lit the pumpkins, turned on the heating, poured a glass of wine and discussed prizes for our Instagram comp (see, another image stuck in the past).  You can read the winning entry below.  There are times when I detest social media, but given the interaction and genuine belly laughs this competition provided, perhaps modern life isn't all so bad.  

"Voodoo you think you are, leaning on my plane?  Out of the way Fokker!"

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

E-bollocks! Let's Go Out!

Last week was a bugger.  There is no dressing up this fact.  We endured a number of sleepless nights thanks to those intent on making a fast buck from our artwork on certain well known seller platforms.  Aside from the blatant rip-offs, we had one seller in Israel, who just waded in there with a screenshot of our advert – complete with our name and copyright symbol emblazoned across the image, and advertised it for twice the price! 

An original advert.  Or is it?

I’ve lost count of the number of forms we have submitted, the number of emails sent, to little avail.  The lack of support for those experiencing copyright infringement is staggering.  I’ve become an overnight expert on the subject and have quoted bite sized, easily digested snippets of key legal points to faceless customer services departments.  I’ve reported item numbers, included links for comparisons, reiterated over and over again that a design does not have to be copied in its entirety to breach someone’s copyright, only to wake up to the same standard email requesting yet further clarification, that we’ve submitted the wrong form, or, my personal favourite, one stating that “You cannot copyright an idea.”  

Image, not subject to copyright

I have been forced to explain that a sticker for example, is not simply an idea, but a tangible product and that original graphics and phrases are covered by a copyright the moment they are written or created.  

Kinky Melon HQ

So, finding ourselves swimming against a tide of copyright issues, a day out with these lovely people, Vicky and Jon aka Kinky Melon’s Retro Boutique, was just what we needed.  We headed to Walsall Art Gallery, taking in the Turner Exhibition and getting ever-so-gently reprimanded for touching a piece resembling a bin bag full of rubbish.  Lunch was half a bottle of rose wine and a delicious vegan curry (I appear to have developed a dairy intolerance in my old age.  After all the ice cream and chocolate I’ve consumed in my lifetime, I would expect my body to have embraced it and my blood to be half cream).  Happy and sleepy (me), we walked back to our car, bathed in autumn sunshine.

I don’t know about you, but I wish autumn – the most vibrant season of the year for a nano second – would stick around for longer.  I’m talking about the magically short window of time when trees telepathically agree a plan to shed 90% of their leaves in 2 days.  I’m talking about clear blue skies, weather reporters referring to “unseasonably warm temperatures”, brightly coloured, odd shaped pumpkins (3 of which are sitting on our garden steps, waiting to go under the knife, including a white "Ghost Pumpkin"), windfall fruit and the associated pies, crumbles and experimental cider, Halloween, the first hint of wood smoke in the air, fireworks and gripping TV dramas.  I wish these autumn days would stick around until, say, 21st May, at which point an extended period of unbroken sunshine will commence, cartoon blue birds will appear and someone will ensure that I am never more than a metre away from a mojito.

Spooky sky

Leaving aside yesterday’s blip, courtesy of Storm Ophelia and a daytime sky straight out of Star Wars, one downside to the elevated temperature is having to try on steampunk costumes.  

Photo courtesy of Shropshire Star:  Ironbridge covered in scaffolding

These outfits appear to comprise endless layers.  Dressing up in full steampunk was the last thing I felt like, but nevertheless found myself doing, on Saturday afternoon in Ironbridge.  Tourists from all over the globe visit this World Heritage Site.  We go for steampunk clothes and charity shop finds.

Today, after another sparring session with Ebay, I went through the seemingly disparate steampunk elements I’ve acquired so far and decided that they can all be worn together after all.  So, top to toe, this is what I’m going with at Chepstow Steampunk Winter Festival:-

The Top Hat.

Who doesn’t have a vintage top hat in their wardrobe?  Mine just needs some temporary embellishments.

The Jacket.

On loan from Kinky Melon, it is 80s, but don’t tell the hardcore steampunk brigade.  I don’t care – it’s cropped, velvet, has crazy shoulders and looks the part. 

The Blouse.

This Ralph Lauren Sport blouse was a steal at £4.50 from a charity shop in the village.  The ruffles were hard to resist and are a key element of the steampunk look.  It was the first item I bought.

The Dress.

With steampunk dresses often commanding prices upwards of £70, I snapped up this £25 number from a vintage store in Ironbridge.

The Tights.

Black and white vertical stripy tights for a fiver - Beetlejuice meets vintage circus.

The Boots.

Still undecided between red velvet and brown granny.

A Pair of Lace Gloves.

Gloves from Hat-Trix

Another £5 bargain from Etsy, which saves me the stress of digging out my cobweb covered sewing machine, shredding a piece of lace, swearing at said machine and crying hysterically, before going online and order a £5 paid from Etsy.

Now all I have to do is steampunk up everyone else in this house.