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... 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!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Where The Wild Things Are

No, this isn’t a blog on Donald Trump or my state of mind when I thought there would be a Marmite shortage.  This is about a little Voodoo Street Indian summer hiatus whilst awaiting the arrival of some new products.

Well aware that October often heralds the start of the English monsoon season, we’ve been making the most of the sunshine and taking to the great outdoors. The surreal sunsets we all experienced a couple of weeks back kicked it off.  Like the rest of the central region, we shared our sunset photos on social media, naively believing that we were the only folks to have captured these fiery skies, which seemed to indicate the imminent arrival of alien visitors.  You be the judge.  Here are a couple of ours. 
The Aliens Are Coming!

Woodland Sunset

Not bad eh?  Until you see this one (below) captured by a certain Mr Salt of Penkridge, allegedly taken at the back of the local tip. 

Penkridge Recycling Centre?

Real or fake?  All we know is that the housing market has spiked in that area in recent weeks!

To avoid switching on the SAD lamp, (big f*!k off lamp which simulates sunlight and wards off the blues associated with seasonal adjustment), we’ve been hotfooting it around the place as much as possible, seeking out pockets of wilderness on our doorstep.  

Yesterday, I decided to throw on a Voodoo Street extended tee to show that girls can wear them too and to give our eyes a rest from screen use, we took off for a walk in one of our favourite places. 

Only 10 minutes by car takes us to this country estate at Enville, which is occupied by the family of the former Earls of Stamford. The family name was Grey, best known through Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for just 10 days in 1553, before being beheaded by Mary Tudor.  There’s a right of way in front of Enville Hall, which leads up onto the hills.

Enville Hall Estate

Enville Hall's Cricket Pavillion

Enville Hall Lake

Once on the top, the views are incredible and aside from the occasional passing car, you will not hear a man made sound.

That tree has seen better days.

Pretty sure this isn’t a fashion statement, but can anyone shed any light on why this sheep is wearing a harness?  He did seem to have quite a punk attitude we noticed, aggressively nibbling at other sheep, so maybe he was influenced by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's style from the SEX Boutique days after all.  Or maybe I'm overthinking this.

Sheep Fashion Icon

Punk Chic Sheep

There are other forms of wildlife of course and I encountered a couple at a family member’s 80th birthday party last weekend…and no, I’m not referring to Gaz.

A conversation with a retired farmer and his wife from Herefordshire, was pretty genteel until talk turned to their farming days.  They told me that they can still see their old farmland from their new bungalow, but that the new owner has planted trees on the land and is no longer using it for farming.  Apparently it’s his intention to grow a forest to leave for future generations.  As honourable as this is, I asked how he was making a living from it.  The answer was not quite what I expected.

“Well, he made a lot of money from magazines,” said Jean.

She could have left it at that, but instead, chose to add, in audible-to-everyone tones and with a raised eyebrow: “PORN mags!”  I had resigned myself to discussions about The Great British Bake Off, turning 80 and the weather we’ve been having, so this took the wind out of my sails!

Finally, in an unusual twist, the octogenarian in question, Jimbo, cut his cake with a ceremonial sword!  Wild thing!
We also headed to the Shropshire hills and paid our monthly pilgrimage to the Church Stretton Antiques Market.  I know, I know, this evokes twee images of pottery, mirrors and watercolours, but the Church Stretton Antiques Market does a good line in the bizarre and macabre, which appeals to our dark sense of humour.

For example, mounted Emu feet.  Sorry, but I just can’t take this image to the grave alone.  You have to share in it.
£85.00 - Anyone....?

There is also plenty of taxidermy gone wrong, but I’ll spare you from this.

Anyone know which animal this skull may have belonged to?


Here are some pretty cool and of-the-moment teapots.  I was tempted, but the eye watering prices put paid to that!

Finally, we came across this creepy ancient lift – straight out of a Hitchcock film – named after us.  The view down the lift shaft almost gave me vertigo!


From wildlife to wild rides, Gaz has been drawn to this rat style sit up and beg Ford Pop with its original engine but with a Heath Robinson turbo set up.  It's been ruled out of the running now, but looks amazing doesn't it?  

Next up, I will be boring you all about Halloween amongst other things.   In the meantime, stay safe and don’t talk to clowns!