Monday, 25 September 2017

Five Go Camping at Berkeley Castle

Saturday dawned and with it, the realisation that the end was nigh.  No, not the hidden planet that was making the news - supposedly heading for an apocalyptic collision with Earth on Saturday! For us, Saturday marked the end of 2017’s festival season: Berkeley VW Show.

Entrance to Berkeley VW Show

The plan was for Gaz to travel down on Saturday and set up, ably assisted by Brutebox’s Baz and Issy, who were on a five-go-mad-in-the-country weekend (five being Gareth, Baz, Issy and their two dogs, Bob and Dexter).  For once, plans ran like clockwork. 

Brutebox's Bus
Weather forecast?  Fair.
Traffic?  Light.
Automotive mechanical issues?  None.
Location?  Stunning.
Local pub? Tick.
Company? Alright.

 By 8.00 pm, Voodoo Street was set up, closed up and the famous five were ensconsed in the local pub just down the road in a village called Ham (no, I’m not making it up).

With no evening meals on offer at the local, the famous five were instead offered plastic tubs of food left over from the lunchtime service, which included chunks of bread and cheese, grapes and cold meats.  These were enjoyed around the campfire later with some slightly inebriated word-association games.  So far, so Enid Blyton.  That is, until Baz and Issy decided to turn in for the night. Gaz still had some adventuring left to do.

Backdrop for the weekend
 The sound of music and frivolity floating down from the castle and across the meadows spoke to Gaz and he decided to explore.

Meanwhile, at home, surrounded by f*!&ing enormous spiders, I was busy building my own fortress.  During one of many mobile phone conversations on Saturday night, comparing notes, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the full audible experience of Gaz very nearly falling into the moat.  

A Ha-ha
He had assumed that the black chasm in front of him was a ha-ha and had considered jumping it, before realising (too late) that it was actually the castle moat.  After a slide and a scramble to avert disaster, the result was badly nettled wrists and injured pride. 

A moat

At home, I had sealed off the bathroom where my 8-legged nemesis was last seen loitering and Caleb had built a wall of cardboard to cover the gap beneath the cooker to head off its hairy mate.  Some time around 11 pm, Gaz and I both admitted defeat and went to bed, 70 miles apart.

Thankfully, Sunday went off without a hitch.  I arrived at lunchtime (ish), delayed by road closures resulting from Velo Birmingham, the 100-mile charity cycle ride.

The weather held, trade was steady and the company was good. 
As usual, there were some classic rides, including this non-VW but stunning classic E-Type... 


...and this stunning, steampunk-inspired interior, photographed with our steampunk props.

After the show ‘n’ shine, we said our goodbyes and started to pack away.

High jinks

On the journey home, we noted the falling leaves, marking the gentle slide into Autumn.  We’re looking forward to some free weekends, catch-ups with friends and time to seek inspiration for new product designs.  

That said, we know it won’t take long before we start to get itchy feet again.  Who knows where we might turn up?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

VDubs in the Valley Episode IV

On Friday morning, in a field far, far away (well, Arley - about 20 minutes’ drive from here), Episode IV of VDubs in the Valley dawned.  Gaz and Hayley Aulton and their crew had been hard at it since the previous Monday, battling high winds, unseasonable temperatures and heavy rain (thankfully no Sith lightning), to turn what had been a field full of sheep the previous week, into a weekend haven for Vdubbers.

The day was spent going backwards and forwards to the site.  Gaz had already driven a fully loaded van over to Arley (seriously, not even a ferret could have squeezed inside our T4 on Friday).  I followed later with yet more boxes, before leaving him to set up so that I could manage our online store and enquiries and to be on hand to cook tea at school kicking out time.

With plummeting temperatures on Friday night, BruteBox, our neighbours on one side, took Gaz and his man flu in hand, providing a fire and dispensing their own special brand of medicine (a rum hot toddy – rum, lemon, rum, honey, rum, a dash of hot water, some rum).

Saturday was manic.

The sun shone and the crowds came!

Great to see our 2015 designed tees are still going strong!

There were Star wars costumes aplenty and geeks ruled!  (For me, the word “geek” is a term of endearment). 

Spot Hayley, far right, on a rare break.


Some folks started earlier than others (Cookie!) We met Cookie Simon Cooke), his wife Vikki and son Alfie as customers at our first ever trade show – the first ever VDubs in the Valley, pitched up next to a solitary oak tree.  A different field, a different time.  Four years on and Simon, fresh from his appearance as a finalist on E4’s Tattoo Artist of the Year, was a fellow sponsor and trading neighbour, adding his own unique artwork to various coveted items and getting dressed up at 10.30 on a Saturday morning! (Sadly, I didn't get a photograph of him in his awesome costume, but here's an oldie!)

Mouse Droid lurking behind Boba

We were privileged to be custodians of this incredible Mouse Droid, built by Simon Flack.  Simon reminded us to include a Mouse Droid in the design for the official tees and beady eyed regulars may just spot our dedication to him in the artwork. 

"Leia No Buns" an obscure Star Wars character

I managed a token effort.  I was aiming for “Hoth Leia” but with theme appropriate leggings, a padded body warmer and cherry red Doc Marten boots, the link was tenuous.  I didn’t even have time to attempt the famous Leia buns.  Caleb donned a Boba Fett knitted hat.  Gaz had just been too busy in the weeks leading up to the show. 

Under the Fridge in action
Saturday night we managed to squeeze in a little socialising - accompanied by a cider (Gaz, standard) and a rather nice local beer from the BeerBuz (me), Under the Fridge providing the soundtrack.  With Autumn beginning to kick in, the temperature dropped as rapidly as darkness descended and…with no dead Tauntaun to shelter in, it was soon time to hit the sack and we headed 20 minutes down the road to our own beds. We also wanted to collect the P6, which has made an appearance at every VDubs in the Valley show to date, but with a flat battery and no fuel, this was not going to be straightforward.

The Beast and Gaz's stickerbombed unicycle

Gaz decided to redeem himself on Sunday morning, having failed to cobble together a Star Wars inspired outfit.  Therefore, he drove on site in the P6 wearing a Darth Vader helmet, but even the shocked photographer scrambled his camera too late and failed to get a decent shot.  So if anyone did witness Vader driving a 1970s Rover - Mrs Vader on the roof - into a farmer’s field early on Sunday morning, no you weren’t still suffering the after effects of a heavy Saturday night.

We hit the ground running on Sunday, fuelled by sausage sandwiches from BruteBox.  By 11.00 am, we had sold out of show stickers and were running low on tees.

Our dancing Coke can (a late 80s/early 90s craze, which had been sealed away in Gaz’s Mini for at least a decade) was a reminder of a more simple time.  Really simple.  We didn’t have to get our entertainment YouTube clips or from sharing memes on Instagram – oh no!  We were laughing hysterically at a moving soft drinks can in sunglasses!

Sunday was all about the vehicles and they were varied, sometimes outlandish, but always stunning.

Gaz fell in love with this Chevrolet Corvair
A beautiful splitty
The arse end of a Beetle.

VW Bugs

Love this Beetle!
Far Out!

We judged the Show n’ Shine's "How the hell did it get here?" category on Sunday and awarded a mummified skull (what else?) to Mark and his unique rat bus.  

Gaz as usual, got carried away and tried to re-brand everything as Voodoo Street.

Mark's Bus

BruteBox Bus?  Are you sure?

Powered by Voodoo Street

Express & Star photographer, paid the show a visit and captured this excellent shot of our rat bike and picked some unsuspecting child to model one of our steampunk hats, which ended up in Richard Guttridge’s online coverage of the event.

Photo courtesy of Express & Star Newspaper

Show ‘n’ shine over, prizes handed out, rain clouds gathering and rumours of thunder storms heading over from Dudley, we started to pack away.  Once the Golf was full of boxes, I took Boba Fett home, knocked up a roast dinner and started to trawl through the emails.  Meanwhile, Gaz was failing to dodge the rain and I felt a disturbance in the force.  A phone call confirmed my suspicions.  He was drenched and returned home an hour or so later, bedraggled, with a look and mood to match a snow beast.

Thank f*$k for Celia’s brownies, our VDubs in the Valley mugs and a night in front of the TV. 


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Blustery Busfest: The Premier Experience

Brooding skies

With the horrendous news footage of Hurricane Irma fresh in our minds and a pretty iffy UK forecast in prospect, I was feeling quite relieved that we had taken the decision to book into Malvern’s Premier Inn for the weekend of Busfest.  

After the school run on Friday, we headed over to Malvern to join Gaz.  Thankfully, we dodged any thunder and lightning.  I must have been really awful in a previous life.  I hate driving when there is lightning.  I duck every time there is a flash, just as though I am anticipating being struck down by a thunder bolt.  Not the best approach when in charge of a moving vehicle.

Makeshift Flag

Under any other circumstances, it’s hard not to relax, driving along the Worcester Road - the vantage point being the stunning peaks of the Malvern hills.  However, Busfest is the world’s biggest VW Transporter show and attracts visitors from all over the globe.  You usually hit the ground running, fueled by adrenaline, conversation and coffee, until it’s time to pack away and then the wave of tiredness hits...  

Fortunately for Gaz, Friday had been a slow and steady day for trade, as the masses were busy arriving on site and keen to set up before the weather turned moody.

I had a walk around and caught up with Anna (IseaSurf).  We talked screen printing, coastal living and sinus infections (hope you’re feeling better Anna!)  

Of course, I didn’t leave empty handed and purchased a pair of funky mermaid leggings (third from right).  That’s the beauty of the festival season.  Even if you forget your suitcase, you can always pull together an individual outfit for a reasonable price.  

We spent the evening catching up with friends, but this time, when the air temperature became distinctly autumnal, we headed off to our luxury hideaway – a trading estate in Malvern.  Doesn’t sound very glam does it?  But it was quiet and the beds really are as comfy as Lenny Henry says in the adverts. 

Malvern digs

So, somewhat refreshed and distinctly perkier that we might usually be early on a Saturday morning, we headed back to the showground for an exceptional day’s trading.  Our neighbours, Retro Classic Clothing, had kept an eye on our stand during our brief morning absence as we were en route to the site.  It also gave them chance to exact revenge on Gaz (more on that later) after he initiated what I can only describe as “Sticker Slap Guerilla Warfare.”  In short, Gaz was slowly but surely re-branding their stand as Voodoo Street by covering every available surface with our promotional stickers.

We met the hardcore VW festival-goers and regular Voodoo Street visitors (always a pleasure), but also, being Busfest, encountered people from all over the world.  One of my favourite moments was during an unintentional music-off with the stand opposite.  We had Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart blasting our of our BruteBox; the opposition something very different.  They cranked up their volume a little more than was necessary, much to the irritation of one German visitor, who was clearly enjoying our song choice.  He was moved to poke his head through our gazebo to announce, in heavily accented English: “I love ze Joy Division!” and like the scene out of Sparticus, prompted several other voices to echo his sentiment. 

The Invisible Man

Gaz also had a bizarre exchange with a Mexican, who promised him that when he returned to Mexico, “You and I will do good things with Voodoo Street.”

By Saturday evening, we were fit to drop.  Gaz doesn't sleep well at the best of times (I on the other hand am usually out as soon as my head hits the pillow).  A visit to our neighbours camping pitch (complete with inflatable sofas) and another quick catch up with friends and we were off to enjoy the spoils of our visit to Morrisons (wine, cheese, vintage cider, crisps, brownies) and sit back for a night of terrible Saturday night TV in our hotel room.  How rock and roll are we?  If I could have, I would have thrown the TV out of the window, but we were on the ground floor, and the windows don't open.

Sunday morning was slow to start, a lot of day visitors being put off by the weather.  Caleb and I bailed at around 2 pm, personally escorted off site by one of the stewards.  Gaz held the fort until closing time. 

After we’d caught up on online orders and enquiries, we were enjoying a couple of drinks, when, in the midst of a conversation about the weekend, Gaz spotted that Retro Classic Clothing had sticker slapped his trainers.  He was so dog tired, he only spotted their handywork after he’d paraded around our local supermarket in them.  You guys!!!

Next weekend it’s Vdubs in the Valley and we are praying to the sun gods that the weather improves.  I’m hoping that it’s not a bad omen that Gaz’s offer of a fresh, hot pasty to a homeless person today was met with: “I can’t eat steak and ale.”  Until next time!