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!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Dungeons and Dragons

Why is it when we have a packed calendar, we get the fear and yet the prospect of free weekends seems exciting but also daunting?  With freedom of choice comes indecision.  How will we fill our time?  Where will we go?  Somehow, passing the time doing anything short of amazing feels like wasted time, when so many weekends have been accounted for. Panic sets in. 

I call it “the comedown.”  Regularly engaging with our supporters/friends galvanises the feeling that we are on the right track with Voodoo Street, but take away that dialogue; the festival vibes and suddenly we feel cut adrift.  Out of touch. 

Processing orders online is anonymous.  As grateful as we are for them, it’s just not the same as engaging with a friendly face. 

T-shirts are T-shirts at the end of the day, or so you might think, but once you have been privy to a man’s 20 minute deliberation about whether the large or extra large tee “hangs” better from his neck, you realise that:

a)      It’s a myth that women are a nightmare to shop with and;
b)      Buying a standard fit T-shirt is obviously a more exact science than either of us ever realised!

So whilst receiving an online clothing order still offers the usual thrill of having been chosen, it’s now also filled with the trepidation of sending it out there and wondering if the neck will be ok! 

Touch wood, we’ve never had any issues with clothing sold online and love it when people take time out to photograph their purchases and tag us in them.  It makes it worthwhile.  Here are a few recent ones.

Photo courtesy of official_jr_skating

Thank god for Instagram and Facebook!  Those who choose to interact with us on social media may not realise it, but they are like co-workers – our own little cyber office.  By day, we’re beavering away in our dungeon, at Voodoo Towers and this contact with the outside world gives us a buzz.  (There’s only so long you can spend chatting to the postman without coming off as creepy J)

Lee Foulkes in his Voodoo Street Urban Army Cap

At this point, we’ve sold one of our stickers to nearly every corner of the globe at some point and have encountered some pretty “out there” surnames.  However, on Friday night a particularly familiar name popped up on an order of stickers.  After a little Internet research, we discovered that it was indeed the son of a certain Cypriot born member of BBC’s Dragon’s Den.  Not necessarily worthy of champagne popping, but definitely a talking point.  Another swiftly followed this order, from one Martin Kemp, although we’re doubtful that it was Spandau Ballet’s bassist.

Photo Courtesy of Steve and Cat Bath

Vespa Love
So, back to our free weekend.  What did we do?  Well, after a week of stock taking, updating our online store, washing rain battered odds and sods and reconciling a mountain of receipts, we were kept busy with family birthday celebrations on Friday. Saturday’s torrential rain and consequent flooding also made us grateful that we weren’t standing in the middle of a field somewhere, although the enforced time indoors did result in the beginnings of a new little project for Voodoo Street.  We also spent a little time on a design that we periodically tinker with.  (Hopefully we’ll be able to share these new bits and pieces with you very soon). We rounded off Saturday with a curry and beers with friends.

Can you buy grey jelly?
In other news, our favourite time of year - Halloween - is fast approaching and already, ghoulish Chinese tat is creeping into our house.  So far, we have some tea light holders, a jelly mould in the shape of a brain and 2 pumpkins.  There will be more.  This year we seriously need to up our game on the pumpkin front.  Both of last year’s gourds were hurriedly carved on Halloween and in all honesty would probably have looked better if we had taken a machete to them blindfolded!

Incidentally, in an update to my last blog, we discovered this sign nailed to a tree in the woods.  Our familiar outlook of tall woodland pines at the end of our garden (a view we fell in love with when we first looked at the house, which looks like a location from a Stephen King novel) is clearly not going to be around for much longer.  It looks as though their days are numbered.  Very sad.

Today marks the fourth sunny day in a row, which makes it hard to focus when I have a day of admin ahead of me.  Warm as it is by day, the temperatures seem to be plummeting at night in these parts and as we all know, the drop in evening autumn temperature marks the arrival of my nemesis – the spider.  I can handle zombies, ghosts and anything else Halloween throws at me, but I find these creatures truly terrifying.  I’m not a fan of insects in general; anything bigger than an aphid increases my heart rate and not in a good way.  We have had some roasters in our house: unnaturally hairy, too many legs, muscles ffs!  Gaz has to carry out a night time “sweep” before I go upstairs.  Maybe I should consider hypnosis.

An accurate artist's impression of a typical spider found in our house with frightening regularity

Anyway, onwards and upwards!  Til next time!