Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twist Back and Turn Left

Watching from the outside, the wooden planks that make up the enormous barrel of the DemonDrome Wall of Death pulsate like a beating heart as the motorcycles race around on the other side. 

It seems like a big step, taking a motorbike from a ramped wooden boardwalk to a vertical wall and keeping it there.  I guess that at some point though wanting to go faster and steeper leads to a Wall of Death, and that pretty soon even defying that most elemental law of physics isn’t enough to get your kicks.  That must be how Duke Seymour ended up riding a vintage 1927 Indian motorbike, that’s easily three times older than he is, around his family’s Demon Drome Wall of Death stood up with his t-shirt pulled up over his face or performing a side-saddle iron-cross hanging out fifteen feet above the floorboards.

The Demon Drome Wall of Death arrived in the UK from America in 1927 and started touring the country with funfairs.  Back then health and safety wasn’t such a big deal so the original owner, Elias Harris, went right ahead and built a car with a special platform on it so that he could drive it around his Wall of Death with his pet lioness, Rita, sat on the bonnet.  For the past ten years “Dynomyte” Dave Seymour and his family have toured the Demon Drome Wall of Death show around the UK and Europe, recreating the original show in every aspect apart from the live big cat.  Dave and his son Duke ride 1927 Indians and custom Honda CD200 hardtails, performing tricks and racing each other, with Dave’s daughter Alabama even sitting on her old man’s handlebars with her arms outstretched for a few laps, as if it’s a perfectly normal thing for a teenage girl to do with her Dad on a weekend.  The wooden wall flexes as the bikes pass the knees of the audience who peer over the top of the giant barrel, providing the suspension that the bikes lack.  The faster the Seymours ride, the greater the centripetal force that pins their vintage whips to the old planks and the safer they are.  It doesn’t look it though - from the top looking down the whole story looks insane; the roar of the bikes is damn loud, it’s hot and the incense of exhaust fumes rise up from the middle.  Every sense piqued, a spin on the teacups and a stick of candy-floss doesn’t seem quite so crash-hot afterwards.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Jeans Are Over 100 Years Old

"For over 130 years 
Our celebrated and original XX denim overalls 
Have been before the public. 
This is a pair of LEVIS 
They are the original jeans 
And have a reputation for durability known the world over. 
Only selected materials have been used in their manufacture. 
Every garment guaranteed 
Exclusive XX special top weight denim 
And sewed with the strongest thread. 
We shall thank you to carefully examine the sewing finish and fit. 
Caution:  See that this pair bears the quality number which is XX and also our Trade Mark. 
Levi Strauss”
What do you wear on your legs, most of the time?  For an awful lot of people it’ll probably be a pair of denim jeans in one shade of blue or another, and they probably don’t take a second to think about them when they pull them on in the morning.  If the pair of jeans that you fall into is a pair of Levi’s 501s (which they could well be) then as well as getting dressed, you’re also getting into a story; 100 years ago, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Levi Strauss & Co shook hands with two gentlemen named Caesar and Moses and the agreement still holds today.  Caesar and Moses ran White Oak Mill, producing denim under the name Cone Mills and they had gained themselves a reputation for producing the best denim around.  The agreement with Levi Strauss and Co gave Cone Mills the right to manufacture the denim used by Levi’s to produce their Lot 501 jeans which went on to become their core product.  It’s odd to think that, as fashion continually evolves, one constant item in many men’s wardrobes is actually a piece of clothing that celebrates its 100th birthday this year.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hallowed Ground

As a tribe, we gather in unusual locations.  Our meeting places, where stories are shared and surf culture is perpetuated are not, I would argue, in the ocean - that is where we surf.  In the water our conversations are often stilted and broken, interrupted by the catching of waves or made difficult by wind or distance.  The ocean is where the stories occur and where legends are made, but it is often the parking lot that is the incubator of our culture. Almost anywhere where you can surf there is space nearby to park a car, whether it’s on the roadside, in a large tarmac lot, on a patch of dirt, or in a clearing in the sand dunes or forest.  Sometimes where everybody parks is a walk away from the waves, but quite often the spot where you pull up, check the waves and get changed has a pretty good view of the surf.  It’s where, in mid-winter, surfers hunch over their steering wheels with the windscreen wipers squeaking across the glass trying to keep warm whilst drumming up the motivation to pull on a wetsuit.  It’s where we talk about the best sand banks and surf forecasts through rolled down windows, where we compliment each other on sick waves and look back at the sea whilst towelling off in the hope that it’s getting worse, not better, and where we take phone-photos to show our friends what they missed today.  Most photos of waves aren’t taken by water-photographers swimming with a housing or stood on the sand with a zoom lens, they’re taken by surfers stood in the parking lot; how many surfers actually walk back down the beach to take a photo?
It’s in car parks where surfers stand with a coffee in the morning evaluating how accurate the forecast was and rescheduling their day around planned surfs, and where surfers lean on bonnets or sit on tailgates in the evening sharing beers and talking story.  It’s in car parks where wax is gifted, where the secret of where car keys are stashed is guarded, and sometimes it’s where water-borne scores are settled.

The ocean is where we ride waves, and this is a personal and solo pursuit.  The beach is, more often than not, just the thin band of sand that we run across to get to the water.  For so many though, the car par is where we congregate.  It’s where we are “surfers”, not just a surfer.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Outside Food: Bashed Crab

Last summer I published a couple of posts with recipes and suggestions for food to be cooked and eaten outside in the fresh air.  This summer (because of various weekend weddings and work commitments) I had to snatch outside opportunities as and when they arose and so we ended up going on a few mid-week overnight micro-adventures, sleeping out in bivvy bags or just heading to the beach to make dinner rather than doing it at home.  Smashed crab isn't a recipe; it's an assembly and it's perfect for when time is tight and the decision to eat al-fresco is pretty last minute.  There is one condition/requirement though, and that is that you can only really do it if you're on the coast.  Here goes:
  • Buy yourself a cooked crab, preferably from the small boat fisherman who hauled in the pot.  I picked one up for about £5 from the fisherman who's cold store is at the top of the hill coming up from Chapel Porth beach near St Agnes in Cornwall.  If you're near Port Isaac (Cornwall) then you'll be spoilt for choice.  You don't want a picked or dressed crab though, as that takes away most of the fun involved with this grown-up finger food.
  • Pack a camping bowl, fork and teaspoon for each person, nut-crackers (if you have any), an old newspaper, a jar of mayonnaise, the remains of a block of butter, a fish-grill rack and corn-on-the-cob (from your fridge at home, or stop by a shop on your way to the beach).  Go to your shed and grab a pin hammer or a small axe and some firewood.
  • On your way to the beach, stop at a fish&chip take-away and buy a large portion of chips to share.
  • Get to the beach and find your spot.  Light a small fire (we have a little fire pit that we take with us, the size of a large cake-tin) if it's possible to do so without ruining someone else's enjoyment of the beach, and spread out the newspaper using pebbles to stop it form blowing away in the wind.
  • Sandwich the sweetcorn cobs in the fish grill and cook them over the hot coals.
  • Open the chips and jar of mayonnaise.
  • Start pulling limbs off your cooked crab and use the pin hammer or the back of the axe to get at the meat inside, then get to work with the thin handle of your teaspoon to get all of the white meat out of the legs, claws and shoulders.
  • Make a mess.
  • Wipe you hands on a piece of newspaper then wrap all of the crab shells, greasy chip paper and other waste up in the newspaper to take home and put in the bin.
  • Throw a few more pieces of wood on the fire and enjoy the rest of your evening on the beach as the sun sinks into the sea.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Excuses, Excuses

I have an apology to make to those of you who are dedicated readers of this blog, because over the past couple of months the regularity of my posts (which for over five years went out almost every Sunday) has wobbled somewhat.  The reason is that for a little over a year now I have been transforming the way that I work and building a business beyond my freelance work, and for the past nine months or so this project has often taken precedence - resulting in the frequency of my postings to An Tor Orth An Mor becoming a little erratic.  So, without further ado, let me introduce you all to Hailer; you can hold Hailer entirely responsible for the disruption to your Sunday evening browsing.

Hailer is a difficult entity for me to label easily, but it is essentially in the business of storytelling.  You could pin such labels as "content marketing studio", "digital marketing agency" or "brand growth consultancy" on it, and all are equally valid definitions and yet each one on its own doesn't adequately describe what Hailer does.  What Hailer does is craft the stories and imagery that define brands, grow followings and improve performance.  If you're interested in a more concise explanation and taking a look at the various client case studies then please head over and check out, otherwise I'll just be repeating myself in this post.  

The development of Hailer isn't the death knell for An Tor Orth An Mor, just a separation of my personal and freelance photographic work from the content that I produce regularly for a number of brands and businesses.  I intend to return to producing regular posts for this blog and am developing a new home for it (watch this space), whilst Hailer's "notebook" blog will feature syndicated client work and news.  If you like what you see on the website then may I suggest you give Hailer a follow on your social media platform of choice (instagram, facebook or twitter) so that you can keep getting more of the same.

Here's just a tiny taster...

Sharing adventures on the Cornish Coast with Cornish Rock Tors

Ongoing brand management and development for wooden surfboard makers Otter Surfboards

 Building an online surf magazine with an international following for Surf Simply