Lakes4Volvo at Wyboston, Bedfordshire – “it’s old school”

As old school family businesses go, “Lakes for Volvos” in Wyboston, Bedfordshire is a true gem. I have recently become the proud owner of a rather old 2.3l Volvo 850 T5 (T5 being the fast one, the one used by the police in years gone by) .

LA(K)ES for Volvos at Wyboston
LA(K)ES for Volvos at Wyboston

More often than I’d hoped in the last couple of weeks I’ve visited Wyboston in the hope to find the fix to my ongoing breakdowns and too frequent calls to the fourth emergency service.

Whilst there yesterday and talking to the owners I thought they deserved a piece being written about them so I returned this morning with my camera.

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Cars for sale on the forecourt attracting northbound A1 traffic

All day long the phone rings, it was never off the hook while I was there this morning and the stream of visitors through the door kept part-owner Barry at the office.

The place is run by Barry and Bernard who have run their business at Wyboston for nearly 30 years. Bernard’s Grandson Ethan (18) was busy breaking an 850, he works weekends in the workshop while he’s at college studying Economics and Politics “A” Level, he’s got his exams this summer and is expected to pass with As all round.

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A “seen better days” engine block
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Not a key out of place – Barry and Bernard know where every key for every car is – all 300+ of them
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Barry trying to answer a customer’s query
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Bernard, Barry’s brother and part-owner of the business
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Ethan works weekends dismantling Volvos while he studies for A levels at college
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Ethan taking a break

Barry is very proud of the fact they work in an “old school” fashion doing honest and fair business with customers who return time and time again.

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Bury Park

I took a wander down to Bury Park this morning and met the lady that runs the “In Bury Park” website, Marie. She told me what she was doing and I can fully understand the thinking behind it. For as long as I can remember the only time I have ventured into Bury Park, out of the car, has been to watch the football, and I’m guessing that’s the same for a lot of people.

The Doctor - I don't know why he's called the Doctor - but it made everyone laugh when they told me
The Doctor – I don’t know why he’s called the Doctor – but it made everyone laugh when they told me his name

My own ignorance, before I went for my wander this morning, made me think my camera and I might not be welcome but I’ve never met such a willing and friendly bunch of shopkeepers. Busy setting up, I knew I would get people busy about their business (I’ve been down to Covent Garden Apple Market while they were setting up and that was similar, although I must say they were not nearly as friendly and willing to pose as my models today).

The Boss
The Boss

There was a definite hierarchy at the larger shops as they were setting up – wherever you go and in every walk of life there will be a boss and underlings. It was very evident in these shops and almost gave me the feeling that there is a much stronger feeling of respect for the elders in the community. The boss would be stood on the pavement outside the shop directing the younger guys around and making sure the morning’s delivery was set out properly. It was the same in at least two shops and these were the only two large fruit and veg shops setting up. I think things get moving a bit later on – especially as it is Ramadan at the minute. I was advised to come back later in the day as things liven up once fasting is over and food and drink are aplenty after sunset.

Mr Shah - on the right - was most definitely the boss
Mr Shah – on the right – was most definitely the boss

The streets were clean and any rubbish was being picked up as they went along. It was a bit like going back in time on a few occasions – e.g. when the lorry was being unloaded and the fork truck was manouvering on the pavement – very skillfully I must say !

Unloading
Unloading
I say tomatoes - you say tomatoes
I say tomatoes – you say tomatoes
Smiler
Smiler
Kacha
Kacha
The butcher at work
The butcher at work
Danny Jamaica is a regular
Danny Jamaica is a regular
Lady shopper
Lady shopper
They didn't have my size
They didn’t have my size
gloves
The big man
Mango season - everyone was saying their mangoes are the best between here and Birmingham
Mango season – everyone was saying their mangoes are the best between here and Birmingham
Child's play
Child’s play

I met the local traffic wardens – they were keen to explain there is plenty of parking in and around Bury Park – there are two car parks at the Beech Hill end and plenty of street meters but they did advise to check the signs. On one side it might be ticketed metering but on the other it could well be resident permits only and a lot of people fall prey to the trap. Take a second look if you park on a meter – the wardens are double teamed and do their job well.

Warden
Warden

All in all it was a great morning. I was there too early but then I didn’t know any better. I will go back and I will, in the first instance, go back this week, later in the day, to see what happens as the day’s fast breaks. I will also go back on a more regular basis, the clothes are a bit colourful for me and I don’t have much money to spend on jewellery but if you are after some decent fresh fruit and veg and well butchered meat – Bury Park is the place.

As I said at the beginning Bury Park has been seen as a predominantly asian part of town and it’s true, most of the shops are run by asians. But there are a lot of other nationalities that run shops, units and street market stalls – among them are Polish, Turkish and Italian and I’m sure there are more. If you haven’t been down to Bury Park recently, park up in Sainsbury’s or on a street meter (watch the signs) and take a wander, buy some fruit and veg, have a coffee and have a chat with the people – I promise you you’ll gain from it.

Have a good week !

Steve

High Town Festival

Popped up to High Town yesterday to see how the festival was going. High Town is a wonderful part of town, it’s underestimated and not given the credit it deserves. The High St is currently part of a regeneration scheme by the government whereby new startup businesses on the High St receive reduced business rates to help with the early years of trading. Shop 33 (Luton Community Arts shop I blogged about a few weeks ago is on the High St) was very busy yesterday with a programme full of local musicians coming into the shop to do an hours set.

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Shop 33 – local singer / songwriter

Street photography is an art, your mind has to be alive and awake at all times, you have to be able to see stuff going on and capture it quickly. You also have to be mindful of people’s wishes, I stood to take a photo of a young barber cutting hair (it looked great – it was a tight afro with a pattern being sculpted into it) and I noticed as soon as I lifted the camera to my eye he caught me out of the corner of his eye and turned around sharpish. I dropped the camera, smiled through the window and asked if it was OK, he waved as if to say no so I gave him the thumbs up, he gave me a thumbs up back and we went about our business. Most people are fine and even relish the thought that someone thinks they are interesting enough to be photographed but if they’re not happy about it, I find it best to honour their wishes – no harm done.

I didn't think I needed this little fellas permission so I hope you don't mind - if you know him - can you ask if he minds please
I didn’t think I needed this little fellas permission so I hope you don’t mind – if you know him – can you ask if he minds please

These guys were very happy to have their picture taken and very good they were too, there were lots of scheduled events but I liked these guys and stood and watched them for about 15 minutes. Impromptu street corner busking, they just pitched up with their guitars and mouth organs and started playing, and very good they were too.

Impromptu belting out of chooons
Impromptu belting out of chooons
Love the doo rag !
Love the doo rag !
This guy was a great accompaniment to the two guitarists
This guy was a great accompaniment to the two guitarists
Street food - noodles - £1 a pot
Street food – noodles – £1 a pot
the facepainter - with  angel wings
the facepainter – with angel wings
Harmony
Harmony

This blog is about Luton – the positives within Luton – it’s about the town but more importantly for me – it’s about the people – there are fantastic people in Luton. People who are proud to say they are from Luton, and this in a week where Luton, again, has been listed in the top 100 crappiest towns in the UK, an honour they won in the books 2004 publication. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the whole crap town affair. Well you know what !! I don’t give a shit about that book and I know a lot of Lutonians don’t either. I could go to ANY town in the country and shoot a series of photographs of dirty back streets, bins overflowing and general detritus. Luton’s got it’s bad points but it’s got a hell of a lot more good points ! I think this subject needs a full blogpost all to itself – I feel quite strongly about this !! Watch this space …

Have a good week !

Steve

THE ACADEMY – LUTON …

… is an amateur boxing club – established in 2008 – with a difference. It’s not just another boxing club – it’s a classy club – it has a winning ethos – a club where champions will come from (Steven and Niall pictured below have had 12 and 13 bouts respectively and each won 9 of those bouts). The guys that run the club are also the benefactors – they don’t get money from the council – the club underwent a major improvement 6 months ago where they took over the unit downstairs at the expense of the owners and coaches. Before Christmas 2012 the club occupied the upstairs of a fairly run down unit on a small industrial estate near Wardown Park. The occupants downstairs went bust and moved out leaving a derelict warehouse. Academy club owners took over the space, completely gutted it, moved the training ring downstairs and converted the upstairs space into a self contained training area complete with bags and a weight training area – they have spent thousands of pounds to bring the club up to a very high standard and now occupy both upstairs and downstairs. A second ring was donated and also installed downstairs.

Steven and Niall
Steven and Niall beside WBO Champion Nathan Cleverly’s signature from the club’s re-opening day ceremony

Most of the members are kids but there are a handful of adults and ladies that train at the club – there is a dedicated ladies only session on Thursday nights where a small and dedicated number of ladies come to train. The coaches are keen for more ladies to train at the club. The self contained upstairs training area was set up during the refurbishment – ladies have their own secure well lit entrance, their own changing rooms and the training area can be shut off from the rest of the club to allow the ladies to train in the comfort of their own company. Doors can be opened up to allow mixed training but the coaches are keen to allow ladies to have their own space. I think this is truly unique and only one thing at the club that sets it apart from other amateur boxing clubs.

Bag training

The Academy will be taking part in Luton’s Open Air Boxing Exhibition on 6th July this year and I’m guessing they will do well. Personally, I have loved boxing for as long I can remember, I’ve watched lots of boxing on TV but never been to a live fight. Steven and Niall – they are cousins so there’s always going to be a bit of rivalry there – did some sparring for me – coach Graham told them to take it easy with each other – I must have led a sheltered life because to my clouded eyes they looked like they were going for it – and the sounds the punches made sounded pretty full on to me. I’ll need to go again to educate myself more. Steven and Niall come down to the club five times a week – they live about 2 miles away and get there on their bikes – they are two very dedicated kids !

Steven and Niall sparring
Steven and Niall sparring with coach Jim looking on from the shadows

There were approximately 25 members training tonight – mainly kids but there were also 5 or 6 17/18 year olds and there was at least one senior member (I’m guessing he was about my age – I’m the wrong side of 40 – tonight was mixed carded fighters and seniors). Graham, said it was quiet tonight, there were more at the Saturday morning session. Halfway through the evening they split up – some went upstairs to do some technical training while the others stayed downstairs doing their 3 minute circuit, 60 second rest, again and again …….. and again. I was there nearly 2 hours and short of a couple of small breaks the 3 minute, 1 minute, 3 minute routine carried on – punctuated by the end of round bell. For me, the uninitiated, it felt like a full on training session – and these kids do this 5 times a week – on top of whatever sport they do at school. These kids are fit ! They take their training seriously but I also noticed they all have a lot of fun while doing the serious business of training.

… believe in yourself …
All mod cons
All mod cons
Under 11 - shadow boxing
Under 11 – shadow boxing

The Academy Luton is fresh, it’s fun, it’s well established and run on passion and desire. If a champion doesn’t come out of this club in the foreseeable future I will be very, very surprised. Get along to the club, take your son, take your daughter, take your wife or husband. It’s a family club, run by and for families, with an underlying will to produce a champion and in the meantime have fun doing it.

Keep it going guys and see you soon !

Steve

Jamming (and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash)

At the end of the last post I mentioned my focus on LU4 and Lewsey Farm would probably extend to LU3 and LU6 (and probably beyond but staying within LU….). Well this week I’m focusing on a bunch of guys that get together to have a blast with some instruments. It’s a jamming session – it’s not a formal set from start to finish so if that sounds a bit blase it’s not meant to – believe me when these guys get together they blast out the tracks ranging from Jimi Hendrix to John Lee Hooker.

Gin House Delta (L-R) Dave / Percy / Bluesy

Lead singer (and bass player) Bluesy and drummer Percy both live in Luton and lead guitarist Dave comes up from Harrow – they meet at the White Swan in Dunstable on the first Thursday of every month for a jamming blues session. Being a jamming session all comers are encouraged to bring an instrument and jump up on stage ! This week’s skiffle board player also did a great rendition of Johnny Cash’s Falsom Prison – you have to be on your toes – Dave was outside using spotify learning Falsom Prison once he heard Skiffle Man wanted to sing it and he kicked it with a fantastic gravelly voice to boot.

Percy and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash – Percy had just found out they wouldn’t be around to play at Knebworth hence the grimmace

Percy …

… paints and decorates your house or office by day – rides 100 miles on his road bike on a Sunday morning and does his Keith Moon bit in 3 different bands by night – he’ll be at the Greyhound in Dunstable next Friday – 14th June – I’ll be there !

Dave – you need a nickname Dave !

Dave …

… and Percy first met in Jersey where they are both from and played gigs there before they both came to England. I used to work with Dave – he’s a techie – in fact he describes himself as “Geek, Dad, Gamer, Guitarist, SysAdmin, SmartOS, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Linux, Ruby fan etc.” on his blog so if you understand any of that – well done! He’s been playing guitar from a very young age and once told me “I pick up the guitar every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes” – so that’s how you get so good !

Bluesy

Bluesy …

… lays carpets by day – I happened to bump into him in a warehouse in Letchworth on a cold January morning – I’d only just seen my first “Percy’s Blues Jam” a few days before and there he was bent over, arse in the air rolling up some carpet – I thought I recognised him. Bluesy is bass guitarist and lead singer – his take on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was something special !

This blog is taking on a new life – it started as a poetry blog but I’m now looking for the positives in and around the LU(4) area to try and combat all the bad press it’s been getting lately – Percy, Bluesy and Dave (you need a nickname Dave) are a full on positive and I urge everyone to get along to the White Swan on the first Thursday of the month.

Next week I’m hoping to get around to some local businesses in and around Lewsey Farm and see how they are getting on and what they think of the recent spate of bad news …

What’s good in your area ? Comments always welcome !

Thanks for stopping by – have a good week everyone !

Steve