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This week’s Photographic Memory is a picture of Pete Eldridge switch heelflipping a bar in Milton Keynes, England in June 2003. For a period of time from 2002 to 2003, Pete Eldridge was spending so much time in London he was practically a bona fide resident; Pete loved London and London loved Pete. One summer’s night we decided to get out of the city for a change and take the drive an hour north from London to Milton Keynes with our roommate Chris Massey who was filming for both the Landscape video and Static 3 at the time. Milton Keynes is a new town that was developed from an existing village in the 60’s so it has a lot of newer buildings and spots that you don’t really find in too many other places in the UK. The set of stairs in Pete’s photo, known as “The Beige,” are legendary in the UK having seen all sorts of national and international action through the years from skaters traveling from far and wide to sample this set’s especially smooth (at least by British standards) run up and roll out.
The affection that skateboarders had for The Beige was not a sentiment reflected by the owners of the property who had tried everything from pointed strips of concrete in the landings to gravel interventions, eventually going as far as erecting these ludicrous bars running the width of the stairs which probably infuriated any pedestrians using the stairs more than anything. I’m consistently bewildered by how far property owners will go down the line of defacing their own building with expensive and absurd skatestoppers in the name of preventing a comparatively small defacement like wax marks on a ledge or scuffs on the floor where people land, the UK doesn’t have the same culture of suing as other countries, so this is not an insurance issue. Besides, have you ever noticed how badly the surface of almost every part of the planet has been smeared with chewing gum stains? Where is Mr. Wrigley to answer to his vandalistic black blobs of spearmint everywhere?! Anyway, as with many “skate stoppers,” the intended obstruction actually forms a fresh challenge and breathes new life into a spot, going over the bar here being a perfect example. Sometimes the Skate Gods smile upon you and other times they want to test how bad you want it, this was definitely a case of the latter.
To make a long story short, a rented generator can come with a host of problems, our generator that night had more issues than the National Geographic and decided to go on strike. You can see in the background of the photo that there are no ambient lights so the stairs at night became more of a black hole than anything beige but Pete tried to make light of the situation but sparking the candles on the stairs as a comedic landing strip to compliment the solo on-camera video light that provided his only other illumination. I’m a huge fan of the VX1000, but ask anyone who has ever filmed with one for any length of time for an evaluation of the grey goddess of skate filming and the word “glitch” will undoubtedly appear early on in their prognosis and true to form this night was a perfect storm of Sony failure with both a switch heel and switch back 180 falling victim to magnetic capture mutation. Abandoning the gamble of actually capturing a glitch free 18db VX1 blacked out snowstorm clip, we decided to come back in the day with some cleaned VX heads and daylight. Unbeknownst to us, Pete Eldridge was not the only one performing in Milton Keynes that night: Eminem was in the middle of giving away a $450,000 chain to one of 65,000 fans attending his Anger Management Tour at The National Bowl. This fact would appear to have little relevance to our disastrous Milton Mission except for the fact that Pete’s session ended at precisely the same time that Eminem and 50 Cent walked off stage. Trying to politely merge on to a motorway with 65,000 other people who have just been hypnotized that “they only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow” results in some Guantanamo level road range torture with the 60 mile drive home taking over 3 hours. As frustrating as everything was that night, having the good fortune to be around Pete’s brilliant skating made up for everything and to be honest Pete is so well versed in rolling with the punches that all the carnage going on around us barely registered. We all willingly fell back in to the glorious London vortex and never made it back to Milton Keynes to refilm Pete’s tricks, fortunately the Skate Gods smiled on me at the lab and I have this piece of Kodak E100VS transparency as proof that we did actually make it out of London that summer, even if it was only a few hours.
Words & photo / BARTON