On Sunday, I enjoyed a day that was a testament to the wondrous power of impulsively saying “yes” to things. God, what an appalling intro. I’ll try again.
Basically, last weekend I was feeling a little run down. Having come back from the Edinburgh Festival, getting back into the swing of everyday life was hard. I tend to feel a bit low after the end of a show, no doubt a psychiatrist could tell us more, and Edinburgh was such a surreal and crazy experience that it was doubly hard to accept the prospect of free evenings. Therefore, I’d been partying as hard as possible. Pimpstick Jr. had a boozy gathering at the Princess Louise in Holborn at which I got roundly hammered (and discovered that it is literally quicker to walk from Holborn to Waterloo than to get the Tube, but that’s another story). Tiny Emma came around on Saturday for a night of wine and Dark City (Emma is into films that “mess with reality,” and Dark City is a shining example of the genre). And then I got a text from Izzi inviting me along to Notting Hill Carnival the following day. I’d never been to the Carnival before, and I had nothing else to do, and Izzi’s company is never less than scintillating, and so I said yes. Tiny Emma, who does not frequent the Internet, thought this was incredibly short-term planning.
Sadly, when the day dawned, I was not in perhaps the best shape for the event. Bloated, hungover and poor, Sunday morning was not my friend. Izzi and I met up, and she – who lives in the Western Zone of the city – explained how it goes. She also took the photos for this entry, by the way.
The Carnival has been running since 1959, and since then has grown to be one of London’s greatest excuses to let its collective hair down. Initially started in response to racial tensions in the area, it is now a celebration of Caribbean culture in the city and, indeed, of the city’s multi-culturalism in general. I did not steal any of that from a press release. This year, it enjoyed over a million attendants, of whom Izzi and Yr. Humble Chronicler were two.
Initially, I have to admit I was cynical (read: grumpy and hungover) - on the way from Notting Hill Gate, I was struck by the number of boarded-up shops and houses, and the number of makeshift stalls charging exorbitant amounts for food and beer (beer especially). But we got further in, and helped by a rum-filled coconut and the appearance of sunshine, I started to mellow out.
By the time we got to the parade route, I was definitely in the mood to party most hearty. Now I see what Polly Thomas meant in her essay, ‘Growing Up With Carnival’ (published in Miranda Davies and Sarah Anderson’s Inside Notting Hill):
“I’ve never been able to understand those joyless souls who don’t love Carnival, who refuse to get impossibly excited about the prospect of sharing their streets with some two million revellers intent on sticking two fingers up to the norm for a couple of days and letting it all hang out in public.”
We strode along the route for some way towards Ladbroke Grove, enjoying the wind-baiting costumes and awesome Caribbean music, although that ‘Trini and Tobago’ song got a bit tedious the eighteenth time. An awful lot of people, us included, wound up smeared in chocolate (yes, it was definitely chocolate). Even the odd shower of rain could not dampen the mood, although I have to say the presence of baton-carrying police was slightly sinister. Izzi and I opined that the event would be improved if they started breakdancing.
Lunch consisted of curry goat, plantain and rice and beans, because why the hell not? Izzi was most pleased to bump into Mr Levi Roots, a saucy fellow indeed, hey nonny. Food was followed by booze and, of course, more dancing. In fact, so merry were we that we decided to continue partying in Bayswater after the parade had ended. At this point my memory grows hazy and fragmented, but for some reason my pupils have gone white and Bibles combust at my touch.
All in all, as Portobello Road degenerates into a row of chain stores, it’s good to be reminded that Notting Hill still retains some individuality. I think I’ll have to go again next year.