Call me crazy, but pissing in pagonias while being force-fed jerk chicken, warm beer and Bob Marley 'riddims' is not my idea of a good time.
Aside from thinking I was Black, I was also a precocious teenager, to say the least. So the thought of sneaking out of the house to spend a weekend binge drinking and getting daggered in pum-pum shorts to Beenie Man…without needing ID…was heaven. I remember the excitement piling out of the tube station to follow the sound of the bass that was thumping West London. The smell of chicken and weed wafting in the air, the vibrant Carnival queens and the pick ’n’ mix of music blaring through Portobello made the atmosphere electric.
I don’t know at what point it was for me that ‘electric’ turned into, “I need a wee, my drink is warm, I’ve been groped several times, we’ve been wandering around for three hours without actually doing anything and I still need a wee”. Of course you can’t say any of that out loud because it’s a carnival, how can you not have fun at a carnival? It’s what carnivals are made for. It was fun once but now in the cold hard light of my twenties, I’ve had dumps less anti-climatic than Notting Hill Carnival.
So what’s my beef with London’s glorious celebration of Caribbean culture?
I’ve peed in a sink, on someone’s hydrangeas, hovering above a port-a-loo filled with excrement and bog roll and in a complete strangers house for the princely sum of three quid and a can of Red Stripe. There’s no ‘secluded wee in a corner of a field’ festival option here. Unless you live in the area, resign yourself to the fact that a large portion of Carnival is taken up by needing to pee, finding somewhere you’re willing to have said pee where you won’t contract dysentery and then queueing for that pee.
Oh no, it’s cool, you can totally press your sweaty balls up against my thigh because I understand it is very crowded here. No, you breathing heavily in my face isn’t making me claustrophobic at all.
“But, y’know, we had a good run, it was fun once but now in the cold hard light of my twenties, I’ve had dumps less anti-climatic than Notting Hill Carnival.”
POLITE WHITE PEOPLE
“Gosh, I’m just so liberal and open-minded and Notting Hill Carnival is such a beautiful union of so many cultures! OMG! Rum punch and soca music and jerk chicken and Bob Marley!” It’s OK, you’re not being marked on anything. You don’t have to force yourself to dance awkwardly to homophobic bashment tunes and if the food is not to your taste it doesn’t make you a racist. Calm down, once Tuesday comes around, you can go back to crossing the road from the mumbling Rastafarian man that scares you.
Carnival is great if you like long distance walking and being lost. If TFL can’t handle two days of people flocking west, without their staff having nervous breakdowns during crowd management or their bus drivers giving up completely and bailing out mid journey, to sprawl out on the pavement to have a fag (this was my personal favourite), then imagine how funzies next year’s Olympics are going to be?
Well of course.
Crime? At Notting Hill Carnival? You don’t say. Every bored teenage rudeboy from in and around the city descending on one area of London and yet each year we’re shocked when the minority marr celebrations with mindless criminality. Though I have to admit, 14 year-old me loved the furious texting back and forth of Carnival crime rumours e.g. “OMG SUM1 THRU A GRENADE AT DA POLICE AND DIS ONE GIRL HAS BEEN SHOT IN THE FACE”. The excitement (and realisation that Ladbroke Grove is not Iraq) has since worn off.
Of course, this year, there are fresh wounds to deal with. On one-side are the ‘gangs’ meat-robot Cameron keeps banging on about, marauding the streets, gloriously playing into their hooded stereotype in the name of postcode wars. On the other side, the psychopathic fury of the Met police, trying to repress their glee at the opportunity to be unnecessarily heavy-handed. The testosterone heavy cloud of both sides spoiling for a fight, sphincters clenched at the inevitably of something kicking off, hangs over the weekend. So it would be nice if an event that is supposed to be a celebration of one of the most influential cultures in London, wasn’t tainted by becoming a call to arms, every…single…year…without fail.
On that note Notting Hill Carnival, thanks but no thanks. I’ll instead be having my own private carnival this weekend, in my front garden with a childrens paddling pool and some ready-made pina-colada.
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