Thirty Thousand Streets

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thursday/August Bank Holiday

London quite often gets on my tits. It's stern impassive visage, a bit like an Easter Island head set in concrete and wreathed in smog. can be all too forbidding of a wet morning.

On the other hand, sometimes I wouldn't be anywhere else. Like yesterday, on the way to work, there was a guy in Trafalgar Square with a falcon on his left hand, texting with his right, as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

This, for the uninitiated, is the guy who makes sure that pigeons steer clear of Trafalgar Square now that Red Ken's administration has served notice on their greasy feathered asses. Now that's a job. He's essentially a pigeon hit man, whose weapon is another bird. A rifle with a beak.

He was back there on Wednesday, only this time his feathered gun was 'stuck' up a tree. He was trying to entice it back by wafting what looked like a golden hamster pelt in its general direction, but it wasn't having any of it.

On a less inspiring note, there was a group of studded bracelet wearing alternative kids queueing for a signing outside the Virgin store on Oxford Street (and presumably to beg eyeliner tips off a favourite bandmember).

One girl, flushed with glee at her own wit, was brandishing a cardboard square, with the legend "Smile if you wank!" written on it in upper case marker pen. Happily, it didn't emote even the vaguest response in me as I stumbled past slurping Benjy's coffee, though judging from the faces of those clustered around.. well.

Hooked up with Sam last night, and we went to BRB in Camberwell for a pizza and a couple of drinks, then the Castle for one, before returning to mine where Sam raided some MP3s off me, before heading back to Hackney on the 35.

Bank holiday weekend eh? I notice Time Out is doing a guide The Notting Hill Carnival, with Lily Allen on the Cover like a smirking Queen of the May. If I'd got to curate that feature (unlikely, I know) I'd have just settled for a double page spread, full bleed image of some tarmac littered with: A half gnawed corn cob, a crushed Red Stripe can, some broken glass and rivulets of some unknown liquid, all stippled with an arc of clotting blood. The words 'Don't Bother' would be superimposed over this.

The myth of Notting Hill Carnival is that it's a kind of merry multicultural utopia, with jocular policemen dancing to reggae, while throngs of smiling people wearing bright primary colours eat wholesome food to the accompaniment of Steel Drums.

In reality this version of events is about as real as Sesame Street, as even putting to the side such awkward things as 'bad men with sharp things, sticking up chumps for change', it's impossible to actually do anything there, bar being swept in rivers of humanity, along roads steeped in piss and fishbones. Great.

The time before the time before last I went, me and my friends caught a bus down from West Hampstead. In a presentiment of what was to come, someone at the back asked an asian chap if he had the time, to which he replied "I aint giving you the time mate – this is the ghetto" (this was before the film Notting Hill, mind). A girl wearing antennae also mimed biting my arm, which was to become the highlight of the day actually. Immediately after we decanted from the the bus we were met with a troupe of dancers in Devil costumes, who were merrily slapping red dye on anyone and everyone they passed and though I did manage to escape this, my friends weren't so lucky, and looked like they'd in indulged in a spot of mid-carnival painting and decorating.

Later on, my friend's girlfriend were jostled by a rudegirl who kept jabbing her in the ribs (thankfully only with her elbow) and intimating violence, and I also glimpsed a Rastafarian guy threatening to throw a plastic crate at some asian shopkeepers through the doorway of a newsagents. And those were the bits I remember, though inevitably I suppose. it's always the bad stuff that sticks in your mind.

I've been since so I think I've given it a fair chance, it just does strike me as being the most overhyped thing ever prior to Coke Zero, though perhaps that's just me getting older and less excited by crowded places and Red Stripe.

So this year I think I'll take my chances with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or whatever Ian Fleming penned bank holiday crap is on the tv, and indulge in a fantasy world where I don't have to qeueue to use the bathroom. Either that or I might go to Manchester, which'll will probably take less time all time, all told, than an in excursion to 'the Hill'.


Pentadact said...

Did some extra words get loose in that last paragraph? My cognition routines encountered difficulty parsing it.

I expect I'd probably share your gloomy perspective. I'm always on a tightrope between getting caught up in the spirit and becoming manically depressed by the whole dismal affair, so a less than jubilant vibe tips me pretty quickly darkwise. One good one I do remember was San Genarro day in Manhattan's Little Italy, which they had the decency to hold on the only day in my life when I found myself in Little Italy. They let me drink my free mango daquiri in a church, and I had a mozza something that was delicious.

Zeno Cosini said...

I remember that Notting Hill Carnival well. It would have been 1997 - just the nine years ago then. Sam was well up for a fight with that rudegirl, bless her, and I had to cringingly steward her away. God knows what would have happened if I hadn't.

Jeff Regan was there too, back in the days he was still called Jeff Regan (he now goes by "Gopala", which I think is the name given by Hindus to Shiva the Destroyer when he manifests as a child. So why not?) I even remember the teeshirt he was wearing, which bore the legend "Peace in the Middle East" accompanied by an image of cartoon faces screaming with laughter.

We got stuck on the bus back to West Hampstead because a woman complained to the driver that someone on the bus had nicked her handbag, so the driver stopped and wouldn't let anyone on or off. Big mistake - the bus was filled with carnival-goers who were in turn filled with beer and drugs. Cue a dozen or so fired-up Ladbrook Grove rudeboys crowding around his window without their happy faces on. He backed down pretty sharpish.

The Eyechild said...


I think it just wasn't very well wriiten. Once I'd successfully (I thought) slagged off Notting Hill I was all like: "Whateva" and went and actually did some work or something.

My not-really point was, it takes so long to get out of Notting Hill, I wouldn't be too surprised if, when I finally emerged, I glimpsed strange new conglomerations of stars in the sky, the ground was pitted with the oxidising remanants of crashed satellites, and the earth ruled by intelligent squid. Seriously, it's that bad.

The little Italy thing sounds class, the closest thing I've had to a decent carnival experience was the St Paul's Carnival in Bristol, which still had yardies, but was on a much more manageable scale. I remember doing Champagne and Tequila Slammers off a trestle table out the front of someone's house, after that, it all became a nice warm blur.


Yeah, that year was well gully. A extra feature I recall from your mate's t-shirt was one of the figures in the foreground actually urinating on the legend "Peace in the Middle East". Class.

Also, now you mention it I do remember the 'handbag incident'. I felt a little sorry for the 'theftee' in that case, but not even vaguely gallant enough to intercede, especially as all 'ver kids' had expressions you could sharpen knives on.

sigh9 said...

I had a similar experience in NY on San Gennaro festa, I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. I leave it as an exercise for the class tocompare and contrast between that and the "Carnival".

Is it any coincidence that it sounds suspiciously similar to "carnivore"?