Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Favourite Ever Carnival Float


It’s amazing how a half-hour break to eat a cheese and tomato sandwich can spin itself out past daydreams breathed through a pane of glass to a desire to rummage through the attic for that old box of photos from 1992...


I never found them, of course, and though I fixed the attic light bulb that poofed out the moment I flicked the switch, and finally located a roll of lino that would have come in handy two years ago but is now (sadly) useless, essentially that sandwich cost me 45 minutes’ worth of badly needed research into plumbing in a toilet.

But, ever the plucky explorer, I return from my excursion with a gem from my Memory Locker.

1n 1992, Girly of Whirly and I were still so in love, we spent so much time gazing into each other’s eyes it’s a miracle we weren’t run over on a daily basis. Ah, the heady days before the Throttling Rota. Around that time, we lived close to the venue for Leicester’s famous Caribbean carnival. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s like the Notting Hill carnival, only smaller — and clearly, not that famous. For two whole days the city’s Victoria Park was given over to the Afro-Caribbean community, and all manner of wondrous carnival floats and bands paraded down the street in a festival of colour and sound to rival Allen Ginsberg’s brain viewed through a kaleidoscope accompanied by a million Marley reggae fanfare. Prior to this, my only experience of carnivals had been the tired affair that trundled round the one-way system of my home town every year to raise money for the Rotary Club. With their endless crepe-paper-draped pirate floats and abysmal comedy marching bands, these celebrations of the unendurable scarred my childhood as surely as if Zorro himself had tried to spreadeagle me with his rapier.

In contrast, the Caribbean carnival was fun. Such gay floats! And everyone so cheery! From the exotic birds of paradise, lofted high in all their finery on the back of a monster arctic, to the steel bands ambling along in rhythmic ska-beat unison, clad in Jamaican flags, every feature of the procession was a spectacle to behold.

And then, round the corner, it came: my favourite ever carnival float.

At first, I thought some hapless trucker had got caught up in the celebrations, then I realised the glut of freight containers piled high on the back of the groaning lorry was an enormous speaker system, and as it juddered closer, the brickwork of every building rippled like the Invisible Man pogoing to the Sex Pistols on a dance floor of Weetabix. Expecting a display of exotic dancing by a troupe of rainbow-hued bootay-queens, we were surprised to discover a dozen or so sleepy looking old rastas, flopped out in deck chairs, swigging from cans of Red Stripe and puffing on joints the size of rugby players’ forearms. No singing, no dancing, no costumes: just a bunch of stoned old men, looking like their relatives had dragged them out of the back garden and stuck them on the back of a lorry for a joke. Whatever they were supposed to be doing, they didn’t seem to have much idea of why or how they were doing it, and as they rumbled by under a giant vacant thought balloon of home-grown sensimilla, I laughed so much I nearly wrenched my larynx from my throat.

Still am.



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15 comments:

Mary said...

Viva la coincidence! Swallowed the last of a cheese and tomato sandwich as I read the first line of this post.

Jah Rastafari! :)

Whirlochre said...

I wondered where that had gone, you little bugger.

ril said...

Oh my. I haven't hada decent Cheese & Tomato sarnie in I don't know how long. Cheese & Piccalilli even more so. You can't get the cheese here, that's the problem. No crumbly Cheshire or Wensleydale to be had. Just Australian Red Cheddar (the immature variety) and a hundred different type of "Brie". Or "Camembert". Same cheese, different lid.

I wonder if everybody stops reading after "cheese and tomato"?

Whirlochre said...

No cheese in Japan?

What about Karaoke?

ril said...

Little cheese; plenty of whine.

The Japanese don't seem to like hard cheese so much, which is strange as it's much easier to pick up with chopsticks.

Cheese and karaokes -- what a thought.

Whirlochre said...

I had some of that rice wine stuff once and I'm guessing that's where all these bowing rituals come from. People must do a lot of bending down and throwing up over there. Yuck.

ril said...

For goodness Sake...

Actually, I rather like Sake. There are many types, from dry to sweet. I prefer the middle of the range, and I like it hot in the cold weather. Sake is a pretty refined drink. It's the shochu (grain liquor) that opens the sluices. And all that damned beer that the barbarians brought over (well, actually the Dutch).

Whirlochre said...

I'll bear that in mind next time I'm constipated...

Robin S. said...

With their endless crepe-paper-draped pirate floats and abysmal comedy marching bands, these celebrations of the unendurable scarred my childhood as surely as if Zorro himself had tried to spreadeagle me with his rapier.

God, I'll miss ya when you're takin' your break. I read this entire post to JB, and he smiled so big, I thought he'd have problems with a not-smiling face later on. That his lips would never be able to find their relaxed place.

Love it.

Robin S. said...

Dammit. I just read down and saw yet ANOTHER Whirl/ril riff thingie that I missed. Dammit.

Whirlochre said...

Sending you consolatory hot buttered muffins...

Whirl's Legal Team said...

As long as JB can still snog, the owners of this blog accept no responsibility for lipomatic wibbliwobbltude.

McKoala said...

I was on a float once, actually twice. Once in a toga, once as a Rocky Horror dancer. Ah the heady days of studentihood, dancing and drinking wine on a moving vehicle. Health and Safety laws? Pah, not in the Olden Days.

Robin S. said...

You make me howl, and that's great stuff. Whirl's Legal Team, my ass.
(Hmmmmmm.....)

Whirlochre said...

Sho au To?

I'd love to have seen that.