10 Reasons to shun the Notting Hill Carnival…
…or take rotten tomatoes with you.
Yes, yes…it was only last year I went to the carnival and blogged about it here. In fact, I seemed pretty fine with it. I did express my dislike for some things, like the booming music and crowds, but I thought I had a good time overall. So what changed this year? I’ll tell you.
1. Ginger sugar cane juice
There is sugar cane juice and then there is ginger tea. Who drinks sugar cane juice with ginger in it?? There was so much ginger in it that I could hardly taste the sugar cane. Last year we had lime juice with the sugar cane juice. That was odd too, but at least it was nice as lime and lemon go well with just about anything. This year it just got plain wrong. Is it too much to ask for pure, unadulterated sugar cane juice?
2. Cavorting women
The carnival on Monday is “adult day”. You would expect to see flesh on display. You’d see the odd woman on the parade practically topless, with strategically placed flowers or ornaments. You might also see a topless woman with body paint, in an albeit feeble attempt at concealing her partial nudity. What you don’t expect to see is women among the crowds, yes, “the members of public” lifting up their tops and jiggling their wonky breasts at unsuspecting people! Imagine the shock, horror, disgust at the tasteless exposure I was subjected to! I don’t consider myself prudish or old fashioned, but I believe flesh-baring and nudity should be done with a bit of class (I’d even accept it under the guise of ‘art’), not while cavorting around intoxicated!
3. Weed, the consumable kind…
The smell of weed wafts to your nose every-bloody-where you go! I know it is a street party and it is a foregone conclusion that there will be alcohol and drugs, but it is no more fun than sniffing second-hand fart, let me tell you! And for someone who’s got the sense of smell of a greyhound, it is not pleasant at all. No amount of hot food will mask the smell of weed! It is pungent and sickening and unfortunately as ubiquitous as jerk chicken at the carnival.
Yes, as if the smell of weed wasn’t bad enough, there is putrid urine stench at every alley! Men don’t take well to long toilet queues. Who would, if they had water pistol-like appendages that allowed them to freely relieve themselves wherever they chose? Your only consolation while covering up your nose with your hand, scarf, hanky and jacket is that you don’t live there. It’s no wonder most residents vacate their house during the carnival and only return days or weeks afterwards. But I’ve always wondered whether the residents have protested against having the carnival in their posh neighbourhood. Imagine your neighbourhood being turned into an open space urinal overnight!
5. Overcrowded trains
It beggars belief that the London tube services can’t withstand a weekend of Notting Hill carnival but breezed through the Olympic and Paralympic games. Getting to and from the Notting Hill carnival is nothing short of a nightmare if you take the tube. Be prepared to breathe in the scent of pits akin to fermented milk, and beer breath and sweat everywhere you turn, especially on the return trip. Of course some might consider themselves lucky if they could turn around freely on the tube. The trains are so crowded in the evenings that they are the human equivalent of farm chicken coops.
I’m not talking about the booming music…that probably deserves an entry of its own considering the grief and ear-ache it caused me…I’m talking about the incessant shrieking and blaring of whistles and horns. Some people clearly think vuvuzela-inspired noises add to the atmosphere of the carnival. It must be the same kind of people who go weekend in weekend out to techno clubs and shout on top of their voices to their friends next to them while dancing right next to the speakers. Too bad you won’t hear me laugh when you go deaf at 40.
7. Loud music
I told you it deserved a separate entry…
Where can I even begin with the loudness of the music? We seem to be breeding a generation of music lovers who think it is not good music if it’s not loud enough to blow out your eustachian tubes and cochlea! These people lurk everywhere, not just at carnivals and clubs unfortunately…they are in the car that pulls up next to yours, booming music audible behind closed windows…they are on trains listening to their ipods, the music so loud that Bose speakers would be put to shame…
I should have known better from my experience in 2011 that this is not a place to be more than once in your lifetime. I’m the person who switches off the tv and music when I am at home alone, for God’s sake. I love the sound of silence. Even as I write this, there is no music. The tv is switched off. I went again this year, against my better judgement. I told my friend this is how it must be like for women who have their second or third (or umpteenth) baby. After each one, they vow never to experience the pain of childbirth again. Then wired as we all are to be suckers, our brain dampens the memory of pain over time and we yearn for it again and again.
8. Shoddy costumes
For a carnival that is purported to be the second-best (in the world?) after the Rio de Janeiro carnival, it sure is a let down. BBC posted photos of the 2012 Notting Hill carnival, and to be fair the photos do look good. But let me assure you that neither did I see any of those costumes nor see any that looked impressive…and I watched the parade from the main route. Also, judging from the women in the photos, BBC has undoubtedly cherry picked and showcased the best of the carnival.
The costumes looked like they had been put together overnight with little thought or budget. Maybe these costumes look better from far. Maybe they had started to fall apart by the time they got to my section of the route from all the dancing. Whatever it is, just don’t expect Rio carnival standards for the costumes and the women!
9. Disorganised crowd control
The crowds this year seemed a lot more uncontrolled than last year. Gone were the ropes used to contain crowds within the pedestrianised zones and instead, people could freely join the parades, be it to dance alongside the costumed dancers or to take photos with them. I am not sure whether the “marshalling area” within the carnival route provided a more controlled environment, but the people were just about everywhere along the main route. I can’t speak for other photographers, but it was quite frustrating for your photo composition to be constantly disturbed by members of the public distracting the performers.
10. It’s free
“Wait…isn’t it a good thing if it’s free?” I hear you ask. Did you know you’ve got to pay for tickets to watch the best of the Rio carnival parades? That’s why they’re so good.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
You pay for what you get.
Those words of wisdom apply here. You know how it is when you get something for free. Museums have free sections and paid sections. Free sections are not bad – well in this case they are not really free, but funded by the government – but the paid sections are remarkably better. The fact that something is free demonstrates that there’s only so much the organisers can do with the little funds they have.
So maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on the Notting Hill carnival. It’s free, after all.
I’ve griped enough about the carnival. Now it’s your turn. Pleeeaaassee!! Otherwise I might start wondering if age is snuffing out my fun-loving side! 🙂