Last year was the first year I’d “played mas” (gone in a costume) at a carnival, and since then I knew it was something I’d probably do at Notting Hill every year because it was so great. I’d booked my place with the float a few months ago (basically you pay 160 pounds for the costume, unlimited drinks from the float all day, entrance to an after party, a goodie bag and breakfast and lunch), and as Carnival was approaching I was getting excited. However, there was one problem… For the few weeks running up to Carnival, news articles started to appear saying how the Bank Holiday was due to be ruined by wind and torrential rain.
This was a big topic of conversation on Twitter and obviously everyone was annoyed by it, but also they were saying that they wouldn’t let it ruin the fun. I knew I’d still enjoy it, but when I woke up on Monday morning to a dark and wet view out of my window, my heart broke a little bit. Carnival really is one of my favourite days of the year, and one of the things that makes it what it is, for me anyway, is (usually) the sunny weather. It kind of helps with the Caribbean vibe.
Anyway I put on my costume as usual and my mum was kind enough to give me a lift to my float’s meeting point so I didn’t have to take public transport there. On the piece of paper everyone was given at costume collection, it said the float planned to set off from the point at 9.30am, but I knew this would not be the case so we got there at 10.30, and (as suspected) the truck was nowhere to be seen, but some of the other masqueraders were huddled around wearing transparent ponchos over their costumes, some with umbrellas as well.
I decided I’d stay in the shelter of my mum’s car until the float showed signs of moving. The rain was getting heavier and the sky was completely grey and I really didn’t feel like I normally do at Carnival and told my mum I’d probably make it til about 4pm and then give up and go home (it officially ends at 8pm). I needed a photo in my costume so I got out of the car so my mum could take it from the window:
I don’t know how/why, but suddenly the usual Carnival excitement came to me at this moment… maybe because I could hear the music from another truck, or maybe because I realised the rain wasn’t going to kill me and I’d still have fun, I don’t know. I told my mum she could go home now and I went over to huddle with my friends who were sheltering under a ledge.
Our patience was tested because the float didn’t move off until 12.50pm but apparently this was because the rain was causing delays and obviously each truck can only go forward once the one in front of it has gone forward so it makes a knock-on effect. When we set off the rain had turned into just a drizzle, so I think most of us were hoping it would stay like that or get better throughout the day and our costumes/makeup etc wouldn’t be ruined. We were wrong…
By the time we’d got into the main Carnival part (you start on a side-road and make your way into the main bit where all the crowds are), the rain was showing no mercy. The crowd was a lot smaller than in previous years, and they were mostly armed with ponchos, umbrellas and warm coats (a stark contrast to our costumes), but there was absolutely nothing that we could do to save ourselves so we basically adopted a “yolo” (you only live once) attitude and danced around in the rain waving our dripping flags without a care in the world. Our feathers were going droopy and we had lines of makeup all down our faces but we genuinely no longer cared. It was such a cool feeling.
The truck kept stopping and starting because of the knock-on effect thing I mentioned earlier, and when it was moving (so we were dancing more), I was actually sweating even though the weather was cold. It was quite helpful because the rain was refreshing so I didn’t need to drink anything all day.
The usual things that make me happy at Carnival still happened, such as random members of the public who have no idea about Caribbean music/culture/dance joining in with us behind the truck, parents with babies on their shoulders moving them to the beat of the music, and compliments about the costumes from people in the crowd.
One of my favourite moments was when we went through judging point (where some important people decide which float has the best costume). We were told about 10 minutes before we got to the start of it that we had to get in our sections behind the truck ready to be judged, and they started playing specific songs that they knew would hype us up, because you have to go crazy and have fun when you’re going past judging point. They made us hold back a bit and the truck went forward so we still hadn’t actually entered, and then they said “on the count of 3, RUN TO THE JUDGES!”
Obviously it was quite cold by this point because it was about 7pm, and the ground was slippery, but when he said “3” and played the next track, we all ran with our arms out in the pouring rain in front of hundreds of spectators with their cameras, to the middle of judging point. The song he’d chosen was Tornado, and it has a dance where in the chorus, you’re meant to form a big circle by holding hands or having your arms over each others’ shoulders, and jump around in a certain direction like a tornado. The weather conditions made this a bit dangerous but we did an awesome tornado.
At 7.45pm I decided it was time to go home because it would be finishing soon anyway and I was too cold, so I found my way to a tube station and got under 4 layers of duvets and towels etc when I arrived home.
I will never forget Carnival Monday 2014 and the fact that the weather didn’t put anybody off is a great example of the Carnival spirit 🙂