Every year I get invited to Notting Hill Carnival and every year I refuse. I don’t like it and I resent the fact that for some reason I’m supposed to like it just because it is the biggest event in London’s black social calendar.
Let’s break this down because clearly some don’t understand. I did go when I was in my teens and maybe I’ve been scarred for life but here we go. My reasons for no carnival:
1) I’m not of Caribbean origin. I didn’t grow up listening to soca or any music from the islands. I THINK we had the Legend Bob Marley cassette in the house but that was it. We listen to American music like Gladys Knight and the Pips or Kool and the Gang. Trust me when I tell you that even Fela did not make an appearance in our house. My Dad thought his songs way too long for our car journeys. So it was South African music or US Soul on repeat play or you were going to be very miserable.
I first really heard carnival music at carnival or in clubs so post 16 years old. I didn’t like it then but I had to fake it cos everyone else got really excited when Dollar came on. Who knew? So the nostalgia isn’t there for me. You can’t rewrite your childhood.
2) I don’t like being felt up by strange men who are copping a cheap feel. I don’t care what you lot say about “I’ve been and never been bothered” there are idiots who use the crushing crowds to steal a grope and it gets boring very quickly. I actually think I have just cause to claim indecent assault against a few.
3) The dancing with strangers thing again is about not knowing if this person is going to just go for an innocent wedding day type dance (yay) or pretend that he’s in a blues dance and this is his last minute jerk off grind before the morning light. Yes I know some of the women love it but again, not part of my background so stop trying to make me like it. Being poked on Facebook is bad enough now we have to be poked by random dicks too? No
4) Fighting to use toilets and queueing isn’t fun at the best of times. Worse when thousands have been drinking. I do not go to festivals for a good reason. Portoloos scare me. What if I get locked in or worse have to use it. No
5) Walking along the streets of the borough with a police escort does feel a little rather like a chain gang / slavery type scenario. I know why they have to be there. Some people can’t behave but it’s sucky.
6) Back in the day the guys I knew were very clear. They went to carnival to get as many numbers as possible and to find themselves some winter warmers. This was the event that set you up until next spring when the heavy coats would come off and the batty riders would be revealed once again. I miss those short conversations over your shoulder. The Caribbean version of Nigistence? (That said they could have been African. So few Africans claimed to be African in the 90s. It just wasn’t cool I guess)
Him: [dancing behind me] So what you saying? [breathes heavily on my neck. Sweat drips down his face onto my carefully chosen ensemble]
Him: You’re kinda noice you na!
Me: Erm thanks [trying to move a wee bit away but no, his grip on my waist is tight]
Him: So can I have your number?
Him: You got a phone?
Me: I’m 16. I live with my parents. Of course I have a phone [even then I was a bit too smart for my own good]
Him: [Knowing nod] Couldn’t get a council flat huh?
Him: You know if you have a kid you get one straight away, right? All my sisters and cousins have done it.
Me: I don’t think I’m ready for children. I’m still studying
Me: 6th form. No, A levels.
Him: ooooh Posh
Me: Not really!
Him: So what, your digits?
Me: Our phone doesn’t work right now. Let me take yours.
Him: Cool. My name’s Striker.
Me: Striker? You play football?
Him: No. It’s my street name innit? I’ll catch you later yeah?
90 seconds later I hear him saying “So what you saying?” to the next unsuspecting victim.
My parents were clear after a 3 hour fruitless trip with a friend to Feltham Young Offenders to see her new fella that this clearly wasn’t the place to meet guys. I tried to argue that to be fair my last one had already done his time at Feltham but there was no reasoning with African parents.
That said I do like the street food options and the fashion / dress up opportunity. But alas these are no longer enough. I also worry that trying to dance to Dollar with a strange man attached to my backside may prove to be a dance move too much for me these days.
For those that go, do a little whine up for me! Or is it wine up? Oh who knows. I’ll sit in my garden and have some wine.
© Chelsea Black