Carnival 2013 – work in progress


This is very much the first draft of something that started yesterday, watching the Caribbean Carnival parade in Leicester.
I scribbled madly in the little black notebook [ see posts past] and something is slowly taking shape.

For the first time ever, she is content today to watch the parade from the city centre, snug amongst the shoppers as dancers undulate and sound systems shake store windows.
She realizes a bridge has been crossed and that there will be no going back.
Her handbag, roomy, sensible is weighed down, not with all the essentials for a day on the park, water, king size rizlas, a book in case planned rendezvous fail, but instead a list of tasks, duties, errands, a list that threatens to engulf her whole weekend, her whole life.
And standing in the sun, she remembers carnival past, not this, this carnival light, part of a citys’ celebration of summer, but something darker, more dangerous, carnival back in the day.

1980s and all the thin white girls are dizzy with the excitement of living in the ghetto, living on the edge, not seeing that it’s not a ghetto if you can check out any time you want and carnival is when the ghetto gets out, struts its’ stuff, turns the streets a darker shade of pale.

The thin white girls have chosen outfits, put together a look with care, walked past the hairdressers, windows steaming while hair is pressed and straightened and beaded and wrapped into impossible perfection and every year, the thin white girls pause and wonder if this time they are brave enough to push the door, enter this place of other women and every year, decide that they are not.

And the woman, now, standing, toe tapping in an understated way remembers other carnivals, other days.

Pre parties, post parties, in clubs with toilets so hostile that the thin white girls went in groups, all the better to ward off the fish eyes, the teeth kissing, the sly elbow when lipstick was re-applied. Punishment for crimes they didn’t then recognise.

And on carnival day itself, always on a float, hips gyrating to that white noise, the un-music when 3 sound systems clash, collide, create something new and the thin white girls stare out at the crowds, when simply being here is a statement of something.
White girls dancing to the black boys’ beat

The procession is always late, joyously, unashamedly, late, running on island time and the thin white girls try not the check their watches, try not to be uptight and the floats scoop up small children, dance troop members who have run out of steam, clutching cans of mango rubicon. Plimsoled feet banging against the sides of rented trucks.
And at the side, those other white girls, hair pulled back so tight, their faces seem frozen until they look down at the newest baby in the latest buggy and something melts.
Those sleeping babies, be-ribboned, hair plaited, corn rowed, just so, perfect.
And at the park, these girls, these other white girls, walk tall, own the space, 20 silk cut and a can of red stripe a barrier against those sideways glances, those sucked in cheeks.

The thin white girls are listening to Aba Shanti, base so deep the ground vibrates and every bone in their boney bodies hums and sitting still is not an option.

Other memories;

The belated realization that the neighbors’ goat is not a pet, but is destined for its’ own starring role at carnival, cooked slowly, curried in a pot so huge it can only have escaped from a fairy tale and the local dogs, nascent street pack, hang around, waiting for inevitable spillage from inadequate paper plates.

The sudden entrepreneurship of men who seem to have spent the year nailed to the bookies windows, black bins swilled, filled with ice and cans of beer and those tiny bottles of sweet white wine, something for the ladies.

The white boy, head bent over decks, trainee dredlocks bouncing to the beat and he goes to change the tune, but the crowd is having none of it.
Re-wind DJ, Rewind, so he does and the thin white girls are dancing on ankles so fragile that they must snap at any moment.

Jump around
Jump up Jump up and get down.

And Sunday morning, when the whole world seems to be lieing in and the thin white girls are in bed, somebody’s bed and the only sounds are whistles still being blown by children who went to bed wearing them.

The Present

The woman, shoulders her bag, check her watch, moves off and as she walks, her hips just move to the rythmn of the final sound system, for just a step or two.

And later, in her garden, in that lull,post shopping, pre dinner, she notices that the clematis needs attention, but instead unearths a long forgotten CD, Chakademus and Pliers and plays it as loudly as is seemly in her quiet neighborhood.

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About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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