Tuesday, 31 August 2010

But You Must Try...

I'm a carnival sceptic. I go to the Notting Hill carnival only about every ten years. The avoidance is not only because of the prohibitive crowds and transport headaches, but for another reason.

What irks me about carnivals and urban festivals in general, is the fact they're forced upon you. There's a feeling that if you don't already live there (God help you if you're a Notting HIll resident who works shifts, and no, they're not all rich - there's a huge glut of social housing around there too), you're nonetheless expected to attend if you're a London resident. I'm not comfortable with an assumption that I *should* celebrate diversity. I do this in small private ways every day anyway, as I'm sure we all do.

On a more emotional level, I don't have much connection with Notting Hill, other than having gone to some unforgettable record industry type parties in my early twenties. I'm not a resident and nor am I Caribbean, or have this heritage. Why would I go to carnival then? What meaning could I apportion to going to carnival?

Yesterday I did go. Before the drinking started in The Porchester, I wandered around by myself with my camera in semi-earnest, wanting to
document the Caribbean element of the festival (see above picture). What interests me, artistically, is the meaning people bring to celebrations. A carnival is a great unifier, isn't it? Except it isn't. It's a random collation of disparate individuals approaching the situation with different motives.

These motives range from a desire to get drunk, blow whistles and take drugs, to an extreme spectrum of elevating gang warfare. Some want to celebrate achievements in music, dance and food, or some want to show their friends and themselves how cool they are - being in the centre of a cultural whirlwind etc. In short, a sense of unity and belonging is the gloss, but it's never achieved.

Nonetheless, I got into it and I left after dark feeling a bit silly - although not ashamed, for not allowing myself to enjoy something as exciting on my relative doorstep more often.

If you realise everyone feels as fraudulent as you or at least as confused about their role in carnival as you, then you can enjoy yourself - and we certainly did that.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Does Rigsby Have One...?

Technically - strictly speaking - I have a hallway in my palatial domicile.

It's large enough for a coat rack, a shoe rack and even a bookcase, but my lady's chambers does not boast a hallway. I don't keep our telephone sat pertly on a table there, and we don't have what I can only consider purchasing if we did have an entrance displaying a bannister-supported stairway, and that's an umbrella stand.

If I've bought umbrellas in the past, they've been the short, forearm length variety - normally black, and blown-to-buggery in the slightest bluster, and abandoned in a litter bin somewhere. An umbrella stand though would require the golfing-sized model to justify its existence, and let's face it this Gothic Summertime is giving me plenty of time to consider making such a purchase.

The prize umbrella stand is of course the elephant's foot one, but where could one buy one? A cursory glance on the net reveals the main types of affordable stand are the Portland variety (wooden slats) or a wide-topped bamboo one. Perhaps even a modern, silver, cylindrical examole. There are also varieties that are over-the-top in their ornateness. There's too many of them to mention.

While I think of it, there's a parlour game called 'I went to the shop and I bought an elephant's foot umbrella stand' (the idea being - if you don't know - the next person to you has to add another random shopping item to make a list; then the next person contributes something and so on - making sure that each person in the ring remembers all the items on the list). I vaguely remember playing this in school.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Snooker Tournaments.

Snooker without cigarette advertising: well, it's not the same is it?

Do you remember Alex Higgins chain smoking his way from the sidelines in the early 80s - the golden era of snooker? I was hooked on snooker back in the day. I had an older brother who used to host tournaments for the local boys in our garage.

Even for sport-neutral me, it was an exciting time. Ghoulish Ray Reardon - the Welsh hope, Terry Griffiths, Steve 'boring' Davies, and little, squeaky Alex Higgins. My brother and his pals took their tournaments seriously - they used to club together to buy a trophy from the engravers in town. All properly executed, I remember Jason Thomas winning one year. Jason - the year he won, wore a waistcoat and dicky bow for posterity. One polaroid picture shows his chest puffed out, waving the trophy proudly.

The next year a tall boy won. I can't remember his name now, but I recall he died in his teens in a car accident in Ireland.

Ah, of course, these tournaments didn't last forever, and neither did the golden age of snooker. The enthusiasm ripping through the grey, pebble-dashed ex-council houses was directly linked to the fanfare around the players of the time, and when they gradually faded away, then then so did the tournaments - and it was back to the wickets and bats...