A perfect large half moon is
rising over the rooves of Ladbroke Grove. It is a warm English late summer
night. I sit precariously perched on the
window ledge of my top floor flat, a glass of white wine in my hand, watching the last revellers ploughing their
way through today’s debris on unsteady legs.
The music systems which have been
belting out reggae and soca all day have been silenced. But somewhere a private
party is in full swing and suddenly a voice makes a surprise appearance to
greet us: Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and ‘Don’t you Want Somebody to
Love?’ is filling up the enchanted air.
For the first time in 8 years
I have been in London for the Notting Hill Carnival. I have my own flat back for a
month before going back to Mali. Much has to be accomplished in this month:
work for MaliMali; the library project and the flat needs to be refurbished
before I let it again as I leave.
But today I just enjoyed the
Carnival- I always go to a place on Talbot Road called ‘Baz’s Rockin’ Blues’.
They have the best music and there is really no need to go anywhere else. They
play ska, rock steady, and have live blues/jazz. I was so happy it still existed after 8 years- the same faces,
the same fun! Some old faithfuls greeted me as if last time had been yesterday.
Baz himself, (who, it is rumoured, is the son of the great John Mayall), kissed me and welcomed me back, resplendent in silver sequin suit and his accustomed fedora . When I arrived clutching my coffee and croissant it was still early and they
had not officially started (see above)- they were playing something Malian- I
recognized that it was Bambara. In fact they were playing Bassekou Kouyate!
But always, after spending the
day at Talbot Road, I end up at my top flat window looking at the last floats
going by on Ladbroke Grove. This is the conventional carnival experience, all
feathers and glittering headgear with the throng of the multitudes around and
the thump thump of the soca from the sound systems. But now even those floats are gone.
My neighbours opposite are
dangling their legs from their top flat windows too and we wave and toast each
other with our last drinks.
In a couple of hours all
traces of carnival will be miraculously wiped out. Tomorrow morning life resumes here as if
nothing ever happened. But here and now is a dreamy and shimmering moment...
(written last night)