Sunday, 22 August 2010


It's nearly Notting Hill Carnival time again. I haven't been in recent years, and on the occasions when I have gone in the past, I've pretty much avoided the crush of the parade route in favor of some of the peripheral attractions, discovering along the way some old school reggae and dub sound systems with amazing music and a nice atmosphere. One year, however, I did spend some time along the very crowded parade route, and witnessed the following little vignette. I related this anecdote to someone the other day, and they seemed to find it amusing - it certainly amused me at the time, and it was a beautiful example of the little human dramas you can see unfolding around you if you take the time to watch.

I was standing in the crowd along the parade route, and in a lull in the action, I noticed a young couple nearby who were having some sort of disagreement. She was unloading a long stream of something I couldn't hear because of the incredible volume of the music, but it was clearly either a litany of complaints, a torrent of invective, or some combination of the two. He was more or less speechless, occasionally shrugging or holding up his hands in a defensive gesture. Eventually she stopped and turned to face the parade action, ignoring him.

He paused for a moment, and I could see there was something going on behind his eyes. Suddenly he turned, and tip-toed gingerly a few feet away in the sort of exaggerated manner you might expect to see from a masked burglar character in a children's cartoon. When he was ten feet or so away, looking over his shoulder with an expression containing something like a mixture of incredulous satisfaction and residual dread, he smiled when he saw that his absence was still unrecognized, and broke into a trot. By fifty feet away he had melted into the crowd completely, but just as he disappeared, I'm sure I saw him look over his shoulder one last time with a wry smile.

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