Today is the first day of the Notting Hill Carnival. How do I know? I heard some very very loud music earlier – coming from Shepherd’s Bush Green, over there (some revellers were on their way to the most pretentious borough in London). How did I know before 1995? The cutlery in my kitchen drawers used to jingle and my huge sash windows used to rattle. For 11 years I lived in one of the buildings that had the largest sound systems attached to them during the Carnival.
My blood ran cold today when I heard that distant booming music. I hated the Carnival. And so did everyone else around me.
Before I moved into that particular building, in a cul-de-sac, I lived, for five years, in one of those small ice-cream-coloured houses in a side street, not on the main Carnival route. It was loud, but bearable and I had no idea what a nightmare it would become for me later.
Those who had lots of money and/or second residences in the country used to pack a bag and leave for the duration – although the risk of being burgled was very high. Those who, like me, had nowhere else to go felt trapped in our infernal homes, surrounded by unimaginably loud music. It was like living in the middle of discotheque for two whole days.
My cat used to be terrified and refuse to come out from under the duvet. I couldn’t do any work since I couldn’t hear myself think (and August has always been my busiest time). I couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio. All I could do was listen to music I did not want to hear. Once I tried to go out and take part in the fun; I thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” but I couldn’t get back in: the swaying throng outside the gates of my building was so thick. I had to wander around for much longer than I’d intended. I felt threatened, frustrated and angry.
And then, in the early '90s, they started selling whistles and the shrill, ear-piercing noise carried on long after the music stopped. It was even worse than before. It was impossible to sleep at all during that weekend.
Over the years, some residents of Notting Hill Gate have asked the Council to specify definite starting and finishing times for the partying, but it’s impossible to try and impose anything on the organisers because they instantly accuse everyone of racism. It's not even possible to reason with them.
So I’m slapping the Notting Hill Carnival for being a nuisance, and only fun for tourists and people from other areas of London, who don’t have to endure that racket and can walk away when they've had enough of the revelry.