About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Landor Road barber-shop saga pt 3: Great news - Andy's back! Not such great news - it's only for three months…he says

So, cycling down Landor Road on the way to Brixton, going that way round specifically to see what the latest developments are with my one and only favourite barbers, Andy's, I get a pleasant surprise.

Sure enough, the old shop is now completely transformed. It's called Sapphires, and it's going to be a beauty parlour, basically -  facials, wakings, nails, massage, etc, etc. They've built a counter facing the door, and there are marble look tiles all over the walls and smart new smoked-glass mirrors.

All of which I hardly notice as the guy sitting on the chair nearest the window is none other than Andy.

I cycle past, then do a double take. A u-turn to double-check. It is Andy, he's on the phone. I assume he's there just to give some advice or whatever to the new tenants. I decide to stick my head round the door to wish him well.

I do this and he says, "Hi, come on in. I can do you now!"

Before I know it I'm in the chair and the clippers are buzzing through my six-week haystack of greying hair.

So, he's back from a cruise around the Med. He's got an arrangement with the girls running the new nail bar-cum massage parlour. He can keep on barbering here until he really, finally retires - in January. Well we've heard that one before, but something tells me this time he's really serious.  He's booking a container to take furniture and the Merc back to Cyprus.

Clumps of my hair fall onto the grey marble look tiles. Andy's kit of clippers, scissors, etc is perched rather precariously on a small washbasin. There are massive mirrors. It's all a bit surreal. But he works away, I feel that huge sense of liberation I get every time I have a good haircut.

After a while another of his old customers looks in. Word is getting round, after all the confusion, Andy's note on the window about being back in September turns out to have been true. A bit later than advertised.

We can all breathe again, just for a while. Andy says he hopes that they'll bring in another barber to continue the service even after he's gone.

Well, all we can do is wait, and see.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Mud, grass, more mud: a storm in Clapham Common's dirty SW4 festival teacup

Oh, think of the joys of dancing to Fat Boy Slim or whoever in all this glorious mud….just another pic of
Clapham Common post-South West Four festival 2015

As usual,  complaints about the impact on Clapham Common of the annual and increasingly popular dance music festival, South West Four, have been coming in thick and fast, with the Friends of Clapham Common making their annual protest along with the Open Spaces Society.

For the second year running the massive pills, balloons and pilsner fest coincided with August bank holiday torrential downpours. As a result, a month later, the common still bears the scars of this two-day event, attended by thousands buyers of what strike me as very pricey tickets for dancing to a bunch of ageing djs with an admittedly very big hi-fi system and lots of mud.

Not unusually I am in two minds about the whole goddam quagmire fiasco.

Yeah, right - remember this you oiks!
I usually like the idea of this Common - which , let's face it, is a pretty unlovely patch of NOrth Surrey sediment - being used for music events, however big. While I'm personally not that much into electronic dance music, and do not have much love all its millionaire club DJ superstars, and its crowds of screeching 18-25 year olds with their tangerine-tan legs and their floral wellies,  well, it's all too young for me obviously, much but then, it is a well established event. And grass does grow back. And the fireworks at the end were nice.

I'd be a filthy hypocrite to condemn this lot. I couldn't believe my luck when within a few months of moving into this area I got to see the best and most beautiful soul-jazz singer of recent times - Sade - at a huge free Anti-Apartheid concert on the Common.

This event, in June 1986,  was huge, and yet surprisingly little remembered. Apart from Sade, we had the ubiquitous (then and now) Billy Bragg, but so far as I remember there were also appearances by Culture Club and the late Gil Scott Heron…but maybe I am misremembering. There were so many of these events in those days of GLC vs Thatcher.

Later on there was a series of smaller GLC-sponsored gigs at the bandstand, where I was lucky enough to see  Dr John and Desmond Dekker amongst others (I have the photos to prove this!) I also have hazy memories of a big reggae event which I think was called London Sunsplash after the Jamaican events, as well as a good crusty thrash-fest with people such as Transglobal Underground. All, needless to say, were free.

Then in the mid to late 80s we had annual visits from the hardcore French circus troupe, Archaos. One of my many abiding regrets is that, in all those weeks of rushing to and from work, across the Common, back again, passing each time all these wonderful Archaos people, their massive tent-arena, their lights and sounds and their outlandish vehicles (I remember a big old Citroen covered in a sort of thick plaster crust of shellfish…but maybe I was just drunk that day)…hesitating, breathing it all in, and then off I went, back to my domestic joy.

Many if not all of these events elicited hostile responses from the Clapham Society and the FOCC, and so I developed a dislike for them. It seemed they were a bunch of privileged residents, probably living in those gorgeous houses lining the north and west sides of the Common, of a certain age and class, and perhaps they did not like their rus-in-urbe bliss being smashed into by all these smelly left-wing oiks…and indeed they still don't.

Another delightful aspect of those days were the summer Sunday Latin American football fiestas on the  cinder-dirt pitches up by the South Circular. Even if, like me , you didn't care much about football, you would be drawn to walk along those paths near these pitches, where the open-air feasts were getting going, the smoke of the barbecues and the improvised grills, the drumming, big family groups seeming to follow a deeply compulsive choreography, the Latino or Brazilian or Cuban or whatever music was thumping  out of various ghetto blasters, people seemed so happy, whoever was winning!

These people have long since shifted across to the new Burgess Park in SE1, so much closer to the heart of their community. Now the Common is infested by (sort of) poor rich kids from the SW London commuter belt. Ok, plenty of them continue the fine traditions of Sunday afternoon soccer.

But these days, every day, they are outnumbered by the fashionable runners  (jogging seems to have gone well out - "I do not jog, I run!" ). Then there are the big, sad groups of post-work or Saturday morning fitness-seekers, they are being shouted at by some fat ex-squaddie bastard charging £30 an hour to bully them out of their cellulite. Sometimes all you can see is a sea of rippling dayglo lycra. Bottoms up, dears.

I can't say I like Clapham Common as an open space. As one lifelong local told me, it is without doubt one of the filthiest places in the UK.  I think that's inevitable: here it is, open and unguarded,  24 hours a day, surrounded by …well, all of south London's residential streets. People do things here, they dump things here. In the warm months they more or less live here. It's dull, but it is a real common.

If it can remain truly common I will continue to love it for that virtue. It must be a place where anyone can do whatever they want, more or less within the law….OK, less.

So there it is. The first memory I have of the Common is on school trips to the West End, for theatre or museums or whatever. Crossing the Common on the A24 was a sign of leaving suburbia and entering the city. If that's still the case, who knows…this filthy old bit of mud and grass and litter and stunted or tortured trees, and dog-shit, and stagnant water,  is still as common as the muck it is made of , and  that much the better for it.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Note to self: try not to get distracted by Christopher Wren next time

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich - the western wing of Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor's
masterpiece. A rather non-suburban setting for a festival of London's outer suburbs.
Like I said, one of the highlights of Saturday's Doughnut:The festival of Outer London was to have been Will Self "in conversation with" Hanif Kureshi.

The Buddha of south London suburbia meets the Bard of Stockwell - it was surely an unmissable event. And I went and missed it.

Actually got to Greenwich just too late to catch the earlier debate involving Patrick Wright, which should also have been a corker. But Self & Kureshi weren't on til 5pm so I  thought I'd come back later and see how things were going.

I decided to kill time by revisiting the Old Royal Naval College itself…..well, when I say revisiting I mean, I have always just walked past it on the way  to the Maritime Museum or the park and observatory up the hill.

This time, in the pearlescent light of a leaden August Saturday, Wren's stonework was impossibly, voluptuously, ravishing. I walked around all of the arches and colonnades, each time seeing another vista, and other set of extraordinary perspectives, of framings of unlikely things, such as Canary Wharf or a pulled-pork vendor's van.

This reminds me -- who can tell me, as a vegetarian, exactly what is this pulled pork? It sounds horribly like a teenage-boy euphemism for masturbation.

But it can't be - everywhere you go now they want you to buy some pulled meat product. Pulled by whom, from where to where? And for how long? And why would I want to eat it?

Anyway….Wren detained me. I found myself in the Painted Hall, basically a huge dining room with a painted ceiling about the size of tennis court. Apparently the artist, Sir James Thornhill,  was paid £3 a square yard for this, but only £1 a square yard for the easier bits on the walls. As the totally pained area is about 40,000 sq feet, or 4444 square yards, he ended up  earning more per year over 19 years than I do now, four hundred years and several thousand points of inflation later.

Which is why, when I got back to the Doughnut Festival and realised….that the talks were not…in fact…free…and I was already glutted with all that Wren stuff, and had tried to work out which colour pin I should stick in a map to explain exactly where on Ranmore Common I would choose to bivouac down for a while if I was on the run from H G Wells……

Well, you know, shameful as it is is to admit, I was tired, I had glimpsed the inviting domes of the foot tunnel, that was an experience I needed and it needed it then and there and before you could say claustrophobia I was in Island Gardens, and heading for the DLR.

The DLR you know is the best and cheapest funfair or them park big dipper ride in all th world.
Take the front seats (so long as the "Transit Agent "isn't around to dislodge you) and tighten your seat belts for a white-knuckle ride through 2000 years of economic, social, political, medical, and architectural history, with a lovely plunge into a ghostly tunnel right at the end.

So I checked the tweets when I got back and realised I had indeed missed a corker of a conversation. I feel stupid and guilty and this feeble posting is my confessional. I'm especially sad I missed the bit where Self characterised the outer suburbs as "the spatialisation of patriarchy".

This phrase is both deliciously Selfian - in that it is both wonderfully pretentious but also true. I immediately am cast back…to the age of what, four or five? It's probably a false memory, but it involves walking with my sister or my friends or both down to the nearest railway station each evening at about 6.30

pm and standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the platforms, waiting for our fathers to come back from their days in the City. When they appeared, one by one, there would be cries of "Daddy! daddy!"

Oh yes. Except of course on those days when your daddy was working late or taking one of his girlfriends to the opera or whatever.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Note to Self: yeah, Croydon is extremely strange, quite sexy, and oddly beautiful

Croydon, south London's Alphaville, former city of the future, reflected in the windows of Croydon Art and Technology College in about 1970. And now it's about to happen all over again….
Lovely to read that the Stockwell bard, Will Self, has discovered the suburbs of my youth.

According to an article in  the Evening Standard, Mr Self is encouraging Londoners to re-connect with the outer suburbs, in his latest role as a patron of something called Doughnut: The Outer London Festival, which takes place at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on Saturday 5 September.

Of course Greenwich is almost as far from central London as Croydon, and yet standing on the hill there surveying the grandeur of its naval past and the  flashy excesses of  Canary Wharf etc across the water, you feel you are right in one of the ventricles of London's dirty old heart.

It's great to hear that Mr Self has discovered the pleasures of  Croydon and the verdant hills of the North Downs beyond. I am also thrilled that he believes outer suburbs such as these "heave and pullulate with sexiness".

I was brought up in an area of South Croydon, known as Purley Oaks. Oddly enough the only wooded area near us was called Purley Beeches. But the trees were real and beautiful, and within a 30 minute walk from our house were the open hills of Riddlesdown and  Kenley, or the thick woods of Shirley and Croham Hurst.

I think these were all useful locations for necessarily alfresco sex, but I cannot produce any evidence for my belief. Or nothing that I am prepared to share here.

In the mid-60s, we young teenagers did not appreciate the fact that we lived in a golden age. We certainly did not appreciate the fact that our neighbourhood gave us easy access, both to the fleshpots of central London, and the healing hills and open country of the Surrey-Kent borders, the downs and the weald.

But we used these amenities very well, and generally enjoyed them without thought, until….well, I was only about 14 when I became aware that my area bore a deep social stigma, that persists to this day.

Even in 1968, Croydon had a poor reputation. It was still in the throes of a complete change of image, from rather stuffy north Surrey commuter town to a new London Borough. Many on the new council dreamt of Croydon playing leading part in Tony Benn's white-hot technology revolution. It would be modern, mod, and even a wee bit swinging, hanging on to swinging coat-tails of London. It started to build what it hoped would be the hottest example of a modern commercial centre.

Buildings we then though of as skyscrpaers went up: the 22-storey Nestlé building seemed ridiculously tall and glamorous.

A big swathe of the Victorian town centre was bulldozed to make way for a four-lane underpass, just like the ones in Leeds or Birmingham. There was a flyover under construction. We would be the motor-city of south London.

And then the cream on the cake - the Fairfield Halls complex, council-owned, better acoustics than most of central London's concert halls, and the site of my musical education. Aged 10 I was taken by my mum to see Duke Ellington at the then-new hall and never fully recovered. I was smitten, hard bitten by his impossibly elegant jazz - here in Croydon, of all places!

Up to our teen years we had unparalleled freedoms. We walked or cycled alone or in gangs around vast areas of north surrey and south London. We took buses and trains, we roamed through bomb sites and ruined buildings, we collected the tail-fins and cartridge cases from 1940s aerial bombardments, we drove beaten-up scoters and mopeds abandoned by our elder brothers on the crumbling runway of recently de-commissioned Croydon airport.

We nicked cigarettes, gin and Cinzano from our parents' drinks canbinets and monopolised their radiograms (or in expectional cases, their hi-fi systems) for our first proper parties.

We had so much freedom - too much, of course there were many casualties - but we also din't have much money, and the things we wanted cost too much.

We were just like kids of 12 to 16 everywhere else in Britain in 1965, 66 and the watershed year for me - 1967.

That year the next lot of new drugs reached the outer suburbs  and it all changed again. We grew our hair long and died our clothes pink and purple. We looked for interesting things to smoke. We started buying the "underground press", mainly Oz and IT (International Times).

I remember reading with shame and anger a snooty review in IT of an Incredible String Band concert at the Fairfield Hall, written by some stoned Ladbroke Grove wit, praising the music but being rather distressed to see "Croydon's lumpy hippies" in the audience.

One of those phrases that gets branded onto one's soul. I like to think of that phrase and then think of Kate Moss, and other less than lumpy products of this borough.

That was the sort of attitude that gave so much force to the 1976 punk movement that burst out of the London suburbs - Croydon and (more famously) neighbouring Bromley producing  many of that first wave. All part of the deep poetry of the outer suburbs that Mr Self recognises.

Punk was our chance to get back at those posh north London kids who'd all got picked to edit the 1969 "Schoolkids' Oz" - what a great career move that was for some of them. Even at the advanced age of 21, many of us took to the teenage punk scene with too much enthusiam, hoping no-one in the crowd at the Greyhound recognised us as the poltroons who were wearing loon pants and tie dies a year earlier.

That was Croydon, then. It might have been Barnet or Basildon or Headingley or any other small town on the edge of big city, a dormitory area for what in those days were called the lower middle classes, with pockets of working class (the council estates) and the occasional wealthier types (but they tended to live in bigger houses out in Shirley).

Yes, I can see why he finds it strange. All those lives being lived without any reference to the edicts of the metropolitan elite, yet only a 20 minute train ride away from them. All that suburban business - the vice, the good works, the charities, the hobbies, the religions.

Is it really going to be sexy again? Even in the 60s its supposed sexiness was soon seen through. Someone likened it to Canberra, Australia's apparently deadly dull capital.

Still, if Will Self says so, I'm not going to argue. I like his novels,  but I love his journalism, his wonderfully lugubrious commentary on the world - he's splendidly multi-faceted. In one facet you might see a dark echo of JG Ballard, in another a bit of Howard Jacobson, a glint of Iain Sinclair over there...and then the one I really appreciate most, where he seems to channel the wry side of Clive James….. oh how we need that sort of intelligence in our media.

There's a slot on Radio 4 after Any Questions, with a rotating cast of opinionated voices. Clive James did it for a while, and he was always the best by miles. I tune in, waiting nervously to hear who's on tonight. If it's WIll Self I cheer, inwardly at least, and drop everything to listen. If it's any of the others, I  groan and go to another station.

So I'm going to go to Greenwich tomorrow and hope to find out exactly why he has such a high opinion of the suburbs of my youth.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Cameron's dismal stance on refugees will hang around his neck just as Iraq hangs around Blair's

This is by no stretch of the imagination a party political blog but it has become impossible not to say something about the British government's disgraceful response to the refugee crisis.

Several months ago the UK prime minister - someone called Cameron - refused to accept any more asylum seekers, even while  humans were drowning in their thousands off the shores of Lampedusa and Lesbos.

Oh, well, the British navy would send a vessel, it would help in plucking these people out of the sea - but not a single one of them would find any welcome in this island paradise of the filthy rich, Britain.

In the space of three months Cameron has destroyed  Britain's reputation as a fair, tolerant and welcoming country. And now he's willing to pay for some stronger and sharper fencing around the Channel Tunnel entrance at Calais.

This pathetic little play to the UKIP gallery is worse than sickening. The whole country is being dragged down again, having only recently reached a point where it seemed we could claim two cheers for our love of diversity….

One of the few strengths we had left, after everything else had gone, was our talent for accepting and embracing and, yes, exploiting and assimilating, wave after wave after wave of immigration, of asylum seekers as well as "economic migrants".

Hard to say what game this man and his friends are employing - given that their precarious hold on power depends so much on an economy entirely propped up on the foreign money flooding into the City of London.

It's an emotional argument as well as a political one. Cameron is trying to play to the stalls of his electorate - the tory working class - as well as keeping his urban sophisticate supporters happy. He can't do both.

If like Germany he changes tack, and begins to welcome these desperate people from wars he himself has a part in starting, then he might salvage something of a fast dissolving reputation.

The stench of rotting reputations in Whitehall is overpowering these days. The whole of London is sinking under this cloud of repulsive, deathly vapour. It mingles with the stench of corrupt lucre drifting up the Thames from Canary Wharf…a truly toxic smog.

A rotting corpse of a nation, nosegays will not suffice, we will need industrial strength gas masks.

The British Isles, Great Britian, they used to call it that - the great nation of murderers, the nation that never stops washing the blood off its hands. The nation of Lady Maggie Macbeth Thatcher, and her bastard children, Tony and Dave. And the changeling, Farage.

How ghastly to think of these new faces in Hell - Blair, he's already there and he knows it. You can see that, his eyes are the eyes of a damned soul.

Cameron was maybe there all along - hard to tell under the glaze, the layers of expensive suntan, the chilltastic clothing, that smirk….yes, he was always there. Picking the nits pout of Maggie's frizzed up hairdo.

Farage hopping around like a little Bosch devil, his little red-hot fag buggering them for eternity, his cackle. Love the vision. The reality 's less happy.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

One banner says it all: a few more photos from Carnival 2015

A message well made - Great Western Road, Notting Hill Carnival 2015

Rammed as ever - the mighty Channel One sound system with Mikey Dread on the controls

More of the Trojans on Gaz's Rockin Blues, Talbit Road. That's Gaz far right - but who is the mystery guest star, a Japanese ska and reggae musician who plays sax like she was born in Trenchtown…?

Jouvert masqueraders show off their colours…

Getting the last sweet drops out of Carnival 2015: dusk falls on Westbourne Grove

Add caption

In the crowd 

The best of times, and the best of times: Notting Hill Carnival 2015

Noon Sunday 29 August, some lone skanking on Ledbury Road before the crowds build. Although things got rammed later, it was still one of the least-uncomfortably-packed Carnivals  in decades, or so it seemed.

Here's a surprise - an unremittingly and relentlessly cheerful post from this blogger. Obviously and inevitably, it's about the Notting Hill Carnival - the 49th edition of which ended this evening around 9pm (well, that was when I left).

Although the weather ranged from grim to vile, this was still one of the most enjoyable carnivals I can remember. Maybe this was partly because the numbers were reduced by the bad weather. It becomes difficult to enjoy anything when it seems the air is being squeezed out of your lungs by the bodies of fellow revellers.

But the great thing about Carnival 2015 was a shift back to classic roots music and plenty of great live performance. Whether or not it was "Europe's biggest street party" (and oh how heartily sick we all are of hearing this particular clichĂ© being about the only thing mainstream media have to say about the event for the past 20 years, apart from the arrest figures) is beside the point. The thing for Carnival lovers is that this is the one chance in a year to really forget troubles, to find complete release in music and dance on the streets of this  totally bonkers city, where every square foot is now up for sale for thousands of dollars. This event is the biggest and most reliable expressions of sanity in a mad city, and that's the truth of it.

Lovers of old school Jamaican roots reggae and dub are still lamenting the loss of Jah Observer's sound system on Ledbury Road. This year though, the replacement - Solution Sound System - was making a very good bash at filling that chasm-sized gap.

There was another rootsy system further up the street, just before you got to Channel One, which has  almost become a victim of its own success. Even with the smaller crowds overall this year, the Leamington Villas system was uncomfortably rammed for most of the two days. Mind you, Rampage was always like that - that, it seems, is how the youth like it.

It was good to see Gladdy Wax still going strong on Portobello, as well as the Afro-Cuban system a little further up. And the knee-deep roots dub scholar's choice, Abu Ashanti-I, up at the northern tip of the carnival was bringing great joy to assorted old rastafarians, Euro-dreads with stringy locks,  W11 trustafarians and old buffers and puffers (self included) alike.

A real highlight this year was a package of lovely surprises on the balcony stage of the always astonishing Gaz's Rockin Blues on Talbot Road.

Drummers on the world music stage, Powis Square Gardens

I've always loved Gaz's set-up with its various themes, desert isles with bits of shipwrecks or crashed air places, palm fringed rumshacks, blues party shabeens, pirate lairs etc etc….and always great rhythmy- bluesy-bluebeaty-rare-groovy-afro-celtic-skatalite sounds, everything thrown into the mix.

This year there were real treats here which more than compensated for the crowds of W11 party kids who tend to congregate here with their cocktails and their pushed-up designer sunglasses. First time I went past a band was stirring up the crowd with a convincing rendition of Legalise It. Turned out the little singer, all in black, was Peter Tosh's nephew.

Such a brilliant band, the Trojans. A bit later, passing again, it's your actual Max Romeo donning his iron shirt and chasing the devil out of town. All this to that  little bit of street - your own personal reggae heritage concert, if you happen to be living in one of the flats opposite.

The crowds here were daunting at times, but very close by, Powis Square Gardens had its own mini-festival of world music with loads of space to sit or dance, always the oasis.

Legalise It! A junior member of the Tosh family with the
Trojans at Gaz's Rocking Blues
It was not far from here, early on day one, there were suddenly people running with iPhones held high:  Jeremy Corbyn was passing through on some sort of official walkabout with Carnival elders. He looked like he'd just popped out of an intense political meeting, tired and drawn.

Jouvert, pigment and chocolate

The revellers and masqueraders who had got up early enough to take part in the opening J'ouvert ceremony are an increasingly conspicuous element of day one, which is usually referred to as Children's Day.

It is  the day when kids strut their stuff behind the floats, but it's also when adults throw powered pigment at each other, along with a bit of liquid chocolate if you're lucky. Hence the sight of people covered head to toe in dye, or sticky with chocolate, or both. I thought I'd missed them this year, until I came across a whole tribe of masqueraders, covered in colour.

Just look at this guy…

Notting Hill Carnival, Jouvert, red paint, 2015, photo : Bill Hicks

…and then see what happens when he meets some friends….I hope they are still friends….

Notting Hill Carnival, Jouvert, red paint, 2015, photo : Bill Hicks

 …and here, waiting a few yards on, are Mr Green and Mr Yellow, just waiting to coat you…..
Notting Hill Carnival 2015. Photo: Bill Hicks

and then, if you think you have escaped, hiding somewhere there must be Mr Blue….

Notting Hill Carnival 2015. Photo: Bill Hicks
 End of Carnival

At the end of the second day, another revelation and new favourite - the Fun Bunch sound system. So, it's what sort of music? House you say?

No. Well yeah, but for the last hour of this year's carnival they were blasting out some great old school hip-hop and rap, and really got the crowd three or four feet off the ground and rising.

It was a sweet crowd, and many sweet things happened. Right at the end, the sweetest thing  - a guy in the ground floor flat right behind the system, whose weekend must have been very noisy indeed, was dancing happily on his own behind the window. Suddenly everyone was pointing at him and cheering. He responded by dancing more vigorously,  and the crowd went wild, whistles, horns, the lot, and he seemed to love it. A beautiful little ending to that part of the day for many of us.
Happy dancing resident of Talbot Road, last minutes of Carnival 2015
at Fun Bunch sound system

Except, it's not the end. Yeah, they cut-off sound system power at 7pm, but someone always manages to squeeze in one more track. And then, all those floats nose-to-tailing right the way up Chepstow Road have to get back to Ladbroke Grove, and these days they are as loud as any sound system, with their own power!

They inch forward, the music cranks up again, their masqueraders (who never stop moving their feet) step up and up, jumping up, spinning, with  their acquired followers, like pilot fish on a whale,  hanging on to their tails.

So, up to 9pm and later, there's a queue of massive lorries with scarily high-tech sound systems, blasting out hard music almost like a weapon of dance, the DJs swinging around on the poles and railings on the top deck, shouting out instructions to their crews and greetings to the crowd, and another great wave of exhausted, beautiful dancers, dancing farewell to summer, dancing like there'll never be another summer, just wanting to keep it all going another minute, another song. It's almost painfully beautiful. Carnival at its best, after dark on Westbourne Grove as the floats stack up and the cops begin to move in. It's never the last dance!

On the 452 bus home, I sat  behind two young women who had both been at the Carnival. The first, a Hungarian, had enjoyed it but had also been disappointed by how managed it all was, how corporate. She thought there would be more spontaneous performance, more individual, amateur contribution.

The second, an American, also had little good to say about the event: she had been shocked by how much violence she had witnessed, fights around sound systems, boys kicking each other and throwing drinks around, cops plunging in to make arrests.

I felt moved to intervene. But I did not. I just sat there, thinking, yes, there's  too much corporate involvement now, the floats and the song systems are all sponsored, licensed, and yet - there is still room for a bit of private enterprise, whether the young couple with a soul sound system outside their flat in Ledbury Road or all this epeople flogging tins of drink from their front room windows. Or letting out their loos at a pound a pee.

No, no  intervention. The odd thing about this London Carnival is that it is so easy to understand why it is the best possible thing for some people and the worst possible thing for others.

Close friends, impassioned lovers, can so easily be torn asunder by their views on this event. It makes no sense really - what could there be to like about wandering around a former slum quarter of west London, now largely occupied by a particularly ostentatious breed of the super-rich, in filthy weather, with head-splitting noise emanating from huge sound systems, static and mobile, every few yards? Being pushed and shoved and getting into almost insanely dangerous crowd conditions? Tripping over bottles and splashing though pools of urine, vomit and worse?

And all of this in driving rain?

And not being able to escape quickly because the cops shout the road, and the tube's closed?

I'm not just a lover of Carnival, I am an addict. I have to get my fix of it. Once a year, two full days. Back against a bass stack in Ledbury Road, my vital organs being bounced out of their normal locations by absurdly heavy baselines.

Knowing how stupid I look trying to dance, when some of the most beautiful dancers in the country are dancing nearby, not caring, and even getting some positive feedback. The thing here is that you do have to dance: the resistance, so strong, so understandable, has to be jettisoned. In my case it can take a whole day of carnival, three or four tins of Red Stripe, a great deal of passive smoking to get to that point where I can't help it, I have to dance.

Once that happens, you will be on the open road to becoming a carnival lover.

Following the floats - it was all steel pan the old days, Trinidadian, calypsonian, St Kitts and Nevis, quaint and sort of Commonwealth. Then came soca and it all changed, Hot Hot Hot, the real hard sounds of Caribbean Carnival blast the soot off the wall of the crumbling stucco terraces of Ladbroke Grove and Chepstow Road,  this music much dirtier than grime, beautiful rough filthy dirty music that cleanses the soul.

I bore my daughter and her friends to death with talk of how Carnival was in the 70s - how Aswad used to play here and Burning Spear played there, and that's where I saw Neneh Cherry in her Rip, Rig and Panic days.  I hope they'll bore their kids to death with tales of Carnival from the 2010s….how they just wouldn't believe how crazy it used to be.  And I hope their kids say back to them, "Well, it's just as crazy now, just a lot bigger and louder, but just as crazy….if only you knew".

Please god.

Jeremy Corbyn visits Notting Hill Carnival, 29 August 2015  Photo: Bill Hicks
Have to report that not even the Notting Hill Carnival can claim to be a Jeremy-free zone. It was nice to see him but wish he looked happier.