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Monday, February 28, 2005

carnival time

. Posted by Hello


This weekend, carnival came to Granny and Beloved's home town.

No, this is not Granny in disguise. It was blowing a gale on Saturday. Granny and Beloved decided that standing by the side of the road watching children shiver in glittering underwear and citizens of the third age (see above) cavorting in drag or out, or was not for them. They have been there, seen that, in warmer years. They contented themselves with the drumbeats and music from the tannoy echoing down from the hill. (The pictures were taken by the visiting clever doctor at the first manifestation taking place in the main town of the island, 3 weeks ago., when it poured with rain. Granny and Beloved declined the pleasure that time too.)

However Granny likes the idea of it. Very much. She likes it that life here is one long round of fiestas and parades, a whole year spelt out in mostly non-commercialised ritual (give or take the fancy dress costumes on sale all over the island at this time of year.) It reminds her of the village of her own childhood - there, the equivalent of the carnival was something called the Westerham gala (pronounced to rhyme with sailor) which took place on Whit Monday - often in the rain - where similar local worthies were to be seen cavorting in drag, dressed as cannibals, or pirates, on floats made from trucks provided by the local brewery - who also provided all the beer -it was a merry occasion. Granny never rode on a float, but she did win first prize one year in the children's fancy dress competition dressed as Tweedledum alongside her twin sister dressed as Tweedledee; their striped jerseys and short pants stuffed with cushions; their cheeks - rather lumpy looking - with mint imperials. (Dough was the original idea; but it tasted too disgusting.)

All the years thereafter at boarding-school which did not recognise Bank Holidays, Granny missed this jollity. Something she deeply resented.

The Gala may still exist for all she knows. But nothing much else does about that village. The village people have been pushed out of the cottages around the Green by richer commuters. The village shops have been unmanned by out-of-town supermarkets and replaced by antique shops and the odd wine-bar. The seasonal arrival of new potatoes and peas and strawberries in early summer, raspberries later, and so on, doesn't figure any more; these things are flown in all the year round from Africa, the Canaries, wherever. If Granny was a child there still she doubt if her Saturday morning would consist of trotting round the International Stores - the cheap grocer's shop patronised by her mother, who scorned the more expensive upmarket one over the road, used by the middle-classes - Evenden's the ironmonger, the butcher, the greengrocer; ending with her Dad's half-pint of beer and her half-pint of fizzy lemonade - shandy when she got older - in the George and Dragon.

Oh God, she thinks; look at the old codger blethering on about the good old days. The fifties were an appalling time to grow up in as a matter of fact; fancy a perm like Doris Day's anyone? Fancy forcing yourself into a roll-on and nylon stockings aged fifteen? Fancy the awful music - you could pick a chicken with Eve Boswell, catch a falling star with Perry Como, put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon with God knows who. No thanks.

But the ritual was good. And the localness; which still exists here, where Granny is living now. There are very few incomers, the inhabitants are long-standing, the shops useful - a supermarket OK, but also two bakers, a greengrocer and a ferreteria - no trotting off to B&Q here; buy it all on your doorstep. (The disappearance of local ironmakers is one of the trials of English life in Granny's view.) Oh and the vegetables you buy are mostly local - if not from this island, from another Canary island at the very furthest from Spain. Granny does confess to buying Granny Smith's from Chile - the only decent apple available here for making baked apples. But she doesn't miss snow peas from Zambia, green beans from Zimbabwe, all the year round. Though she has to admit that sticking to seasonal and local produce here is easier in this climate - where she can buy strawberries any time with a clear conscience; they're in season almost any time.

Ritual who needs it? Everyone probably; but particularly children to make sense of a chaotic world. And maybe too those growing old, ever more fraught by the relentlessness of time; each day folding itself inevitably into the little sleep that mimicks all too efficiently the fast approaching big one. There are times that Granny feels all she ever does is haul herself out of bed - or climb back into it. Though there are worse things than climbing into bed with Beloved; and worse things than sleep - not sleeping for example. (After yet another night of heavy rain, waking with a jump, leaping out of bed to move it yet again out of the deluge, not being able to get back to sleep thereafter has become a ritual in itself. Not one Granny welcomes.

Making marmalade in late January when the Seville oranges arrive - now that is something else. That contains time nicely. Hold your horses. Lock yourself into the ritual of the moment. Wow.



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6 Old comments:

Blogger Deirdre said...

Hey! Perry Como had a great voice. Doris Day too, for that matter. I love those crooners.

I agree with you about the rituals, though, and you've said it well: hold your horses; contain time. They're a way to focus your attention in the moment, but acknowledging everything that comes before, and nodding to everything that will come later: we're part of a continuum. I never thought I'd say this, but time flies... It actually does! And most of the time we're looking away - well, I have been.

7:07 am  
Blogger granny p said...

Maybe it's sometimes easier to focus in rural places? Doing physical work? I get that sense from reading your descriptions of such things. Eg, cleaning the trough. On the other hand - any writer experiences this - at times it seems you only really experience it properly when you write it down. All experience in that sense is second hand. Unless you're a 'mindful' Buddhist that is. Buddhism has it right there. How else can you hang onto/truly experience anything? But who succeeds in being mindful as that? Not me.

2:21 pm  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Interesting. Are you experiencing it when you write it down, or just making sense of it? I was thinking about this today. We try to put our lives in context, to explain ourselves in stories, but maybe explanations are just a form of language invented by humans to shield ourselves from the fact that, outside our cultures and rules and creations, nothing actually "makes sense". Do you know what I mean? What if "making sense" is just a human construction? Maybe if there were no humans, "time" might not exist, and being at the heart of most explanations (those involving intention>consequence, and start>finish, and one thing led to another, etc.) nothing would "make sense". I suppose what I'm really wondering is, is sense made rather than uncovered?

11:45 am  
Blogger granny p said...

I'll think about this. And get back

11:57 am  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Sure, sure... :)
I suspect you'll have better things to do, and I was just ruminating anyway.

11:47 am  
Blogger granny p said...

No: I want to think about this. I think yes, sense is made by us. The world is so large and terrifying we have to order it somehow - hence myths of origins, gods, all the makings humans have always used to explain and order things, themeselves not least. But I think these same makings can uncover things too: some kinds of truths, realities, whether philosophical, emotional, psychological, scientific, historical. It depends on the quality of the thinking - and imagination - and to some extend on the knowledge available. (Though it feels odd and wonderful to me how many creation myths pre-figured what has been discovered to be true since - by eg, particle physics. Beloved, my resident scientist, says this is mere chance. But I´m not sure I believe him - or want to anyway.

12:36 pm  

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