|This is the float that got me onto the Italian Trip|
|This is the float I put first in the end|
This is Team UK
|Statue of Liberty was my Man of the Match|
|In da Trump float party tent Friday night|
Frankie and Chris are The New Carnival Company based on the Isle of Wight and instigators of this Splendid Trip.
When they first made this offer I thought I couldn't afford to go; then I realised I couldn't afford not to, so Thursday 23 February I am aboard the East Coast train south with the would-be passengers of several earlier trains. Yes, Doris the Gale is sweeping parts of the UK.
At Peterborough a strikingly handsome homeless man introduces himself through the patchouli, then talks about himself for an ever-increasingly frantic twenty minutes. I learn of his prison sentence, his three children (two lost to the care system), one lost to him, and two step-children now in Portugal. The general unfairness. I thought that listening to him would do him some good. I decided it was encouraging manic despair. Eventually I tell him to pull himself out of his unhappy past, to get into voluntary work and go and talk to lonely pensioners in care homes and generally not to give up on himself or life.
|Depressing reading. The 8.10 is expected at 8.53. Arrives before that!|
The board says the train to Stansted is expected in twenty minutes; the announcement says it is now, this very moment, at Platform 7. The furthest platform from the station café.
Fighting the passengers disgorging themselves along the bridge I reach the steps two metres behind the man with a stick who stops at the sound of the train doors closing, gathers up his shoulders, waves his stick, and, from half way down the steps, orders in one great big roar, "Noaaaa!!!!!! (as Mig says, like Gandalf not letting them pass). Or Moses parting the Red Sea.
The train froze, shocked, obediently stays where it is and the doors reopen. then takes a century getting to Stansted. The free shuttle bus cost three quid. Willingly paid just to get somewhere. Eventually I am sitting in the bar of the Holiday Inn watching Questiontime, liking that Angela [Rayner] is on, fed up of seeing that Carswell is, then suddenly here the chairman of a football club saying if we wanted equality of educational opportunity we should have equal Schools, and no private ones. Yay. I drank to that.
|Having a pint with Angela|
Set the alarm for 6.15 a. bloomin m. Asked the kids to phone me up as well. Three out of five did! Yay. Back on the shuttle, airport, get searched, plane, meet Alison from Nottingham. I have a window seat with a great view of the wing. The couple next to me start snogging then cuddle up entwined and go to sleep.
Meeting Alison is a very happy accident. We become new bestfriends for the duration, and do loads more than we would have done individually.
The couple next to me snuggled up and slept
|We knew we were in the right station|
In the evening Alison and I go eat in the fabulous Library restaurant, where we are joined by Angela. The three of us hit the before-party on the Watefront/Marina. Some rich looking yachts here! Chris and Frankie are with their troupe in a marquee. It rains a lot and the confetti has tuned to pulp on the streets. We catch lots of little bands, and even a pig. Back to the hotel perchance to sleep.
Saturday 25 February. We take the 9.50 number 22 to the Cittadella, home to the vast hangars designed and built for the big Carnival floats. We got up and even onto and inside the D Trump float, but t’was the Tree that now caught my eye. We met Umberto and we met the new Cittadella president.
Frankie and Chris speaking in style
|from the top of Trump [Ban Bang] float|
The UK Party
Inside the Trump Float
|top of the tree|
|me and two heads|
Saturday night on the Waterfront - nice drum-kit trolley!
Saturday night on the Waterfront
Alison sees an ace lamp shadow on a wall. We snap it a bit.
nice n seedy in Lucca
trees and me in Lucca
|ace shadow on wall|
I strike out solo for the Marina again, but now the weather is nice and the streets overwhelming.
Saturday night on the Waterfront
The Original tree
Boats in the harbour
Retreat to the main street, eat a crepe and watch Iuventus hammer some other Italian team while sitting in a see-through plastic tent. [Who said romance was dead?]Back at the Firenze, take a couple of beers with Artos (actually only I was drinking as he was on duty).
This is Carnival Day. The triple decker floats that we saw at the Cittadella are now pulled by tractors into positions all around the parade route. Arriving one by one, there they stand until they are all in position, the general public has time to look them over static and close up.
The Polar bear's Troupe
At three the gun sounds and they set off. Now these reveal all the inner workings, trees have branches we didn't expect. The astronaut has a alter ego in an ape. Trump's quiff swings from side to side with person dressed at Statue of Liberty rising a surf board at its tip. Behind the scenes but not always hidden people were pulling ropes that make the polar bear roar or the astronaut's eyes roll.
The troupes move into action, some more enthusiastically and professionally than others. And now the the giant static structures are writhing with tree people or bopping along with the cowboys and whores. Some floats were preceded by troupes marching in formation, the best one that I saw was the tree people; sadly others broke ranks quite early in the day, and, in full costume were just walking round. And on the floats themselves people dressed up to the nines, were just staring at the crowds and in a couple of cases drinking cans.
At the this point the Skull won me over. Not only was it beautifully crafted from every angle but the dance/drama to classical music was so professional. Its dancers were still in character at sunset, over three hours since the parade started. So moving.
Over three hours the floats moved majestically around the route; the sun went down, and some float started to light up. Traveling to Italy, Bang Bang was my favourite; at the Cittadella it became the Tree and now, at the Parade the Skull wins. Also loved the Polar Bear.
I take possession of a tree in the middle of the dual carriage way/parade route, while Alison roams the route. We dine upon crêpes, chips and a beer. We throw confetti over ourselves each other and anyone else. They throw it over us.
We walked back to the Firenze, had a drink, attempted to make a plan, met and greeted anyone who came in range, then went for a meal with Chris and Frankie round the corner from the hotel.
|from the warm February beach you can see the tops of the floats over the houses|
Monday Alison and I took one last look around the parade route now perfectly restored to roadway, with the carpet of confetti all but gone.
|one of many mirror selfies!|
Train to Pisa, met Juliet and Simon, had the most delicious meal in the restaurant which J and S deemed the most vegetarian friendly. A and I walked back to the train station, following A's phone map, pausing for some poses over the Arno.
The bus to the airport was in a little half gazebo at the other side of the station. I bumped into Emma and co in the baggage search bit, then launched into a massive debate with one of the other travellers on the nature of British West Indian Carnival. I don't think either of us was expecting that! But all that I had been observing and taking part in was beginning to overwhelm [in a good way].
There was over a thousand people between me and passport control. The platform for the Peterboro train was the furthest away. I had given myself one hour and twenty minutes between landing an leaving. I collapsed onto the 8.21 train at 8.19.
Now that Doris had taken herself off or blown herself out, Peterborough Station was back to normal - all cafes closed. I peeped out into the street and was directed to a tiny little kiosk, bought the best cup of tea ever, and an indifferent but warm cheese and onion pasty (it was fuel).
It is the end of February. The sign for the next station gets stuck most appropriately - see pic. Arrive at Leeds just past midnight, and then, as I get out of the taxi at 12.30 I remember I didn't take any keys! Took ages to wake them all.
It was the penultimate day in February!