Monday, 28 August 2017

Notting Hill Carnival - day 2

I'm a local resident - one of the few around in my road this bank holiday.
This morning I start drawing members of the Elimu Mas Band getting ready in the Paddington Arts building, but I begin to shiver on a hot day, leave early and make my way home.











The hundred-plus Batala drummers, sounding like the apocalypse, open proceedings and I pause to watch their complicated cornering manoeuvre into Westbourne Grove.

I revive at dusk and wander out. Concerned citizen journalists are videoing something through gaps in a hedge: police are subduing someone in a garden. But that means riot police and - oh joy - horses.

People are entranced. Pat-the-horse becomes the only game in town. 'I could stay here for ever,' says one boy as his girlfriend pulls him away.









One drunk boy offers to punch a horse. 'I really wouldn't do that,' says the rider.

'What a shitty carnival,' says a drunk white girl wearing hardly any clothes. In one sense she is accurate: as I walk past the villas tonight, the faecal smells are horse, fox and human; the neighbourhood dogs will have a diverting walk tomorrow morning.

 

Havona House

Havona House at the foot of Portobello Road has been a building site for years. Keen scholars of planning disputes can look it up on the council's website. The interludes when there are actual builders present are characterised by temporary traffic lights, reversing lorries and slippery mud. It has the obligatory ballroom and a two-storey basement - the last of these monstrosities to be permitted by the council. 


Visitors to the front door such as Mr Fox (pictured here) will enjoy not a red carpet, but a zebra crossing. Unlike the pastiche architectural flourishes all over the unfortunate frontage, the Belisha beacon is at least useful.



The ho-hum list of plants (all shade-tolerant, natch) planned for its poky, east-facing, overlooked back garden includes viburnum. Most viburnums in Notting Hill get blighted. That tree outside - is it a robinia or a gleditsia? Don't know, but it's got roots, just a few feet from the walls. There are reminders nearby of what tree roots do to walls.


 


Would anyone who could afford £14.5m (Zoopla's estimate) really want to live on top of a pedestrian crossing which can barely cope with the tourist tide at weekends? An absentee owner, perhaps? Or someone who likes looking into the top decks of buses?

I benefitted from the post-war boom in social housing even though some people - including my geography teacher, Miss Newell - were rude to me about it when I was growing up on the estate. Now it's collapsing while homes in this borough stand empty. If Havona House ever gets finished, someone who likes having balls had better move in quickly.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Notting Hill Carnival 2017: day one

A country which is capable of organising a minute's silence (pretty much) in the Notting Hill Carnival is making a total lash-up of Brexit. You're free to draw your own conclusions.

In the morning I draw people in Elimu Mas Band getting ready in the Paddington Arts building. All is calm and order.











Later in the day I wander out to see what's afoot.

Two views of Babylon:


I start to draw a girl who is rag-doll limp and shouting hoarse abuse at the world but I discover some finer feelings and tell her boyfriend that there's a first-aid centre nearby. It's early evening and her body is dyed which means she's been around since the morning's powder-paint-flinging ceremony. Her boyfriend opts to half-carry his cantankerous burden to the Tube instead. There is a lot of poison in her system which may find an outlet on the Central Line.

In the small area which I patrol, numbers of visitors are down this year but there are many more police. The hippy-ish-looking guy I saw being busted for the contents of his Old Holborn tin probably didn't expect a dozen riot police to find him an object of fascination.

In the streets I look for signs of green for Grenfell: