So you know how things go. You are flowing by with studies, work, friendships, relationships when something new gets introduced to your routine. It starts as an off beat recommendation, and whilst you’re not doing anything else that’s specifically central or significant in your life, you join in on the flow of this new thing in life.
Then weeks go by and despite hesitations because of other well established patterns in your life, you find yourself making more space for this new thing. Then you need to sense check, so you pull away, dismiss it, and there it goes it pops up again seeking your attention.
So you start thinking, what to do. Time invested means previous patterns are being challenged, smoked out, and you’re still unsure if it’s a fluke or will stick around for a while. And then more time goes by and it is still there. Sometimes it feels annoying, tiring, unbalanced, but you realise like with most things settling into a new job, relationship, friendship, hobby is an ongoing process of exploration.
And then the penny drops; your commitment to keep exploring is the juice of life, and as long as you don’t get stuck in a tunnel vision, the scheme of things will keep on evolving and merging with who you’ve become.
Two years ago I came accross the documentary called Men of the Thames. The film is a journey of watermen and lightermen working in businesses on the Liquid Highway of London.
The story is narrated through the family histories of people with long associations to the London docks, the changes that have shaped their local industry since and their closeness to rowing.
Rowing for them is a family affair, taken up to continue the tradition of family participation in competitions, or as a means of rehabilitation from severe injury in pursue of ‘bringing those who stray back into a much supportive community’. It also highlights how tragedy is reflected upon and the power of responsibility owned by those working on the river.
The second documentary zooms in on the Doggetts Coat and Badge race.
Introduced and funded by Thomas Doggetts, the film takes us into the community within one of the oldest livery companies in London, housed at the Watermen’s Hall.
This is a single sculling race for apprentices in the lightermen and watermen sectors of London, traditionally originating East from the Tower of London.
Rowing in these parts of London was a far cry from the associations of today to university crews and the boat race.
Oared vessels were used to transport people by the river, and the importance of understanding the tides, steering in the streams and the elements in these wider parts of Thames were key to safe and time efficient passage.
Many of the references point to rowing facilities in the east of London. The London Youth Rowing, next to the City Airport is a more recent addition utilised by many regional clubs. Poplar and Blackwall District Rowing Club hosts exhibits from generations of Doggetts winners, many of whom trained from the club. Further athletes went on to row competitively in high performance national, international and Olympic events.
The Eastend is a place of transience and evolving histories, still unfolding to date.
For anyone finding themselves in Trinidad for carnival this time of the year, there is one thing you will be doing for sure: drinking all day, and some more.
Even without the alcohol, Trini carnival is a mind boggling experience. You would have passed the long queues at arrivals at Port of Spain International without being fleeced by some dodgy border official, through to the non descriptive arrivals hall, maybe welcomed by the sound of steel pan, if you are lucky.
Masquerade, POS, Trinidad
Boy costume on kiddies day, POS, Trinidad
Costume downtown Port of Spain taken between 2006 and 2011
Jab, Carnival, St Anne’s, Trinidad
Blue Devil on Carnival Tuesday, Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Father and son, J’ouvert, St James, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Costume detail, POS, Trinidad
Police man, J’ouvert morning, St James, Port of Spain, Trinidad (2006-2011)
Girls in masquerade, Port of Spain (20016-11), Trinidad
Finding yourself in Port of Spain or Arima or San Fernando, in the morning, among the peeps taking the slow moving vibes about their business, requires a couple of cheeky doubles on your way to your business of visiting mas camps, passing steel pan yards, buying tickets for all inclusive fetes in town.
The fetes would have been happening for over a month prior and mas camps are just making small size adjustments, with hours before bands hitting the road.
J’ouvert, the morning of carnival. Fear the blue devils blowing fires and hustling you with their tricks. Start 1am at St James. Dress in your worse, you will land somewhere around downtown even worse for wear, at sunrise or well after. The only things you need: drink, money to buy more drink, and someone to give you a ride home to your nearest friendly friend’s breakfast welcome and bed. Just don’t follow some guys up to Laventille, there are other places to drive through for that waterfall sobering bath.
With Jouvert done you are well on your way through the Trini carnival experience. If you can, climb up the hills of Paramin for their local jab jab Moko Jumbies J’ouvert. It is really out of this world walking between the village corners for yet another jab performance literally crawling down or up the steepest roads and paths you will ever see. If not grown up in the north coast, only drive in a jeep and with a local driver. Family cars driven by tourists abandon all hope. Taxi maxi, privately hired is another respectable method of arrival. I fell in love at jab in Paramin.
North Coast is not too far if you want to wash the petrol and paint off your skin with a sea bath. Just don’t drink and drive.
Carnival Monday and Tuesday are kiddies and adults days respectively. I don’t think there is much difference other than the kiddies go through town from what I remember whereas adults move faster to the Savannah and St Anne’s. Unquestionably you will see the best, biggest, most elegantly handcrafted pieces of mas on those days. For medium and large costumes the sheer weight of them on the masqueraders is a notable achievement in itself. When I first went to Trini Peter Minshal was the winning name of masquerade. Incredibly really talented artists have made Trinidad their home. Chris Ofili and Peter Doig are some among those.
I always thought of Ash Wednesday as an anti climax, not for one cause I stayed in the North Coast were thousands of people descent to hang out en mass by any sound system audible from anytime 8am onwards, to also whine and drink.
Then a fight kicks off, and another, so less people hang around and it all becomes sort of local again. Handed back to the really slow paced sunny humid sweet tasting bake n shark self. For the small but safe surf, head to Las Cuevas.
The tradition has proven that even though many hire the markets for a festive season abroad, the Glühwein tastes million times better in its place of origin. It may be the humidity and fog, I am not expert in this, however I can attest to it as after years of tasting it in Britain: there is nothing that compares to the taste in the source of origin.
In Rothenburg you will find the prettiest ever, jumping in a fairy tale adventure.
Spending time in North Germany this Christmas, you will see some of the ideas and festive cheer, sugar, sausages, cane, mushrooms, hot dogs, crafts, beads, logs, mineral rocks and a load of trees.
The bestest was in the Fredenbaum woods: log fires, masonry and fairy lights galore at Phantastischer mittelalterlicher lichter weihnachts markt (Fantastic Medieval Lights Christmas market). A full immersive experience of drifters dressed in handcrafted furs, leathers, wearing traditionally crafted bows, arrows, knifes in a wooden fairground made for adults.