Hornsey Carnival

Off to Hornsey Carnival! Arrive at base of Ally Pally to meet Monica who is accompanying me for the duration. I find the organiser Paul and Mr Rathbone – who is Mr Hornsey Carnival.

I am to judge the best business float – so I wander up the road looking for the five ‘floats’ named on my judging sheet. One of the floats is for Action for Kids – well – a painted van would be more accurate. But they were all dolled up as hippies – peace and love man – which appealed as that was my youth. And I can’t find the other three competitors at all. So – I declared the winner Action for Kids and the runner up – Greig Academy.

Retracing my steps to the beginning of where everyone was lining up, I was introduced to Karl Heinz and his troupe of girls from Koblenz. The Hornsey Carnival queens go over there each year and they visit back from time to time. In Koblenz the carnival is big and the streets are lined five deep with onlookers.

I am to sit on the back of an open-topped Mercedes with the Deputy Carnival Queen – Verity. Verity was Queen last year and knows the ropes. She is my mentor for the duration and knows all there is to know about carnivals, waving and smiling. She was a lovely girl, actually, and I learned a lot from her about what the girls do – from selling brochures for the carnival door to door to attending all sorts of functions as well as going to other local carnivals to take part. They raise quite a bit of money for local charities – and lots of people give their time free from the woman on the committee who makes the girl’s dresses (both day and evening) to the woman who had moved away from Hornsey but still helped run the carnival as she had for years.

The parade moved slowly off and through the streets of Hornsey. Five deep the crowds were not – but there were quite a lot of people out to waive and watch us pass. The atmosphere was lovely and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Waiving at strangers is clearly an art – and it is quite a psychological study as to how to make even the grumpiest, “I am not going to smile or waive at any cost” teenager, respond. If you catch someone’s eye – and you waive and smile directly at them – it is almost impossible for them not to respond.

And so the carnival parade wended its way for an hour and a half through the streets. At the journey’s end I went on my way – as the carnival would go on late into the night with dancing and celebrations.

I went home and watched what was left of Live-8. My two daughters had texted and been lucky enough to get tickets. At 10am this morning they had departed for Hyde Park and at various times throughout the day they had called me to let me a) know they were alive and b) listen to the music live through the mobile.

I thought the whole thing was fantastic! Of course – I remember the first one 20 years ago. And I don’t subscribe to the cynics who say that this will do nothing. Of course this won’t solve poverty in Africa – but it is a start. We need to make sure that the aid that is given is given to agencies who will help enable the local African people to build small businesses and sustainable lifestyles so that they can survive and build an industry of their own to sustain the economy.

Sir Bob and Live-8 have delivered the increased debt write-off and the increased aid – but more than that – they brought us all together to say we do care and we will act.