Caribbean Beat Magazine

Friends and Egyptians

Dylan Kerrigan gets an early start to the Carnival of his dreams

“Wake up man, wake up.” It’s 6:30 in the morning and here is this madman getting me up and out of bed to go and party. We only just came back from the last one at about midnight. “Wake up, dude, we’ve got to go meet the others.” He’s lucky we are very good friends because right now all I feel like doing is jumping out of bed, thumping him one and then falling back to sleep. He obviously doesn’t realise; I don’t even get up this early for work, let alone to party. But, as my tour guide explains to me, it’s Carnival Tuesday, and after today we’ve got the rest of our lives to sleep.

So I fall out of my bed and crawl across the floor, my feet still throbbing too much from yesterday’s feteing for me to walk upright. I struggle into the shower and sleep for an extra five minutes under the running water. Costumes, costumes, where did I leave all the bits to my costume?

“Come nuh man, why I must always be waiting for you! Come leh we go.”

All right, so on top of still being half asleep, I’m wearing some kind of warrior’s outfit, with a long spear in my right hand, and we are jumping in our ride at seven in the morning to go and fete. Only in Trinidad, my friend, only in Trinidad.

I am still extremely dozy when we come off the highway, heading into Woodbrook where the band meets, and for a split second I’m sure I’m seeing things. People everywhere, warriors everywhere, sexy women everywhere, commotion everywhere, and it still isn’t yet 7 .30. We reach our friends’ house and the rest of the crew piles in – we are now a roving band of six warriors, painted faces and all. Six hungry warriors, hungry for food now that we’re all finally up and on our way, and hungry for party, too.

We pull up by a juice lady and call down six big cups with sorrel and ice. Nourishment at last – well it could be viewed like that. We drank down half our juice and replaced it with our fuel of the day, rum. Old Oak White, to be specific. Talk about fire in the belly – here was I, a quiet conservative limey dressed from head to toe as an Egyptian warrior, a pint of sorrel and rum in one hand, my staff in the other, the sun burning my back and it was still before 8.

 

Now the big point about Carnival Tuesday is that it is taken that much more seriously than Monday. Everyone is kitted out in full costume; the women look amazing with their flamboyant headpieces adorned with feathers and jewels, their bright costumes reflecting the sunlight and their bodies covered in glitter. The men look like they are part of some regal ceremony or even sacrifice, and look great as foils to the real jewels of Carnival.

Yes, Carnival Tuesday is taken pretty seriously. I suppose that’s why I’m standing in the street drinking rum at this early hour, dressed completely differently to any other time in my life.

We are with our band and even though we are all just standing around waiting for the big music trucks to lead the way and for us to make our big stage crossing, there is so much raw energy in the air. You can feel the anticipation, the real excitement that everyone is tuned into, this is Carnival and there is nothing like it in the whole world. It is a time for letting go of everything. Throwing up all the little pieces of your life in the air and when it’s time to pick them all up again the task is to see if they fit back together the same way.

The music starts and the trucks move off. In front of me are thousands of people, behind me thousands more. What lies ahead today could never surprise me. I was up at 6.30. I was drinking rum by 8.00, and I’m part of an experience that people at home in England would never grasp. Slowly, we move forward, the loud sweet Carnival rhythms guiding us up and along Charlotte Street toward the Savannah.

I see a friend out of the comer of my eye and she runs over to dance and throw some waist on me. It’s 9.00 and I’m wining down the middle of the road, in the middle of Port of Spain with everyone around me doing the same. The sun is hot, the costumes radiant, the rum strong and it’s only just started. My friend and guide look over at me; he’s wining with a friend too, sipping his sorrel-rum mix and raising his spear in the air. Then he shouts, “Only in Trinidad, my friend, only in Trinidad.”

How right he is – and to think I didn’t even want to get out of bed this morning.