Living & loving the Caribbean lifestyle, with James Fuller
T ell a West Indian you’re running two marathons in two days and they’ll regard you with a mix of suspicion and concern. Tell them you’re doing it to music while sporting a sequin codpiece, drink in hand, and witness the relief flush through their faces. Sanity has returned.
Carnival can be a conflicting time – and, staring into the mirror, I was having serious moments of self-doubt, battling with weighty accessorising issues. Did my peacock-inspired headpiece pop or flop? Are matching feathers on the arm guards too much? Should I go shirtless or not?
My band brochure said that going shirtless was a masquerader’s personal choice, optimistically stating that “you should be prepared for extra female attention”. Clearly they’d never seen me topless. Perhaps spray tan was the answer, I thought, as I tweeked and tweezed at the slug arcing across the top of my eyes, worrying whether I looked like Sesame Street’s Bert.
For an event that is the embodiment of carefree abandonment, there’s an awful lot of body-image stress involved in Carnival build-up. But those band adverts of hyper-muscled men and statuesquely beautiful women are not reality. Let me rephrase that: they’re not most people’s reality. They sure as hell aren’t mine. So cut yourself some slack, safe in the knowledge that most people are only obsessing about themselves. And whatever happens, a few of Fernandes’ finest will soon help you forget your self-consciousness.
There are, it seems to me, an ever-increasing number of ‘must-dos’ attached to Carnival. But there are a handful of important things honed through personal experience, or that I’ve learned from others, which I’m going to share for your edification and education. In no particular order:
1 Whilst enjoying the party, stay alert for other opportunities – particularly the chance to video family members or work colleagues doin chupidness in a fete or on de road. These can prove invaluable for settling future family disputes or career advancement.
2 Playing mas with a partner. Don’t. OK, if you must – but get the wining boundaries agreed, signed and witnessed early, unless you want the kraken to be released halfway along Ariapita Avenue when teefing a cheeky little wine.
3 Coconut water is king. Uncle Gandhi’s endless lauding of all things coconut may have been a bit much, but he had a point. You can’t drink enough of this stuff. Well, you can if it’s mixed with rum – but that’s a different point.
4 Carnival will kick your butt. Let’s face it, very few of us will put in the hard yards necessary to be properly prepared for the physical test that is Carnival. Much pain will be masked in the midst of the party, but your body will have issues with being so brutally awoken from its slumber, and at some stage it will let you know about it. Take the week off. You won’t be able to walk anywhere anyway.
5 Don’t fly out of the gates like Usain. Following on from the previous point, your suffering will be a whole lot worse if you go too hard, too soon. Pacing yourself sounds boring but you’re unlikely to regret it.
6 There’s pretty mas and there’s unpretty mas – and the latter is usually more fun.
7 Spray tan is never the answer.
Repeating those few basic guidelines to myself, and after a period of intense self-reflection, I was good to go: ready to free up and enjoy the biggest party on the planet, drink in one hand and signed wining agreement in the other.