'COWLEY ROAD is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ I hope the late L P Hartley will forgive me for misquoting the opening sentence of his splendid novel, The Go-Between, but I can think of no better way to describe the multi-cultured and multi-talented approach to Sunday’s carnival.
Don’t try to count the nationalities; simply look at what across-the-board co-operation achieved. Not quite Notting Hill or Rio de Janeiro, but a magnificent occasion all the same.
Even the weather gods helped with the result that many of the estimated 45,000 displayed as much bare flesh as might be seen any sunny Sunday on Copacabana Beach. This is not a complaint.
"Cheers" said a young woman wearing a multi-coloured dress that stretched from slightly above the waistline to the top of her lengthy legs. Could it have been a crop top gone wrong? She invited me to take a sip of her cola. How could I refuse? Wow. It seemed to be 50 per cent brandy.
“It adds a little zing, don’t you think?” she suggested. There was no argument about that.
I thought it wiser to pass the offer of her similarly attired friend when she announced her drink had been ‘improved’ with a little tequila.
"Whose bright idea was it to sell plastic whistles?” asked a grandfather called Martin from Bicester. “Let’s hope she loses it. As if there isn’t enough noise...”
The ‘she’ was three-year-old granddaughter Grace, an accomplished whistle-blower of the non-betraying variety.
The noise was something special from whistles, bands and recordings belting through dozens of loudspeakers. I passed within three feet of one enormous speaker; my ears were caught off guard and I leapt several feet when a new tune struck up.
However, going in the opposite direction were three families, each with a small baby in a pushchair. In all cases the children were fast asleep. Later I spotted many more slumbering babies impervious to the barrage of noise. Is there some explanation for this?
The parade made its way slowly from The Plain to a few yards beyond Divinity Road before being ushered away by crowd controllers, perhaps for a well-earned drink. I felt the need for something cool; a stall at Blanco, the nearby bar and nightspot, provided this with the best Pimms I’ve had in ages. What a pity this was to be near the day’s only unpleasantness when a young man was stabbed that evening.
I returned to The Plain where young and old were chatting and resting on the roundabout – illegally I suspect. Suddenly loneliness struck. Carnivals are not for individuals. They’re for couples and families to share.