27 August 2016, 12pm: Shops across Notting Hill being sealed down with cardboards in preparation of the Notting Hill Carnival. Police officers could be seen patrolling the streets while people photographed the scenes of what would become a day and night party hub.
By the evening, cardboard planks lined empty streets across Notting Hill.
The purge was to begin at 10am on Sunday 28 August, and so it did.
I woke up feeling like I had passed out in a bathroom of a club with a faint noise of loud stereo systems sucking my soul out of my dreams.
Welcome to living through the carnival as a Notting Hill resident.
A few days before the carnival, I was warned that I should possibly get out of the neighbourhood with my young daughter. "It's going to get dirty and there is a lot of violence...shops are locked down," said a stranger waiting behind me at Gails. "You're better off going somewhere safe."
I was curious to face the looming carnival and coming out alive.
Day One: I chose to remain indoors, surveying the crowds below my third floor apartment with intense curiosity, wondering if they looked suspicious enough to bring harm. Below it was carnival debauchery as usual -public displays of affection in full force, women dressed like they were auditioning for the Blair Witch project, and plenty of people close to passing out, drenched in mind altering fluids and substances. No major chaos really besides BBC's breaking news alert at night of over 156 arrests on the first day.
I chose to remain at caution and celebrated the carnival Sunday at the couch while Bookatable's advertising campaign flashed in my mind: "Eating doesn't kill you, sofas do." I was building Lego castles and dancing to Barbie Girl with my daughter so I don't think I fully qualified as a potato on the couch.
Day Two: I woke up to the familiar basslines from the day before. My four-year-old who is amazing at adapting to change; we've moved countries three times since she was born, said: "Lets do it Mamma!" Donned in a leather jacket and a princess crown, she was ready to face the crowds. So I put on my panther tights and we were ready to tango.
On our way to the neighbourhood Tesco, we were greeted by a giant human sausage as jerk chicken clouds hovered over Notting Hill. Inside the grocery store, Bob Marley drinks were being sold at a discount while Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl played in the background. On the way back to the flat, we managed to strike a pose with one of the parade dancers. Little did I know the evening would be spent trying to explain to my four-year-old why the women in the parade were dressed down to the basics.
30 August 2016, 12pm: The carnival is over. The music is gone. No more barbeques. No more crowds. The streets have been cleaned. The shops are open for business again; planks stored away till next year's carnival.
The purge is over, and I am back to relishing Notting Hill's rhythms of silence and rejoicing with a side of church bells.
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