Wheaton’s Way

Doing CayMAS... Wheaton's way

If, on Saturday, you happened to see two grown women the shade of overripe rhubarb arguing by the side of the road as they wrestled with a canopy structure, that might have been me and my bestie, Lynne.

As many of you know, CayMAS carnival happened over the weekend, and even though my friends and I were not signed up to participate, we still wanted to witness the fun.

Luckily, our house is located on a street with direct access to parade routes, so the plan was to set up a semi-luxurious encampment for five on the edge of the main drag, complete with cooler of drinks and a variety of comestibles.

The day began for me with a drive to Kirk Home Centre. I wanted a 10-foot-by-10-foot canopy with frame that I had seen in stock there. The beauty of this item was that it required very little assembly and had a rolling bag for easy transport.

Sure enough, there it was on the shelves. I levered it into the cart, sped to the cashier, bought it, and then staggered with the box to the back of my SUV.

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Next was the stop at the supermarket to buy ingredients for a variety of sandwiches I’d make for our guests to accompany their chilled beverages, and – Oo! – was that pre-sliced watermelon I spied? Apparently, I was attempting to bring a touch of Downton Abbey to CayMAS, which, of course, was a natural mashup.

“Would you be so kind as to pass me another of those ambrosian cucumber sandwiches, dear? Oh, hark at this delightful melody by Megan Thee Stallion!”

I drove home to put my plan into action, and noticed people starting to unload chairs and umbrellas out of their cars along the roadside. Despite the fact that the parade was hours away from getting to our area, I immediately began to feel panicky. I had a lot to do in order for this to go perfectly.

As soon as I hit my kitchen, I had umpteen eggs in a saucepan of water with the stovetop cranked. Stage 1 of egg salad.

Lynne walked into the house after a leisurely morning out, and I started barking orders at her before she’d even had a chance to put her handbag down.

We needed to put ice in the Igloo and get the Perrier in the fridge. Could she please also take a look at the chairs outside and see if they were derriere-worthy, then get ready to help me assemble my new purchase by the road?

Just a small example of why I’m such a joy to live with.

I’d only been outside for a few minutes thus far, and I was already pretty warm. It was shaping up to be a hot one, so I decided to have a trial run with the canopy in the shade of the house. I went through the instructions, opened it slightly, trapped my fingers a few times, and figured I had enough of a handle on it that we’d be good when we did it for real.

In the meantime, Lynne had discovered a nest of ants on the stack of filthy chairs, so they had to be hosed off and put out in the sun to dry. Everything was taking longer than originally planned, and while the eggs boiled dry, I dropped a bag of ice on my foot, trying to manoeuvre it into the cooler.

My sister, Gabrielle, got to the house, followed by our friends Carol and Julie. Everyone was keen to help, but I brushed them off. I had this under control… dammit.

The parade was due to be near us at 2:30pm and it was now 1:45.

“Lynne, can you come and help me with the canopy?” I asked, rhetorically.

We rolled it to the road, and dumped it out of its bag. We had to pull the corners of the frame out until the peak in the centre was raised. Then, it was simply a case of throwing the material over the top and securing it in place. Easy.

Well, the frame wasn’t as quick to cooperate. It wouldn’t stretch as far as we needed it to, no matter how we pulled, and the sun was beating down relentlessly. Hades himself was busy getting a COVID test for a one-way trip to Alaska.

Lynne kept bringing out the directions and I kept arguing with her, in full view of the traffic.

“Vicki, look – we have to pull up those tabs and lock them into place first.”

“No! It clearly shows that the centre has to rise up, and THEN we move the tabs!”

Turns out, for once in my life, I was actually right. Lynne got under the centre section and pushed it into a peak, and then we were able to get the tabs to work. My joy at being triumphant was short-lived. It was now just past 2pm and I could hear music in the distance. We had to get everything under the canopy, STAT!

Carol mercifully insisted on transporting the chairs, Igloo and other items in her car from the house to our bivouac. I had to leave Lynne there to deal with it, so I could go back and work on the food.

The saucepan was off the stovetop but there was no time to make the egg salad. Looking at my watch, I knew that the sandwiches were going to have to go out with the bathwater as well. I grabbed the containers of sliced watermelon and legged it to the canopy, while Lynne walked back towards me. The arm of my sister’s chair, weakened from prolonged exposure to the sun over months, had broken away, so Lynne was going for a replacement. The mosquitoes had also tracked us down, adding bug spray to the list. So much for Downton Abbey.

Finally, after much back-and-forthing, all five of us were in the shade, ready for the parade. Police were starting to cross our area more frequently and the music was getting louder. This was it!

Just before the first flatbed truck came into view, Carol complimented us on the canopy and asked how we had managed to set it up.

“Isn’t it great?” I replied. “It was so easy and it’s very effective.”

I’d barely finished speaking when a strong gust of wind came through, effortlessly converting the structure into a hovercraft and conveying it into the road. It left the five of us instantly exposed and scrambling, like when one moves a rock and reveals a load of bugs underneath.

“Quick! Grab it!” I yelled, as we all jumped as one, rushing to secure the legs of it before it took out a motorcycle officer. Just that small exertion turned our pink faces puce in the heat.

Once we had it back in place, I made the smart decision to utilise one of the tent pegs so hopefully we wouldn’t have a repeat embarrassment.

And then, the parade was upon us. The DJs were enthusiastically announcing songs over their microphones as participants in costumes went dancing past. There we were, five middle-aged women fanning ourselves under cover, getting up at intervals to dance in place. All that was missing was Dame Maggie Smith.

It was a bit surreal, but loads of fun. I’d even calmed down enough to return to my role of hostess.

“Watermelon, anyone?”

You had to admire the mas bands, walking along the tarmac and dancing in those temperatures. I guess when you haven’t been able to ‘jump pon de road’ for a while, you’ll put up with a lot.

We happily stayed until the last feather and sequin had passed us by before packing up our goods to return to the house. I’ll be the first to admit that I was exhausted from just those few hours. I have to believe that everyone in that parade was in a coma by the next day.

Despite the hiccups, we all agreed that the trouble had been worth it – we’d really enjoyed the experience. The canopy and its bag went into the closet, the Igloo was emptied and left to dry, and the chairs were returned to the garden.

Just 20 eggs left to peel, and our CayMAS was officially done for 2021.

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