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CALM… Trinidadians are serious partygoers and carnival is an extremely important business. Preparation starts months before the main event, with organisers planning the parades and themes, and tailors working their fingers to the bone to make the costumes. The moments before the streets spring into life are a period for quiet reflection, a chance for some last minute adjustments to a costume, for making sure that everything is just right. Mardi Gras, the final day of carnival, brings a nine- hour marathon of dancing through the streets where the bands – often a mile- long and 5,000 strong, with sections of several hundred all dressed to a theme – are judged. Planning everything down to the finest detail is paramount. Alex smailes January- March 2009 lime 07 ll

STORM The important thing about Masquerade is anyone can join in – just show up, buy a costume and dance. The action starts at 2am on Monday when revellers hit the streets for Jouvert, smearing themselves in body paint, mud, chocolate and oil,. Driven by steel drums and soca music that comes from 25ft- high speaker stacks piled on articulated trucks, a crowd of riotous colour fl oods through the streets. Revellers employ a special dance step, the chip, a fl ex- kneed, fl at- footed shuffl e, which exercises minimum effort – an important factor when there are 48 hours of dancing to get through. The excitement is at fever pitch, but Monday is only a " warm- up" for Tuesday. Carnival Tuesday sees thousands of masqueraders in full costume, ready and impatiently awaiting their chance to strut in front of the judges. After the judging, the partying continues until the stroke of midnight, when things come to an abrupt halt and the streets become eerily deserted. ALEX SMAILES ATHOME