Monday, 17 February 2020

Carnival Benches for Lent

Cheer up! It's that time of year again - carnival time! 

Also known as Fat Tuesday.

my photo from Dartington, Devon

Miggy, my best imaginary friend: I hope this isn't going to be another diatribe against obese benches.

No, Miggy, not at all. This is all about the magic of carnival benches.

So, welcome to the carnival!

It's time to get colourful.

And sparkly! 

In Britain it all begins with Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day. 

It's a flippin' good time.

In lots of countries all around the world there are parades and parties to celebrate before the start of the 40 day fasting season of Lent.

Lady Brassica, wife of the Fifth Earl of Drizzly: I always give up something for Lent. 

What's it going to be this year? Designer handbags? Week-ends in Paris?

Lady Brassica: People assume I'm rich just because I sound posh, went to a private school and have loads of money.

Oh, the injustice of it. 

My imaginary husband Mungo always gives up meat, which is not much of a hardship since he's a vegetarian. But for my other husband, His Excellency, Lent is a challenge. 

His Excellency: Forty days and forty nights without lamb tagine. How am I going to survive it? 

Yes, Lent is meat-free. 

From Fat Tuesday until the Wednesday before Easter there are no pork benches.

No chicken benches.

No hamburgers.

I hope you don't have a beef with that. 

Miggy: No, that's fine with me. I'll just eat ice cream.

I don't think you've quite got the idea of sacrifice, Migs. 

Mungo: I thought carnivals were mostly about women in skimpy costumes. 

His Excellency: Yes, I'm a big fan of Mardi Gras myself. Purely for the religious aspects of it. 

In some places Mardi Gras is a very big deal indeed. In Brazil, for example. 

Innocent was in Rio last summer for The Games.

Miggy: Just what kind of games I wouldn't like to say.

Now she's back in Rio for Carnival and there's a certain amount of samba going on.

Lady Brassica: Rio's carnival is rather touristy and I find Innocent's dancing tasteless. 

His Excellency: You might prefer Colombia'Carnaval de Barranquilla. UNESCO has declared it an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Root, son of Lord and Lady Brassica: I like New Orleans. There's a house there they call The Rising Sun. 

His Excellency: Has it been the ruin of many a man by any chance?

In New Orleans and many parts of the American South they laissez les bons temps rouler during Mardi Gras

Good times involve music, of course. 

And all kinds of costumes, even for benches. 

When it was the Year of the Rooster in 2017 there were quite a few rooster costumes.

For our Paradise Island carnival rowdy Root, Lord Brassica, and his horse Tonks are decked out in gold lame. 

Skimpy costumes and bright colours are essential for a carnival vibe.  

Miggy: Weight wait a minute. You're edging towards the F-A-T issue again. You're fat-shaming.

No, I'm not. These carnival guys are positively skeletal.  

In places like Trinidad and Tobago and all the other Caribbean carnivals, people plan their carnival costumes months in advance. 

They're a riot of colour.

Feathers and elaborate headdresses are needed to make a splash. 

The Venice Martedi Grasso is known for its glamour and its masks. 

Lady Brassica: I don't wear masks. What's the point of looking fabulous if no one recognises me? 

Of course Venice also offers its extraordinary setting of gondolas, bridges, and canals. You can't beat it for beauty.

Lord Brassica: By jove, I'd go there just for a ride. 

But these Lenten carnivals are about more than partying. The season of Lent is all about doing without. 

This bench, for example, is without its back and seat. 

Lent is a time for denying ourselves some of the things we like. In the southern Netherlands carnaval it's carnem lavare, a time to take away benches meat.

Miggy: Sounds like we're back to pancakes again?

In Germany it's Greasy Thursday, a time to eat fat. The idea is to use up all those fatty butter and lard benches before the fasting begins.

Lord Brassica: The Butter Bench down in the meadow needs eating immediately. My wife is certainly not going to eat it. 

Miggy: If I eat this butter bench I'd gain a lot of weight.

Yes. Lard consumption tends to be hard on benches.

His Excellency: There's a bit of a whale tale going on here. 

It doesn't matter. Carnival is a time to set all your inhibitions aside.

At a carnival you are free to express yourself.

If you like, you can grab a bench and have a boogie.

In normal times dancing on benches is not permitted.

But at carnival time things are more relaxed. 

Root: I love it! There's lots of dancing and drinking on benches.

And sleeping off hangovers too. Benches are great for that.

His Excellency: It looks like a fair amount of champagne was consumed at Castle Broccoli.

Lord Brassica:  I can't abide all this fiddle faddle about self-denial. I like to live like a king. 

At a Mardi Gras you have a King and Queen.

As far as I can tell, only the King and Queen are allowed to stand on benches.

Royalty can ignore the signs.

my photo, Enkhuizen, Netherlands

Here on Paradise Island we have our own sort of Mardi Gras. Lord and Lady Brassica, of course, are our King and Queen. 

Lady Brassica presides over the festivities from her throne at Drizzly Manor.

And she sometimes comes into town and joins in the fun too.

Miggy: Excuse me, but does this story have anything whatsoever to do with benches?

Mungo: I was wondering that. It's hard to find a bench anywhere. 

The truth is, you're jolly lucky if you can find a bench to sit on at carnival.

 Mardi Gras carnivals are so crowded that finding a bench is almost impossible. 

 Even this King can't find a bench.

Some people bring their own seats and carry them around the whole time. 

At our Paradise Island carnival time we have plenty of benches so we're all smiles.

Everyone has a great time dancing and partying. 

Our police constable Willie Wyme is down at the bus shelter capering around with the Fribble Agro gang.

Lady Brassica trips the light fandango with one of her Young Male Dancers.

His Excellency: Now we know what she's going to give up for Lent: abstinence. 

Root sings drinks himself senseless and knocks over a bench on his way home. 

But when carnival comes to an end the austere days of Lent begin.

It's time to get back on the straight and narrow.

my photo, Hondarribia, Spain

For 40 days and 40 nights we'll have to make do with the bleakest of benches.

my photo. Sandown Isle of Wight

The doors of the churches will be open 

Miggy: unless they're blocked by benches . . .  

photo by Sheila B

. . . in which case you'll need to sit on the bench outside in the sunshine.

photo by Sheila B

But most places you can go into a church and take a pew.

my photo, Disserth, Wales

Actually, churches are quite busy during Lent so you may need to take a number and wait your turn.

Go in and enjoy the beautiful benches.

But if you don't wish to queue, you can always find yourself a little roadside church and somewhere to sit quietly until Easter. 

photo by Sheila B

Don't forget to wear your mask.

Venice Carnival 1930s, Alexandra Exter (1882-1949)


Stefano Montagner's Flickr photostream is called The Life Around Me  and the life around him is in Venice, where he lives. Not surprisingly, the Venice Carnival features in his excellent photoblog and I picked out a stunning black and white photograph to get this story started.  His fabulous photos from Venice 2017 are on his photostream now, including the lovely gondolier and many, many others.

The fat statue is a Henry Moore work that I photographed in Dartington, Devon earlier last year. 

In 2011 Kim went on a Mediterranean cruise on the Carnival Magic ship. She took a photograph of the carnival magic bench for Monica as a memory of the trip.

Welcome to the Carnival is a photo by Alan Levine, a web geek from Baltimore who has a bike, a dog, a blog called  CogDogBlog -  barks, growls, and wags about educational technology. But if he had a magic genie lamp, he'd be free to wander the world with a camera (and an always-on, always available net connection).

The colourful rainbow love bench in Yachats, Oregon was photographed by Mike Krzeszak, aka Mavis, an Aspiring Photographer in Portland. He loves rusty things, black and white photography, old buildings and graffiti.

Castle Broccoli is the country pile of the Brassica family, which now includes Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, his wife Lady Jessica Brassica (nee Kholrabi) and their numpty son Root. Oh, and Root's wife Innocent. The story of their Scottish wedding benches is worth it just for the outfits. Lord Brassica is a gentleman farmer here on Paradise Island, a descendent, apparently, of a court judge who laid down the law on legal benches.  He indulges his wife, Lady Jessica Brassica with a throne and a replica mall in the basement of Drizzly Manor, a beach hut on the Esplanade, and unlimited amounts of cash for shopping. However, it has emerged that he doesn't know as much as you'd think about farm animal benches, especially cow benches or sheep benches. He knows a bit more about horse benches, learned from Tonks, and possibly something about dog benches from Pru. What he really knows though, is picnic benches

Lady Jessica Brassica is a fashionista and former model with Studio Joop from Overbearing in Holland. Now she has her own fashion house at Ballyfrumpy in County Offhand in Ireland. She particularly likes yellow benches; she is no fan of pink though. She loves shopping at her replica mall and having poetry read to her by Young Male Readers dot com. 

The brilliant pancake flipping Lego and the open flame cooking pancakes are both from jono Takes Photos in 2009. Jono assures us that no pancakes were harmed in the making of these photos.

The pig bench was outside the Healdsburg Charcuterie in Healdsburg, California in 2010. It was photographed by Niall Kennedy, a software engineer who likes hiking, dogs, food, travel and scenes around his home and work in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The charming rustic rooster and chicken bench is from in Los Gatos, California. The bench features a special hand-painted rooster and chicken design on the back rest. The papaya finish has been lightly distressed to add an antique feel. It's available for $2,295.00. Belleescapes has just about every kind of chic furniture you can imagine: farmhouse, industrial, cottage, bohemian, cosmo, Provence, vineyard and even shabby chic. Cottage style? They've got coastal, earthy . . . I'll stop there. You can have a look for yourself.

Valerie Everett lives in Tuscumbia, USA and is a frequent Benchsite contributor. She was out and about on Christmas Day in 2008 when she photographed Ronald McDonald on a bench in Indianapolis.

The brown cow bench is one of several bench sculptures called Eastwick Park Farm, made by Rosalie Sherman in 1983 as part of the ongoing Philadelphia Public Art project.   It includes a vast array of public art: 846 sculptures, fountains, mosaics, memorials and, of course, benches, scattered all around Philadelphia. There are driving site tours and maps for locating the art. The scale of the Philart project is really quite something and it's being added to all the time. Here on Benchsite, Rosalie's sheep made it onto Noah's Ark of animal benches.

As the photographer asks, who doesn't want to eat ice cream while sitting on a banana split bench? The Royal Seat is a commissioned artwork by Northside artist Mary Kwakenat located at the Camden Dairy Queen.  The photographer is Northside365. 

The Olympic Bench Games in Brazil were a high point in an otherwise dismal year in 2016. Innocent was there. Vinicius was there to show her around Rio and teach her how to do bench presses. No wonder Innocent came back to Paradise Island looking like she had struck gold.

The photos of masked people on the bench were photographed by Infrogmation, who lives in New Orleans and has photographed all sorts of wonderful things from the Mardi Gras. This photo is from
The baritone horn player is from the Crewe Kosmic Debris parade and walking party at the Mardi Gras, New Orleans. Thanks to Infrogmation once again at

The decorated bench was seen at the 2010 Winterlude Carnival in Ottawa. The photographer is Tjololo, who is a writer/editor in Ottawa.  

Yes, it's The Year of the Rooster Bench, which we've already covered here on Benchsite. You might not think The Netherlands is a carnival country but you'd be wrong; there are huge carnivals in places like Rotterdam, Breda, Eindhoven and Maastricht. These three splendid roosters were at the 1911 carnival in 's-Hertogenbosch. The photo comes from the ever-surprising Nationaal Archief at  There are no restrictions on use of these photos, which are also available on Wikimedia at

Some of the images in this story have been used before on Benchsite because back in April 2015 we had a whole alphabet of dance benches to celebrate World Dance Day. Tango, hiphop, folk dance, ballroom, even pole dancing - we had it all.   

Dancing up a Storm is the hot girl, who is Torley in Second Life. I'm never sure if Torley is the avatar or if she is the creator of the avatar, or both. Anyway, it was way back in 2007.  

Skeleton Krewes and skeleton costumes are much in evidence at the New Orleans Mardi Gras where Kevin O'Mara lives. Kevin is apparently just a guy who is trying to get better at photographer. This photo, taken in 2016, is a composite image of Kevin in six consecutive years' worth of his handmade Mardi Gras costumes. Terrific!  

The lovely Caribbean dancers are by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas from Bloomington, Indiana. Bonnie does her own bonnie designs at These include handpainted silk textile art, whimsical works of art, beautiful personalized birth certificates, marriage certificates, ketubahs, signed archival quality reproductions of original paintings, epoxy tiles, downloadable graphics (instant downloads), and note cards for any occasion. Bonnie also has some clever children's books, some of which she has written and illustrated herself. 

The woman in an elaborately beautiful white featured costume was at the Santa Cruz carnival in Tenerife in 2012. She was photographed by Tamara Kulikova. The photo is available through a Creative Commons license 4.0 at,_Carnival_Queen_2012.jpg    

Bailey Puggins is 12 years old and in January this year she started wearing masks, I think in preparation for Mardi Gras. She continues to amaze her owner, who says that the old girl Bailey Puggins has mastered wearing masks in just two days.

The two woodland folk carrying a heavy log bench away were photographed by IceM626 on his visit to Lithuania in 2013. Other albums in his photostream include New Orleans, Poland and Utah.

The bench I call the Butter Bench is actually called the Alight Bench. But doesn't it look like butter to you? It's by Turnstone Furniture (2011) and comes in many different colours and patterns, some of which don't look so much like butter  Turnstone is inspired by getting people to use space so that they engage with each other, think more deeply, and do great things. They make all kinds of seating and office furniture.

Joe Christian Oterhals from Oslo was in Cairns, Australia in 2010 when he photographed the whale tail couple sitting on a bench. Joe calls the photo Have Mercy and he says I guess I'm bad, but I couldn't resist taking this photo when I saw this  Whale tails are common on benches and we have other whale tails here on Benchsite; I'm ok with that so long as faces aren't showing. Duh. They wouldn't be, would they?

Chris Cardinal is a web developer, entrepreneur, traveler, and amateur photographer just kickin' around with a Canon XTi. He lives in Tempe, Arizona but in May 2008 he apparently took a Transatlantic cruise. The photo of the Carnival Freedom bench on the aft deck of the ship is in his Transatlanticism album.

A Life in Red is the woman on the bench kicking her legs in the air. She was in Marseille in 2011, photographed by Marcovdz

The No Dancing bench was photographed in Orlando in 2008 by Chad Miller at

For an unusual image of CanCan dancing think Red Bull, the Old Truman Brewery in Spitalfields. It was 2005 and the Red Bull Art of Can Exhibition, photographed by Damien du Toit.

Scott Smith is a laser technician currently living in Orlando. He writes about wizards and witches and he blogs about Disney's human element. He also helps found cameras and orphaned pictures find their way home. In 2011 the photographed the Mardi Gras king and his blue-haired queen. The photograph in his Flickr photostream is accompanied by a dialogue called The Conspiracy of the Crown, Act IV, Scene VII.

Vintage Lulu is a tour guide in the fabulous city of Manchester. She has some lovely carnival photos and I have used two of them in this story. One, called Carnival 57, is a greenly-costumed person at the Venice Carnival in 1995.  The other, named Carnival 33, is a splendid couple dressed in red costumes and standing on a bench.

The man and child sitting on a street curb were at the Santa Cruz carnival in Tenerife in 2016. The photo is by Claire Herbaux 

The Live from the Carnival colourfdul seats being carried by carnival goers were in the Maastricht Carnival in the Netherlands in 2013. The photographer was Filip Mishevski, who is a graphic designer, poet, prophet, preacher and part time philosopher in Skopje, Macedonia. 

Liren Chan from New York is a prolific photographer of benches, incuding the Parade of Benches in Rochester, New York. She photographed the Chuckles smile bench at the Rundell Library in Rochester in 2010. Sponsored by Kodak, the artists are Chris Palace and Kevin Serwacki

Stick People Dancing on a Bench is a work of light graffiti by glenneroo, who is currently based in Vienna. glenneroo does a lot of portraits and he gets around; he has sets from all sorts of places, and a whole set of light graffiti photos as well.

There are two Lady Brassica jokes which come from the delightful Edinburgh Fringe Festival's best (and worse) One-Liners. Giving up abstinence for Lent is a joke by Andrew Doyle. The joke about being rich and posh is by Annie McGrath in the 2016 list. 

The Other Face of the Venice Carnival is a gorgeous black and white photo taken by Marco Fedele way back in 2006. Marco is from Turin in Italy.

Hondaribbia is a beautiful town in the Basque country of Spain. Mungo and Miggy and I camped there in November last year and I took quite a few pictures of benches. The rain in Spain doesn't necessarily fall on the plain. It was raining. A lot. 

What I call Bleak Bench is truly the ugliest, most unloved bench I have seen in a long time. It's in a residential close in Sandown, Isle of Wight on a patch of grass used only by dogs. Owners stand well away from the grass and the bench. If anyone wants to give me a grant, I will try to do it up. A good deal of sanding and some red paint might fix it. 

Sheila B lives part-time in Cyprus and she has provided me with lovely images from Cyprus over the years. Benches and churches go together in Cyprus, so there are several here. 

Tim Rich and Lesley Katon from Bethnal Green in London do a World of Good. Tim is a writer and editor and Lesley is a film maker.  Back in 2005 they photographed a pretty Sussex church bench which held a row of numbers - a Holy order you might call it.

The beautiful bench-ends at the end of the story are from the St. Georgenberg-Fiecht Monastery in Austria. This pewage contains  80 wooden reliefs by F.X. Nißl created in 1772. The photographer is Wolfgang H. Wögerer from Vienna.,_St_Joseph_church_-_80_wooden_reliefs_on_pewage_by_F.X._Ni%C3%9Fl_in_1772-1773.jpg?uselang=en-gb

The oil painting of Venice carnival was done in the 1930's by Russian artist Alexandra Exter (1882-1949). 

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