Half the World Away
“Half the world away/ I’ve been lost, I’ve been found/ But I don’t feel down.”
Perhaps no more fitting a song could have been playing over the PA upon my first steps into an English pub than one of my favorite Oasis songs, a B-side from the band’s earlier days.
See, here’s the thing: I’ve been enamored with Oasis since high school. Originally, I was thrilled to be coming to a place where I knew more people would appreciate them. Nobody really does in the States (“Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova” don’t count, folks). But for some reason, somewhere along the line I built up the notion in my head that, to the Brits, Oasis was probably now viewed as a major mid-90s rock band who had now likely fallen far past their prime and reached the level of completely uncool.
And maybe, to plenty of folks here, they are completely uncool anymore. In any case, however, I certainly didn’t expect to hear an Oasis gem, first thing off. And that’s been London so far: Most of my perceptions and expectations have been completely broken apart and rearranged.
As far as whether or not Oasis is still cool here, I’ll need to explore that a bunch more. The notion of “cool” for one thing, is so foreign to me as it is here. I’m still trying to figure out how not to look like a complete idiot American tourist everywhere I go. A “Yank,” as we might be called here.
And I feel, living in South Kensington, it might be rather hard to shake that negative stereotype. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as the sometimes-hard-to-find street signs read, is a beautiful, but extremely posh and wealthy neighborhood. Just south of Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, the former resident of Princess Diana, is the epitome of upper class London society. Picture the car you’d imagine James Bond would drive, and that exact car is likely parked in front of my building. The fairly broke American college students that also inhabit the area in great numbers do not particularly mesh well into the community’s existing backdrop.
My goal, however is to get to know as many other London neighborhoods just as well, to try to gain perspective on notions of things like “cool.” As our professor posed to us in our first day of class today, “What does it mean to be British?”
I can already tell that the answer to that question is no easy one to find. I’ll be spending the next five weeks trying to figure out if it’s even possible to find.
I’ve likely not seen 99% of this enormous city in the spectacularly eventful three days I’ve had here so far. London just seems infinite, and I’m ready to dive in head first.
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