The London Breed

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“The London Breed” by Benjamin Zephaniah reminded me a bit of “Inglan is a Bitch,” only with a much more optimistic tone. similarly to “Inglan is a Bitch,” “The London Breed” is also written with a dialect, creating a distinct voice. What I liked about the poem is that it critiques London while simultaneously praising it, and having it written in a dialect creates a depth to its meaning. Zephaniah’s observational poem is a great example of writing from a perspective, and having the reader see London through a different pair of eyes. I especially enjoy the title, which is also the last line of the poem, as it brings a sense of hope to the poem, while still keeping a critical eye of the city.

Inglan is a Bitch

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At first read over the lyrics of “Inglan is a Bitch” by Linton Kwesi Johnson, it was hard to understand some of the words that were written. I decided it was best to find the song and listen to it, which helped me learn about the song a little more and examine what it meant a little better. While Johnson sings with a heavy accent, hearing him sing the lyrics instead of me just passively reading them brings context to them and more feeling and meaning. The monotonous tone of the way he sing-speaks the lyrics lends to the tiring message of the song. It brings about a certain layer that wouldn’t be evident by just reading through the lyrics. It’s also important to know that the song is reggae, a popular genre of music that originated in the Caribbean. Many Carribean immigrants live in England due to colonization, and using the genre of music to lament about England’s hardships is a way of reclaiming a culture that was dominated by Great Britain when they were an extreme imperial power. I really enjoyed the song and found that it was even more effective for the lyrics to be written in the dialect of Johnson.

The People Turned Away

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This past weekend I spent a day in one of my favorite places in Britain so far: Brighton.

I’ve been experiencing somewhat of a mid-term slump, I suppose. I’m a bit homesick, and I’m stressed over planning trips and getting my coursework done. At home, the first thing I usually turn to in times of stress is the beach, or anywhere by the sea, really. Unfortunately the Thames doesn’t really cut it for me, but thankfully I was able to spend some time on the southern shore.

While it’s not the beaches on the New Jersey shore, the ocean is good to me. In the 18th century, doctors believed that sea air and even sea water had excellent health benefits, leading to a mass move of people creating holiday homes on the shore. Brighton is where George IV’s Royal Pavillion resides, and it’s where he came to work on his health, as he claimed.

I don’t know if the seaside does anything physically good for the body, but I know that it does a hell of a lot for the mind. Being on a beach and looking out onto the water and feeling the salty air whip my hair around let me breathe for a moment. Just a moment. Maybe just a moment was not enough, because I find myself stuck in the city and wishing I was on the shore, but I’m grateful that I was there at all.

Seeing a pier, bountiful ice cream shops and beachfront stores made me all the more wistful of being home on the Jersey Shore. Not that I don’t enjoy London immensely–it’s just that  I often let my anxieties get the best of me and the only thing I want is to be home with my friends and family lying on the beach at dusk.

Brighton is a city, a small city with unique shops, but it’s also the seaside. It’s a mix of the two things I love the most. I have a feeling that my visit wasn’t the last time I’ll ever go there. I hope it wasn’t.

Andrea Levy – “Loose Change”

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Creating a story between two people who are completely different always makes for something quite beautiful. “Loose Change” made me think about how different things are, especially in a country and culture completely different from my own. The narrator is a classic example of a western  woman experiencing what I can only think of as extreme culture shock. I quite enjoyed the detail in the dialogue, and the close attention to each time the girl surprised the narrator. The abrupt ending was especially moving, as it painted a sadly realistic picture of the pain and ignorance our society faces each day.

 

 

 

 

Landmarks

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There is a sort of aversion to being identified as a tourist. I know that when I think of a tourist I think of a silly dad with his family holding a map out, trying to find where Big Ben is. To the Londoner, he is a joke to laugh at, but why? Certainly, if someone were to visit his city, they would become him. But maybe not.

This past week a friend from the U.S. came to visit, and her checklist consisted of London’s landmarks: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus. Living here for a month and doing my hardest to blend in with the Londoners around me, I realized that I hadn’t even visited some of London’s most sought after landmarks, like Kensington Palace. And when we did visit them, I had fun, I admired, I took photos and stood in awe. Sure, we did look like tourists, but what was so wrong about that?

I’ve been spending some time trying to work out my aversion, and the general aversion, to being a tourist. I think it mostly has to do with tourism not providing a fully authentic experience of a place. Hopping around central London doesn’t lend to an immersive English experience. But when you have five days in a new city, wouldn’t you want to see the things it’s known for? And hopefully, if you’ve got a friend who’s been living there for two and a half months (ahem), you’ll be able to hit up some lesser known and non-touristy spots like a blues club and a hole-in-the-wall pub for some delicious fish and chips.

Tourists, don’t feel bad. And Natives, go easy.

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