Friday, 3 July 2009

FaceOff: Stepford Wives & Russell Square

I had to work in Central London today; School Of African Studies (SOAS) Russell Square to be precise. I hadn't been there in a while and I get such a nice vibe whenever I go to the library; y'know whatever positive intelleuctual revolutions I'm plotting as an African; this is one place that's feeding my mind. However there's another side to SOAS, outside of its doors is a different world. There's Senate House, Uni of London Student Union, British Museum and the world of Russell Square & Holborn - and all of these places just have a certain feel to them that's different from the rest of London. I almost feel like I'm in a London without problems as though everyone there has these intellectual middle-class lives and is somehow insulated from the fast-pace of London, the buzz of the City; its speed, trendyness, but pollution too in all forms - litter, smelly takeaways, people and traffic. Its a feeling that is in the people; the buildings and everything is so clean, the restaurants cater to the vibe of people who don't worry about money and have that intellectual depth and world travel to back their standing in this world - Planet Organic, the restaurants of Bloomsbury Square, Goodge St design stores. All these things somehow make Russell Square distinct from other parts from Central London; it moves at its own time pace and everything is so clean and pristine - the architecture too gives off that feel - smooth tall grey buildings in good condition and have minimalist design as if resisting being pinned down to an era. The overwhelming number of American and French and Japanese speakers also add to the London-but-not-quite-London feel. In some ways this insular world is good, numbing my woes of the world, but on the other hand there's a lingering feeling that somethings not quite real, not quite what it seems. I'm trying to figure out what that thing is but I know its connected to questions of Victorian history, contemporary class structures and complex cultures of the City. And that oh so smooth n clean feeling that makes me almost a part of it but not quite and in those moments my world seems so far away only to come galloping back once I begin the journey down to Trafalgar Square. But I'm happy it does come back not that it took a leave of absence more that I'm surrounded by the challenging familiar that I must cope with and also enjoy being in the bits of The City that I love like Covent Garden & South Bank. Whereas in Russell Square I'm floating along, somehow navigating my path through such a familiar, yet strikingly different world of London.