A Grand Don’t Come For Free by The Streets

2004

It looks like I’m not going to get to watch any live cricket this year. For the last few years, I’ve watched a lot of T20 games but not much else. Now I can’t go and get a bit bored at a County match, I want to. Last year, Pete organised a day at a County match at Hove with a few other blokes. I didn’t know them but it was an excellent day – we kept an eye on the cricket, talked a load of rubbish, ate a huge roast lunch and downed several pints of Harvey’s. It was brilliant.

Watching cricket is not really like watching football. At the Brighton games, every single person is intensely watching the football. At cricket, at any one time I reckon only just over half the crowd is watching the game. Although this seems like a negative, it can be a positive. Meeting Pete’s friends at cricket last year was excellent and a great chance to chat. For the last 10 years of his life, my Dad and I spent a lot of happy times together watching cricket. It was much easier to spend six hours in his company watching cricket than it would be to spend an hour at my parents’ home. Half an hour could pass without us talking and it was very comfortable because we had the game to focus on. And to perpetuate a gender stereotype, it was much easier for father and son to talk about sport than to talk about feelings.

In 2004, I arranged to spend a day at Canterbury watching Kent play Essex. I told my sister, who at the time lived in Canterbury, that I was going and she said that she and her husband were intending to go. She also told me that her son was going to be there.

Roo and I got together too late to seriously consider having children and neither of us had had a serious relationship prior to meeting. I can’t imagine how we would have been as parents. We argue about how to fold a duvet cover in half so I can’t imagine how we would have managed deciding the best way to bring up a child. Anyway, I think I’m too hedonistic to have coped with the sacrifices that a parent has to make. Of course, now, seeing my friends with wonderful children who are grown up, I regret not having children very much. The nearest I have to this is my niece and nephew. I don’t see as much of them as I would like to but when I do, they are excellent company. I do make the effort to keep in touch but I am very wary of forcing my presence on them. Of course, they are working and have lives of their own and I am retired and have time on my hands so I understand. I did spend time with them both at my nephew’s wedding in Italy last year and we had a couple of very good chats about stuff.

So, let’s get back to 2004 in Canterbury. My sister and her husband popped into watch the game for a few hours but my nephew and I spent a lot of time together. I was staying at my sister’s house and not driving home so we both had a few beers. Obviously, I felt the need to prove to him that I was a better drinker than he was and he accepted defeat with good grace. We got to talking about music and considering he was in his twenties and I was in my fifties, we obviously had nothing in common. Except, he did tell me that he thought I’d like The Streets’ new record. Now when people tell me that they’re sure I’d like something, I always interpret that as meaning that they really like it and they have no idea whether or not I would like it. However, in order to appear cool, trendy, “with it” and groovy, I promised I’d listen to it. Mainly so that at a future date I could talk to him about it and remind him what a “young at heart” uncle he had. Surprisingly, not only did I buy it, I enjoyed it a lot.

This is not the sort of music I normally enjoy. Wikipedia describe the genre as “alternative hip hop” or, even more ludicrously, “rap opera”. Mike Skinner, who is The Streets, does sound a little underdeveloped in the brain department but obviously, this is a persona he deliberately projects as the whole record is very clever. Every song is what I would describe as rap but a very English version of it: self-deprecating and humorous. The record does tell a story of a loser who has £1000 in the house but can’t find it. He tries to gamble on football but can’t get to the bookmaker in time. He has an on/off relationship with a girl called Simone but he finds out that she is having an affair with his mate. The final song cleverly has two alternative endings – one where he ends up fighting a TV repair man and the other where he discovers the £1000 down the back of the TV. I especially like the self-deprecating nature of the words as normally I associate rap or hip-hop with braggadocio. On “Such A Twat” the chorus is “Why did I have to go and do a stupid thing like that? ‘Cause yeah, it felt like we were through though. But I could’ve ruined it. I’m such a twat”

The best song on the record is “DRY YOUR EYES” (yes, all in capitals). In the song, he is trying to deal with the end of his relationship with Simone. The song got to Number 1 in the Singles charts in July (and the record got to Number 1 in the Album charts). The ending is genuinely sad: “She pulls away my arms that tightly clamp around her waist, gently pushes me back as she looks at me straight. Turns around so she’s now got her back to my face, takes one step forward, looks back, and then walks away”

For several years when I was teaching at Oakmeeds, I used to teach a low ability group in Year 11. I always offered to take over a group after a teacher had found them difficult in Year 10. This made me very popular with the teacher but, to my mind, they had done the hard work at the time when the students were most difficult. Most students calmed down by Year 11 and adopted the attitude that if I didn’t put too much pressure on them, they would behave in a civilised way. We finished every lesson with Bingo and they all loved this. During the course of every lesson, I would play music. Not too loudly but it was enough of a strange thing to hear in a lesson that they loved it. I had to choose a balance between music that they would like and also what was appropriate. I always played “DRY YOUR EYES” because it was relatively calm, they knew it and I liked it. However, one of the verses contains “I’m not gonna fucking just fucking leave it all now ’cause you said it’d be forever and that was your vow.” I always had a Teaching Assistant in the room and I was always a bit worried that they may take offence so whenever this line came on I always coughed very loudly to mask the offending words. I still do that now, in fact I’ve just done it!

Another part of the song goes “‘Cause I can’t imagine my life without you and me. There’s things I can’t imagine doing, things I can’t imagine seeing. It weren’t suppose to be easy, surely. Please, please, I beg you, please” and I would always try to be near Alfie when this part came on so I could sing along “Do some work, please, please, I beg you please.”

I don’t like hip-hop or rap but I do like “self effacing, humorous English rap opera” and this is a unique occurrence of this genre.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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