All A Bit of A Blur

When I pulled this quintessentially English album out of the tin on Friday (the morning before England played Scotland at the Euros), I was all ready to write about being an Englishman living in Scotland. Then, on Monday morning, my grandma died. She had been very ill for a very long time but it was still a shock, as it always is.

I thought long and hard about whether to write about Grandma, it seemed such a personal thing to put on the internet, but I started by saying this project should be a reflection of the year I have had and so it seemed disingenuous not to write about what was happening in my life.

Grandma, undoubtedly, would have absolutely hated this album. She did always love music; she would always sing us a lullaby about a dolly which had, at best, questionable racial undertones — but in her soothing timbre it all seemed fine — and was always the loudest in church. But she was selective — I remember once being in the car with her, my dad, and my sister. Dad wanted to show off how cool his daughter was and got her to sing along to Muse. Grandma put her fingers in her ears the whole way through. Although that might have just been my sister’s singing…

(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

When Parklife was released, I was probably no older than my sister was in that story. That was a time when grandma looked after us a lot. Thinking back, there were always two versions of her. She always managed the dichotomy of being a staunch catholic and a loving, fun grandma well. On one day we would build a fort over the staircase with sheets and her, my brother and I would hold meetings of the “Ages gang” (Sega spelt backwards) and eat secret sweets out of a tub we were only allowed to bring out on those occasions (I found out earlier in the week that even my mum didn’t know about that tub). On another day, she once told me I ‘would have to fast’ before church because I got up too late to have breakfast. (Fortunately, my auntie had an emergency KitKat in her handbag).

Seemingly most of my immediate memories of grandma are food related. But so, I think, will be the lasting ones. Small tins of boiled travels sweets, covered in powdered sugar, will always remind me of her. I can be in any train station or airport in the world and be immediately whipped back to the lounge of a one-bed flat in Greater Manchester, unable to concentrate on the grown-up conversation around me as I’m too focused on the clock to see if enough time has passed to ask for another sweet. It is nice to know that small things like that will always trigger memories like that.

As for Parklife, the beauty of this album is that it creates little vignettes of peoples lives, complex characters in 3 or 4 minutes are built behind the youthful arrogance of Blur’s delivery. I hope I have done the same for you with my grandma.

In truth, though, I hadn’t seen her for a long time before she died and I regret that. I never got a last chance to speak to her, to thank her for all the times she looked after me. But I can tell my mum, who I know eventually will get around to reading this, that I’m thinking of her and that I love her very much — hopefully that is enough for now.

Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Thanks for reading — over the course of 2021, I’ll be reviewing 50(ish) of the greatest albums ever recorded. You can see the list here:

There is also a playlist featuring the best song from each album here.



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