Grime: An Oblique View


I have been challenged by Mr Oblique Junior to explain why I think he likes the musical genre of Grime. I had intended to write a post about Grime anyway, but this gives me a way to approach it.

Now listen carefully if you don’t know anything about Grime. According to Google, it is “a form of dance music influenced by UK garage, characterised by machine-like sounds”. It is not hip-hop, which features “rap with an electronic backing”; but apparently, our researchers tell us, it “draws influence from dancehall, ragga and hip-hop” (Wikipedia).

Clear? No, of course not. A curse of modern music is the continual argument about what defines a particular genre, to the extent that there have even been fictional genres created and believed. I like the idea of “Progressive Death Country”, although William Gibson was ahead of everybody else with fictional bands “Dukes of Nukem”, “Lo/Rez” and their ilk. No, I won’t explain. Go read William Gibson.

Grime is a particularly English genre. Prominent figures are Stormzy, Skepta and Dizzee Rascal. To appreciate what it is actually like you of course have to listen to it. To me, after some limited exposure, it’s characterised by a very bare, stripped down musical sound, almost minimalist dance music with often clever elements of electronica, with lyrics rapped in what seems to me frequently to be a very slow style across the top. But, as I said, you have to listen to it to appreciate what it is.

What seems to characterise it lyrically is a preoccupation with sex and violence, and usually a focus on the personal life- even the life as a celebrity- of the writer. I am not necessarily referring to any of the artists  named.

There really is in some of it a very dismissive attitude towards women and what really grates on this middle-class, late middle-aged, rather liberal-minded, white male listener is the frequent use of the N-word and the B-word. Oh, go on, you know the words I mean.

I’ll probably keep my f***ing b*****s ’til I’m 49”

goes the lyric I’m being played at the moment. Although that may not be grime, I believe.

“I make her think I love her, so I can f*** her when I want.”

However, to put my point of view was not the aim of this blog. Why does my 21 year old son like Grime?

He is very open about music, and will patiently listen to my choices, to the point of planning to come to a techno gig with us. I wonder if to some extent the fact that I am uncomfortable with the lyrics is a factor in his liking for it. Although we might deny it (I certainly did- but see “An anecdote” below) there is perhaps for all of us a wish to move on from the music of our parents and perhaps to shock them; or just to find something that is our own, and definitely not theirs.

I am sure that this wish is often unconscious, and I am sure that this is not the only reason or the main reason for Mr Oblique Junior liking Grime. The music is very striking, bare, new and challenging. It is a very fresh and young form of music; I wonder if anybody over 30 makes it or really gets it. It’s rebel music for a new generation. I speculate that this is the appeal to him.

So there you are. It is of course about the music, but it’s also about the cultural aspects. Popular music is all about change, and all about moving on from the choices of previous generations. Disco (still don’t really get it), punk (oh yes), and then electronica (definitely) were all new forms of music that moved me on from the rock music of my teenage years. But certainly for me, Grime is beyond the point at which I can understand my children’s choice in music. No, I don’t really understand why Mr O. Jr. likes it. Try asking him.

Please note: I almost certainly don’t understand the nuances of the N word as used in grime and hip-hop. Apparently the spelling, with an -a rather than an -er, makes it acceptable when used by certain groups.

An anecdote: When I was a teenager, I only used to listen to records when my parents were out. When they came back from the shops one day, Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs was concluding a rather noisy feedback guitar solo on that catchy little number, ‘Split Part 4’. My father and I had a very rare parent/ teenager spat:

HIM: Do you call that music?

ME: It’s better music than your silly old Beethoven.

Ho-hum. He did later go in with me on a new hi-fi system we could listen to away from the living room.



The Ms Oblique Library

LoansFurther to my last blog on “Print Junkies” I was fortunate enough to visit Miss (or Ms) Oblique #1 at the weekend. She and her partner, the erudite Red Rob, have an extensive and growing library, reflecting their varying interests of politics, military history, art, fantasy, SF, young adult fiction and much, much more. As is often the case on these sadly infrequent visits, I returned a stack of books that I had borrowed and came away with an even bigger stack, all recommended by the aforementioned Ms Oblique. This is of very little interest to anybody else, but I wanted to thank her with this brief post and to show the world what a 27 year old doing an MA in publishing thinks her 62 year old father with an MA in Education will enjoy. (She is very rarely wrong.) Thanks, Ms Oblique.

A Literary Wedding

DSCN6753Briefly- We went to a lovely wedding the other day, where there was something of a literary theme: hearts on the table punched out from a copy of Pride and Prejudice, paper bouquets made from books and magazines, themed course names, and so on.



DSCN6752I particularly liked being asked to choose a present for myself: a book from a selection made by the bride and groom. The idea provoked discussion and pleasure. I know it has motivated some guests to read, or to read something new. I chose ‘Underworld’ by Don de Lillo, as the groom particularly recommended it. Looks like a cue for a blog review. Eventually; it’s huge. Thank you, Michael and Christy-Anne

My Mother’s Books

My mother was an avid reader; my father still is. As I have probably mentioned before, being in a house full of printed material has made me the ‘print-oriented junkie’ (Harold Rosen) that I am today.

In my memory, there were two main threads to my mother’s reading. One was what we might term ‘period romance’, perhaps best exemplified by Georgette Heyer. I tried some of these and they are, perhaps surprisingly, quite well-written. Some later examples of this genre were not as good; I was a little shocked when Mum lent me one and I found that it contained ‘scenes of a sexual nature’!

I fondly remember reading some of Mum’s books from her childhood. She particularly enjoyed the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ novels; oddly enough, I read them as a teenager and greatly enjoyed them. She also had the “What Katy Did” books.

Most fondly remembered are her cricket books. I’m not sure how she got a love of cricket; maybe from her mother-in-law, who took her to see a test match. We went to see county games together a couple of times and shared a love of Test Match Special, especially the humour. She bowled tirelessly to my son in her back garden, and was always delighted when he put in a good performance for his club. I think she was still aware enough to realise that he had scored his first century when we told her.


Her great hero was the Surrey and England bowler, Alec Bedser (later chairman of selectors). I still have a treasured copy of ‘Following On’, an account of the 1950-1953 cricket seasons, written by Alec and his twin brother, Eric.

Equally treaured, but more often read, is ‘The Book of Cricket’ by Denzil Batchelor. Published in 1952, it is a collection of potted biographies of cricketers from W.G. Grace to Peter May. I have read it, or dipped into it, time and time again. I can recite many stories from it to the boredom of anybody.

There are and were others, but these are my prized possessions and memories. Thanks, Mum.


My Grandmother 2 (Things My Grandmother Said)

Brief….. but to be extended as I think of more. Any you can think of, little brother?

“My brain will never save my body.” Said after any waste of energy….

“You like that sort of thing, don’t you, dear?” (Accompanied by a sharp intake of breath) Often said to her daughter, my mother, who could never get it right.

“You’ll cry before you go to bed.” As a parent, I understand this; I think I did as a boy; but I still feel it’s a sad thing to say to an excited child.

“It’ll all be the same a thousand years hence.” I find this one strangely comforting, now.

“I’m twice the woman on my backside.” She was however not notably vulgar.

img083My grandmother and grandfather,  on Eastbourne beach. See also My Grandmother 1 (Nuisance Callers) and My grandfather’s books: A gentle tribute to a gentle man

My Grandmother 1 (Nuisance Callers)

My grandmother was… difficult. She truly was an individual. This is the first of some memories of her.

My grandfather (See ‘My grandfather’s books’ ) died when I was two, so for almost all the time I knew my grandmother she lived on her own; always just over the road from us, in bungalows.

She had an infallible way of dealing with callers at the door. (She never had a telephone.) No matter who it was: political canvassers, salesmen, Jehovah’s Witnesses- she would say “No thank you, I read my Bible” and shut the door in their faces. I haven’t yet summoned up the courage to follow her example.

Of course, like all good stories, this isn’t completely true. I have exaggerated.She did open the door to the milkman. One hot day, when she must have been in her seventies, she was just in her petticoat.

“Never mind me, you’ll see better on the beach,” she told him. (She was a Brighton girl.)

“A lot worse, dear,” he said chivalrously.


My mother and my grandmother, 1970s.

Searching for the Ancestors

We have been on the road and on the internet, looking for traces of our ancestors. It’s hardly ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ but it’s an entertaining and sometimes rather moving occupation.

I am highly pleased to tell you that one of my great-great-grandfathers was a pig dealer. I am a little less certain about telling you that his first wife  was so young that it embarasses me too much to give her age here. Presumably the marriage was legal at the time. When he died, my great-great-grandmother, his second wife, married a gentleman 18 years younger than herself.

On our list of places we have visited, or plan to visit, are Bognor Regis, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, Richmond, Mortlake and little villages in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire. We have discovered agricultural labourers (lots of them on my side), servants, ironmasters, teachers, stokers, photographers, caretakers, ploughmen, coachmen, tobacconists and ‘gentlemen’. We have investigated divorces, emigration and have been left with more and more mysteries.

I have written before about my great-grandfather  , Isaac. We have been to Nottingamshire, where he was born and lived his early life. Magically, the school where he must have been educated is still standing, though now a derelict (but just purchased) house.

It was donated and endowed for the poor children of the parish. I speculate, rather idealistically, that the basic education he received here was the first step on the road that led to his daughter becoming a teacher, my father gaining professional qualifications in insurance and computing, through his own hard work in his own time, and to my teaching career and M.A.

I frequently wonder what our ancestors would have thought of us. So many lived their lives all in one place, in the same place as generations of their forebears. In the rural areas, I think they would not have found so much changed. There are still fields, trees, hedgerows and little villages. What would they have made of me, sitting tapping this on a machine which would have appeared magical, for a medium which is virtually virtual…? I suppose much of it would be beyond their comprehension. Sometimes I fancifully imagine myself in a line, with my father next to me, his father (who I never met) next to him, Isaac next to him, and so on. Or with my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother the pig dealer’s wife….  All people, all the same, with all the hopes, joys and fears we have ourselves.