Blog Archives

Powerful message out of Hackney via Rudimental

I heard this track a while back and loved it. Now I’ve seen the video I am blown away. Rudimental come from Hackney, a place I moved out of when young kids started to get caught, and killed, in gang crossfire. This video is a brave response to urban street life and the choices young men make. Boys evolving into manhood need to assert themselves and their identities and society needs rituals and markers for this to happen in both a symbolic and positive way. Work is one rite of passage that is harder and harder to come by for young men. With time on their hands and hope in short supply it is no wonder some get into gang culture to fill the vacuum modern society has created.

There was an insightful programme on Radio 4 this week about the absence of fathers in the black British community (listen again here). David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, who presents the programme highlights the sad fact that of nineteen youths arrested in the immediate aftermath of the riot in Tottenham last year, only two had fathers who played an active role in their lives. As Lammy puts it, directly from his own experience, he ‘struggled to cope… to fill the great father-shaped hole in his life.’

It sounds dramatic to say this, but I will say it anyway: there is an emerging crisis in masculinity in the UK. I regularly work with men whose skills and knowledge were once needed and recompensed, but as the world has moved on rapidly, they have been devalued and discarded. I work with young men who have no role, no apparent future and no obvious way of creating a meaningful identity for themselves in mainstream society. I see egos in need of emergency first aid and reinvention and I see a culture that would rather point the finger and label people than shoulder some of the blame itself.

The message from the Rudimental video is that there is another way. It is a short, film with maximum visual impact and as such it could be accused of being simplistic. Of course there is not only one answer. But I understand it as a response to a desperate hidden situation that no-one cares about, is barely reported and I believe it is a much-needed start. Rudimental are not the only musicians reflecting these urgent issues, I think also of Plan B and Chase & Status. We must try and harness the energy this music creates, talk about the issues openly and respond creatively to the situation.

The future of the 21st Century male depends on that happening.

A Perplexed Note on Fashion

This is before I forget and someone blinks and the fashion is gone.

It has been noted (by the *Trouser Police with whom I live) that there is a new way of wearing your trews if you are blokeishly inclined. I think you have to be young to carry it off(ish) and certainly proponents have only been spotted in London and Essex.

The wearer appears to twist whilst turning up the trouser leg to end up with a kind of origamied bicycle-clip effect at the bottom of trousers that started their day as a pair of straight cut jeans. I had the chance to study the effect at close quarters on the bus today from Mile End, but as you see it actually defies description and I couldn’t deconstruct the method.

It is, of course, wrong if you are prescriptive about these things and I think my companion found it bordering on distressing, but one supposes it will pass off soon enough. For myself I find a kind of liberation in wearing wrong things. Old-fashioned Wainwright walking boots being such a one. They look like they are missing the calipers only but I don’t care. Marvellous. Carry on twisting and turning chaps and don’t worry if middle-aged men nearby faint.

Take these but with more volume and more twisting...

*There are people who have an invisible tape measure with which to pass or fail hem lengths – the offence or pleasure can be a matter of a mere millimetre. After 10 years it is fair to say I have a good bit of paranoia about passing these inspections. I thought I was fairly attuned to such matters in my twenties, but my eye lacks the laser precision of a true Trouser Policeman. For a further insight into such important sartorial matters I would refer you to Stephen Foster’s Strides

Note to self: read the trouserish bits of said novel to the in-house Trouser Police for confirmation and denial…

A Bad Friday (I wanted blue)

The Guv’nor had a bad day at the office last Friday, it was very stressful he said. Now this is more information that is usually forthcoming in a month, so I was compelled to inquire further.

Woodberry Down was once a really depressing estate on the Seven Sisters Road near Manor House on the Piccadilly line (that’s the dark blue line). It has had loads of money spent on it, so it may be improved, but being on that busy thoroughfare you can only facelift so much I’m guessing. This is where Friday’s decorating job was; for a lovely Turkish family. Due to water damage they only needed one wall matching and painting. The Guv’nor’s guv’nor had done the matching, so the main man turned up with an apprentice and a tin of paint.

As it turned out, the paint was blue as required by the wall to be painted, but the wrong shade of blue. No matter, the Guv’nor says, I know what that is, that’s Doll’s House blue. So off they go in the van to Hackney Wick to get a bit of Doll’s House. The trip to Hackney Wick is not that far, a few miles at most, but it also requires getting through Clapton or Stoke Newington and can take some time…

Back at the flat, one trip to the Wick under their belts, they give the wall one coat of Doll’s House. It’s the wrong blue. So far so bad, but maybe a little bit understandable, Doll’s House is close but not close enough. The next bit is where my mouth started hanging open. So now the apprentice says, and remember this is in a house full of people who actually live in it and pay rent and so forth, I know what colour that is – it’s Pompadour. Doh says the Guv’nor of course it is. Why didn’t you say that when I was going down the Doll’s House blind alley?

So off they go to Hackney Wick for the second time and bring back the apprentice’s best effort.

And, I asked? Yes, you guessed it – what do apprentices know. That’s why they have their own horse races to ride in. So the Guv’nor having played his best hand and having wasted enough time to have painted the whole room in the first pot of paint that was the wrong colour was forced to resort to getting the colour chart from the van – which he was gracious enough to admit he should have done in the first place.

Why I asked, majoring in annoying questions, did you not get the chart out in the first place?

Because the Guv’nor said I am a man and men do not look at maps even when they are lost.

Good answer. Perfectly understandable. I have never liked Woodberry Down.

Just needs a lick of Pompadour