In 1994 I was an awkward sixth former studying music at Colchester Institute.

One day, a friend thrust an album into my hand and told me I had to listen to it.

Little did I know that 25 years later this album, Parklife by Blur, would remain an obsession!

And little did I know I’d eventually credit that moment with making me a songwriter, finding me a wife and, believe it or not, inspiring me as a parish priest.

In this its 25th anniversary year, Parklife’s musical brilliance is much celebrated.

But when I first heard the album, it wasn’t the creativity and energy of the songs that grabbed me (though that came later).

What hit me was that this was Colchester music.

I could recognise characters and places that I knew.

And so, of course, I felt part of the music – thrilling to Damon’s singing about trains to Walton and the sample of an Essex Radio traffic report.

Then I started to recognise the various local characters: The stressed commuter, park joggers, 20-something couples, boy racers, and Club 18-30 types.

There was even a song (called Jubilee) about awkward teenagers like me: “He’s watching 24 hours of rubbish…his eyes are going square… He not going to cut his hair…He’s not keen on being like anyone else!”

I can’t have been the only Nineties Colchester teenager to seek out enough shaky links to band members Damon, Graham and Dave to kid myself I was almost a member of Blur.

My mate’s dad worked with Dave at the council. Graham’s dad taught my girlfriend music. Damon’s father taught at my college, and sometimes Damon would wander by.

I’m not ashamed to admit I even had a vivid dream that Blur employed me as their keyboard player.

I’m a little more ashamed to admit I still have that dream from time to time!

Although, alas, I’m still not a member of Blur, Parklife really did change my life.

It showed me it was possible to write songs about people and places I knew.

So song writing was what I dedicated my working life to – until I got ordained.

But it wasn’t only a career that Parklife gifted me. It also helped me find a wife.

I’m convinced that including a song from Parklife on the mixtape I made to woo the future Mrs S convinced her I was worth a punt as a man of taste and sensitivity. She was, of course, a Colchester girl!

A quarter of a century later, rather unexpectedly I have ended up as a parish priest.

Parklife still inspires me, though. The band occasionally expressed their dislike for Colchester and Essex, but I’ve always sensed real affection for our area in Parklife.

The characters and stories in the songs are too realistic to be mickey-takes.

They’re more like affectionate, cheeky portraits.

Part of being a parish priest is to find out the stories of the place where I live, and to lovingly celebrate them.

So I spend much time sharing in the stories of this place, its people and characters, and their lives.

Few albums sum up what it is to celebrate the life of a place and its people better than Parklife.

So, I still wander through Colchester with Parklife blasting in my ears.

It never fails to make me smile to hear the town and people I love sung about with such brilliance and affection.