I’ve been a bit quiet of late, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I suppose, is my visit to Sheffield.
There is turmoil.
I love Sheffield, but it seems to be in something of a flux situation. I’ve not been there for about 9 years and it that time, it has changed a hell of a lot. I was expecting to have done and while I’m agog at some of it, other bits fill me with terrible sadness.
The most striking thing, as you enter the City is that the Poly, sorry Sheffield Hallam University, has expanded enormously and virtually owns the whole space from the railway station to Redgates. It’s vast and sadly, most of the green spaces – and not so sadly, all of the horrible bits of wasteland – have gone. Mixed feelings.
I suppose in my head, I want SHeffield to be as I remembered it and it certainly, wasn’t but at the same time, I’m thrilled that the City that I left has expanded and is probably bringing lots of money into the city.
But hang on. If its expanded so much, why are great swathes of the city in such a mess? The Moor is a disaster zone. Chunks of it have been knocked down leaving gaping holes and for all the world looks like those pictures of post war slum areas. In the centre of a major city. Tragic. All of the moor has been given over to the new indoor market that is replacing Castle markets. Mixed feelings about that too. Although they were pretty awful and in serious need of renovation, knocking them down seemed a bit… extreme. Although having learned that the reason for this is to excavate the caste underneath, I”m all for it.
I could be getting this all wrong. But this is what I was told.
Its odd that the McDonalds has gone, although I won’t actually miss it, but again, thats a major hole in the City centre. It’s weird that the area between the Peace Gardens and McDonalds seems to be given over to suspect looking Takeaways when it used to be a vibrant shopping area, and the takeaway wrappers were well in evidence.
Oh, and the Peace Gardens. Ugh. I like the bit patch of green. Now we have a small patch of green and a lot of concrete. And fountains. Lots of fountains.
Conversely, Division Street and West street are booming. This cheers me up.
The Forum has become strange. There’s a bit built on the side now that makes you feel like you should walk through a chlorine bath to get to it.
A lot of the pubs I used to love have either gone or changed into hideous theme pubs. The Hadfield, bless it, is going to be a Sainsbury’s Local. Desperately sad.
But all this sound like I didn’t enjoy myself. I did. A lot. Sheffield may have changed but it’s essential Sheffieldness hasn’t changed and it’s that that makes me love it. And god, do I love it.
All of this is aside from the reason I went and that’s the friends I haven’t seen for between 9 and 25 years. We arranged to meet some folks in the Forum – after washing our feet, obviously and it was good to see Rachel, Ross, Gabby, Jonathan, Jon and Terry. It was also fun trawling the charity shops looking for secondhand vinyl.
The best bit, though, was Saturday evening when Tru and Matty, Gabby, Dave and Alison, Chris and Becky and John met me and Andy for Cocktails and Tapas. It was so fantastic to see everyone. Chris and Becky, I’ve not seen since the mid-80’s. Gabby not since about ’92, Tru, not since about ’91. I saw Dave a bit more recently when I dropped up to Sheffield for my 40th birthday.
So much history and nostalgia, not to mention a huge slap in the face and reminder of exactly how much I miss Sheffield and my friends. NO surprises, but I want to go home.
Being totally gay, when we got back to the hotel from a brilliant night out, Andy passed out and I lay awake for hours, gently weeping.
Sunday was a different prospect, although just as enjoyable. We met up with Dave, Alison, Tru and Matty and went for a walk along Wyming Brook. I’ve not done that since 1988. Anyway, we went for a ‘gentle walk’. Sadly, what I consider to be a gentle walk and what the others define as a gentle walk are worlds apart. MY suspicions were aroused when everyone got out of the car and changed into walking boots. I suspected by blue suede winkle pickers would be inadequate.
And they were.
We didn’t go for a gentle walk. We went hiking and hill walking. Had it not been so enjoyable, I’d probably bitch about it, but many photos were taken, many mushrooms were spotted and friendship and camaraderie were more than evident.
I’ve missed that.
After lunch back the hotel, we head out to Rivelin to see Cheryl and Shaun. I’ve not seen them since about 94 and I thought I’d completely lost touch until her name inexplicably turned up on Linkedin a year or so ago. Anyway, we went to the house and marvelled at their garden that looks like something out of Alice In Wonderland, met T – to whom I’m Fairy Godfather. He’s about 5 feet taller than last time I saw him but strangely still remembers more about my – now lost -Terminator collection than I do.
And then we went o of to see an amazing Bathhouse (Georgian, but built on the site of a Roman one) that Cheryl is in the process of getting funding to restore.
In the evening, we sat in a pub having arranged to meet a few people who were sure they could make it. None of them did, but to be honest, despite wanting to see them, we were sort of pleased as we were both knackered after a very active day. We had a big roast dinner, pootled off back to the hotel, watched something crappy on TV and crashed out.
On the way back we popped into the shopping mall of the damned in Northampton to meet up with Phil for a quick ‘state of play’ with Borderline Press and hit home.
One takeaway later and we crashed.
The upshot is: I still love Sheffield, I miss and love my friends. I want to go home.