TONIGHT, if it’s nice – and probably even if it’s not – we’re going to walk, me and her, out of the city, down across the Don, up the Pitsmoor Road and over to the old scrub land off Andover Street, near where the old Sheffield School Board house stands derelict there on the hill.
And then – assuming it’s not over-run with teenagers being feral, as I understand is the fashion in this ‘broken society’ one hears about – we’ll probably sit down and spend a while looking out over the city where, this day, we have lived exactly 18 months.
And then we’ll probably realise that, while the view is undoubtedly grand, it doesn’t actually do very much; and essentially what we’re doing is loitering on waste ground, growing cold and bored.
And then we’ll walk back into town and have a bag of Henderson’s flavoured crisps somewhere. And then tomorrow, we’ll have lived here 18 months and one day.
Which isn’t really a long time.
Longer than I lived in Wolverhampton but, then, that was Wolverhampton.
Nice car industry and a lovely Asda but it wasn’t for me. I did nine months – perhaps in the same manner previous generations did national service – and escaped.
But Sheffield? Eighteen months in? Love it.
Love the parks, love the Peak(s), love the police box outside the Town Hall. I love the five rivers and the seven hills and The Three Tuns.
I love Tudor Square and Paradise Square, and even Charter Square has a certain charm if you learn to dig that whole urban-decay-and-disorder vibe.
I like how there’s a garden named Peace, a car park called cheese grater and a gutter that goes by Truelove’s. I like how someone once asked me about the tram and I said: ‘Take the blue line to Halfway’ and then I thought ‘That sounds like a Richard Hawley album.’
I like to catch that tram at night and look at the city as you come down Park Grange Road.
I like the history of big industries and little mesters, of Sixties hurricanes, Twenties gang wars and decades of underachieving football teams. I like the Arts Tower and the amphitheatre.
I don’t like Park Hill – but I like how much people like it.
I like the people. I like the blokes down the market who call me ‘duck’. I like my friendliness from strangers to come with a healthy dose of cynicism.
All of which, I reckon, sometimes needs to be said.
Because isn’t it easy to find the faults and flaws and Fitzalan Squares, and never appreciate what, civic-ly speaking, one has?
Isn’t it easy to grumble when there are reports telling us the region is in economic decline, and investigations telling us there’s too much pollution, and commentators telling us the whole city centre – and not just, say, Yates’s in Barker’s Pool – is a disgrace?
Well, aye, maybe, there’s truth in all those.
Maybe there aren’t enough shops, and maybe there are too many potholes, and maybe by the time it’s finished Sevenstone would probably be better called Seven(decade)stone.
There’s too many pigeons, as well, for the record.
But for me, for now, Sheffield’s all right.
Because, perhaps above all else, I like that poem in the Winter Garden that declares this city is twinned with Mars. For sometimes, when you’re on the hills – or coming down the blue line – I reckon that’s sort of how it feels.