Recently, my friend who lives in Spain arrived here for a visit with her Italian husband. She has visited Sheffield before but this was his first trip to England. We took them into the city centre to meet up with a few friends for lunch.
Lunch was great and after eating we sat around chatting and someone asked the husband what he thought of Sheffield.
As his English is not too good he struggled to find the word he needed, so he told his wife in Italian what he wanted to say.
She looked surprised but said: “He says it is sad, Sheffield is a sad city. Not the people but the city itself.”
I knew exactly what he meant and I actually felt ashamed of my home city for the very first time.
Looking at it through unbiased eyes I realised how much our councils, of whatever party, have really let out city down. It is sad. It is drab, grey and dirty. The buildings are dirty, or unused, the place is covered with graffiti, full of little.
We have a few decent stores but basically there are too many boarded-up shops, pound shops, charity shops and fast food outlets.
They have allowed this once great city to fall behind others like Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool. There is no atmosphere, we need an outdoor market, not the white elephant at the bottom of The Moor, we need more street entertainers, and more events like the recent fabulous food festival.
The next day at 7pm we were back in the city looking for somewhere inviting to have dinner.
We were walking up Fargate which was like a ghost town at that point. He could not believe that the stores were closed and would remain so until the following day.
How about following their lead and closing for a few hours in the afternoon and opening later in the evening?
The eateries we looked in were just not welcoming, there were very few people in the places, making them look cold and uninviting.
Why not have someone by the door during these quiet spells, trying to entice people in with offers, or just showing them menus to see what the place offers. We ended up going to their hotel to eat.
They were impressed with the Peace Gardens and Tudor Square with the theatres, and Meadowhall where we took them on the Thursday to shop, and have lunch.
However I wonder how many people have been put off returning here or visiting in the first place after reviews from people like these when they get home.
If we want a great city again, one that appeals to tourists and local people alike money needs to be spent in the correct way. Maybe we could take tips from Leeds and Manchester and add a bit more colour and vibrancy here.