City Views: Sally
I grew up resenting Sheffield. Living in Meersbrook it felt like the dullest part of the city…
Being 45 minutes from town, miles from Meadowhall and the nearest shop ten minutes away. It was just trees and suburb, with an hourly bus route. I was itching to get out, which I did. Afterwards I was similarly frantic to leave Sheffield, also achieved as soon as possible. Amongst me and my sister and my cousins, we’re amazed about how trendy Meersbrook has become these days. Most of my mates talk about moving there after years of not knowing where it was, and the place seems to be full of new shops and cafes sprouting out of nowhere alongside the rising house prices.
Falmouth, Cornwall, was my university of choice. At the end of the trainline, it was the furthest away I could get whilst staying on land. During my three years there I only met one other person from Sheffield, so I found myself a kind of outsider, deep undercover in the North-South divide. Subsequently, I have so, so many stories about people being knobheads about Sheffield, or not knowing where it is, or both. My housemate had known me for over a year when she asked me where in London Sheffield was. A guy trying to flirt with me at a party asked if I was from a “deprived northern school.” Later (I don’t know why I kept talking to him) he told me he’d struggled to understand my accent when we first got chatting, like I was a steelworker who’d snuck into academia. During Freshers, surrounded by crap music and conversations about the Home Counties, most of my introductions went like this…
Other person: “Sheffield?”
Me: “Yeah, where the Arctic Monkeys are from. It’s about an hour east of Manchester.”
Other person: “Bit of a shithole, isn’t it?”
Yet, there’s something about Sheffield that southerners want to adopt. Whilst waiting tables I remember being asked for a “bottle of Hendo’s” by a student with an accent that wouldn’t be out of place on Made in Chelsea. Despite being from Kent my boyfriend wears a “strong and northern” t-shirt regularly. When my best mate (and fellow Meersbrook deserter) went to uni in Nottingham I visited her, where I found myself drunk in a gross first-year kitchen surrounded by very posh people talking about how they loved living in the north and “being northern.” Nottingham, as we all know, is in the Midlands. Ugh.
Moving back, I had to forgive Sheffield for my perceived boring teenage years spent drinking cider on Hunters Bar roundabout and trying to get into DQ. I’ve started listening to the city better and shockingly I’ve had a pretty good time by doing so. Most of my mates have moved back now, which is always a sign of a solid hometown. I was only supposed to stay for a few months, but here I am, lingering in Sheffield over a year later, spending too much of my money in nice pubs trying to get into real ale. Walking about these days I feel enveloped in the intimacy of being home, I love how I could stroll from Wadsley to Norton and not get lost and just how easy I can navigate this city.
Since moving back above the border, boxed up memories have been returning which have made me realise how great it was to grow up here. I remember how everyone I knew owned a pair of “Corp shoes” and sitting hungover in sixth-form with the taste of blue pints in the back of my throat. I remember how my dad got into an intense argument in Pitsmoor with an old lady as the Tour De France whizzed past, making him miss the whole thing. I remember the early Tramlines years, when it was on Dev Green and queueing all day to see Pixie Lott or Olly Murrs for the second year running. I remember watching the New Year’s fireworks from the top of Meersbrook Park every year of my childhood and the sight of the cooling towers on the M1 that would tell me I was almost home.
Looking back now, I do have to admit: it really wasn’t that bad after all.