When you start school, you are placed in a class with other children born at roughly the same time as you, in the same area. You may be in the same class as those children for the next 6 years, maybe even longer. They become your friends and you may lose touch with some of them over the years, or you may still be talking about when Ryan and James jumped into the lake and got soaked 25 years later.
If you go to stay in halls at university, you get placed with people from all over the country and live with them for at least a year. You become friends through your living situation, the experience of moving away from home for the first time and dealing with all the things that come with having to become an adult for the first time.
You start jobs, you have hobbies, you make friends in a number of different ways, but it sometimes seems harder to do when you are older and move to a new place. I’ve been in Sheffield for 4 years now and I have some lovely friends, but it’s always good to make more.
Last week, I went along to the second Girl Gang Sheffield ‘Speed Mate-ing’ event at Union Street. I had planned to go to the first one but it was sold out, so I bought my ticket early for number two. For those reading in the future and may not know, the UK was rocked by ‘The Beast from the East’ over the start of March this year and Sheffield did not escape the Siberian winds and the snow storms that covered the country, but that didn’t stop the ladies (and one gent) of the city and surrounding area from heading into town to make some new friends.
Last night was part three of my Sparkle Dress Comedy Challenge and a trip to Sheffield’s City Hall for ‘Lefty Scum’.
I worked all day in Meadowhall, got changed into the sequins in the staff room behind some mannequins (getting semi stuck in the previous dress as I went) and headed to the tram stop, hoping to get to the venue on time. I found my seat, but had to take the long way around to get to it and missed out on a trip to the bar – but then the queue was long and I have very little money left at the end of the month, so never mind.
I chatted a little to the couple to my left (naturally) about recent things they’d been to, I’d been to, how they’d moved up here from London recently and are looking for more stuff to do and to meet new people. They seemed lovely and, coincidentally, the lady I was sat next to on Thursday came up and said hello to them – she the girlfriend of one of their friends, they told me. Foolishly, we didn’t exchange names or details to meet up, but they might read this, so ‘Hello!’
The gig was kicked off by Josie in some great dungarees doing her bit of ‘chatting’. I’ve never seen her live before, I’ve heard some of her podcasts: Short Cuts, Robin and Josie’s Utter Shambles, Book Shambles and as a guest on others like The Made of Human Podcast with Sofie Hagan.
I sat on the tram opposite an older woman. Her face was turned to the window and tears streamed silently down her face. I took out my headphones and asked her if she was ok, she just nodded. I smiled at her and put my headphones back in, listening to funny women being clever.
I was sitting directly opposite her but tried not to keep looking directly at her, but because I felt she didn’t want a witness to the still falling tears. She turned back to the window, clutching her carrier a little closer. I could see her wipe at the tears from the corner of my eye, in the reflection of the windows. I wanted to check again whether she needed help but I didn’t want to draw attention to her.
The tram rattled on, halting at each stop, unusual for this time of night. When the woman and I locked eyes briefly we smiled at each other. I looked away and focused on the voices being pumped into my ears.
My stop was announced, I gathered my things, stood and gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder and another smile as I headed towards the door. Another year fell and she smiled again wearily, putting her hand over mine. I left the tram, stepping to the pavement and the dark night. After a few seconds the tram rolled past me, the lights inside harsh and garish compared to the muted streetlight ahead of me. She was lit up, once again looking out of the window away from me. The tram sped on, carrying her further into the night and whatever awaited her at home.
Twenty two days into February and I finally got to go to another live comedy show. This is officially part two of my Sparkle Dress Comedy Challenge, following last month’s trip to Greg Davies in Leicester. You can read more about that here.
Last night was John Kearn’s show ‘Don’t Worry They’re Here’ at DINA venue in Sheffield. It was also my 34th birthday. I sent a link to some youtube clips of John to some friends and invited them to come with me, but I did let them know that I’d not be offended if it wasn’t their thing. Comedy can be very divisive, you laugh or you don’t and there’s nothing worse for me than laughing my head off with friends who just don’t get it, it stresses me out and I’d rather go on my own and enjoy it than be worried about how others are going to react.
I last posted in September with big plans for streamlining the blog, actually writing something for a change but then I got confused and distracted. Writing just didn’t seem to be high on my list of priorities, but some things have happened and I’ve got a new love and enthusiasm for it.
So firstly, I got two part time jobs, one in Meadowhall and the other at Sheffield University Student’s Union. They couldn’t be more different, but I’m working with lovely people at both, I have a relatively steady, but meagre, income and I’m feeling happy again. I’ve also been making some of the felt pictures, more on that in a later post, and trying to build myself a social life again after becoming a relative hermit from habit and poverty. As part of my self care, building my social life and getting out doing fun things more…
…let me introduce you to The Sparkle Dress:
The Sparkle Dress was something I saw online one day in September but couldn’t think of obtaining. I got a job and The Sparkle dress became something I gazed at as I walked past Simply Be on my way to work. The Sparkle Dress called to me because it had all the colours of my hair. The Sparkle Dress was something I couldn’t afford because I had to pay for other, less frivolous things, like rent and food and travel to work and Netflix.
I bought it on sale, no refunds because it was a bit broken (something I could easily stitch up. It made me so happy to get it and wear it to Christmas. At Christmas I got a ticket for Greg Davies’ show ‘You Magnificent Beast’ as a present – thanks Liz and Richard. I decided that the Sparkle Dress should not just be worn once, but should be worn out and where better to dress as a giant glitter ball from G.A.Y. than a show called ‘You Magnificent Beast’?
When I was in primary school we did loads of cool art things that I don’t get to do any more. I could do something about this; I could build a makeshift flower press; I could take out some crayons and paper and head out for a walk to take some rubbings; I could even buy a load of different pasta shapes and make a collage, but I am less likely to do any paper marbling at home. Mainly because I can’t really remember how to do it and I don’t really remember what equipment I might need.
So when I saw that my friends at Edge of the Universe Printing Press were running a series of workshops last Summer I signed myself up straight away. It’s just taken me this long to type up my notes about what we got up to!
I went along to have a go at marbling and book binding in a two part session. Sarah and David divided up the participants into two groups, one tacking the marbling first and the others working on the book binding. I had brought along some coloured paper, trimmed to A5 size, and sat myself down to bind my little book first.
Winter is flowing into Spring once again and although it’s nearly May (yes, I know it’s May now that I’m typing this up, but let’s just stick with it.) the forecast threatens snow today.
I have arrived at work two hours early, because I can’t keep track of my calendar at the moment, I’ve drunk too much coffee and so am drinking lots of water and forcing myself to write. Why am I forcing myself to write? Because I’ve not been writing and it’s a good habit to get myself back into.
So in the last 6 months I have worked, read lots of books*, done a bit of screen printing, investigated European folk patterns and embroidery on a superficial level, watched some films, cut and dyed my hair, walked along a river and seen a heron standing before me, looked after my sister, read some more books and made a mess of my bedroom. I keep trying to control the bedroom mess but it’s having none of it.
As a person who grew up in a reasonably small market town, I love being in a city. There are so many more things to see and do, places to explore than there were back home. But, I grew up with Summer holidays spent searching for bullhead fish and sticklebacks in the river, climbing the ruins of the viaduct before I knew what a viaduct was, playing on a broken down, abandoned digger in a field, sitting on fences watching the sun start to set, heading out on scavenger hunts for rose hips and different grasses.
So much as I love twisting, turning streets, brick and steel buildings, roads filled with buses, trams and terrible drivers, sometimes I just need some grass, trees, leaves and flowers.
I’ve now lived in Sheffield for a year and I’ve barely explored its magnificent green spaces. I have made a concerted effort to get out and about a bit more.
A couple of months ago, I packed a bottle of water, a scotch egg, a penguin biscuit and some crisps, got on the 85 bus heading out of town from Hillsborough to go exploring. I was headed for Wheata Woods, in search of bluebells.
In the last few years I’ve had help and support from a number of different people. My younger* brother, Richard, and his girlfriend, Liz, let me live in their attic when I came back from Tanzania. My sister, Alex, and her family let me live with them for a few weeks when I came back from travelling. My poor niece was put out of her room and I don’t think she complained. Well, if she did then they didn’t tell me and she’s so ridiculously cute she’d get away with it. I’m very grateful to them for helping me out when my world was slowly disintegrating and we had all lost a father.
When I was in Fiji, with about £30 left to my name I was really panicking. I think I knew I was a bit depressed again, I was annoyed with myself because I didn’t have enough to get across America and was having to face the fact that I was going to have to go back early. I really couldn’t face going to live back in Northamptonshire.
Now I want to clarify, my home town is lovely place. It’s relatively small, it’s got good schools, it’s a short walk to the countryside. It’s pretty safe to bring up a family in, but for me it’s suffocating. I can’t be there at this stage of my life, and actually, I don’t know if I can ever go back permanently. When I’ve been back to my old school to talk to the 6th form I ask them to put their hands up if they want to stay there for all their lives. I then ask who thinks that their soul would be sapped away, second by second, if they stayed there forever. I’ll let you guess which option is voted for the most often. Obviously it’s a bit of a joke, but I feel trapped there, partially by my own inability to drive.
So sitting by the beach in Fiji last May I was talking to my friend Ruby about how I could manage to move to Sheffield in my self-imposed impoverished state. She suggested contacting musicians to see if they happened to need a house sitter or babysitter over the summer. Which is how I messaged Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and ended up living in their attic for 6 months or so. (Or, as their infinitely wise eldest son said ‘You live in the whole house, not just in the attic!)**
I moved up to Sheffield carrying with me one large suitcase of general stuff, my travelling backpack, my tent, ready for Towersey Festival, and a big Ikea blue bag filled with things to make stuff from. When thinking about what I’d need to move to a new city with, I packed clothes, a few items for the start of school, and I knew that travelling up on a train would be a pain, but I couldn’t bear to leave behind my felt, embroidery threads, needles, bits of ribbon and other odds and ends for making bits and pieces.