I don’t remember much about the place I was born – only fabricated memories from faded family photos and grainy footage from Dad’s camcorder. It wasn’t ideal for bringing up a child – the sort of place where kids’d break into your car to get at the sweets in the glove-box; there was a stabbing at the end of our road before I was even a week old. Needless to say, we didn’t stay there for very long.
But Sheffield – Sheffield’s a whole different ball game. Only now, as I’m standing at the head of my bed, looking out from the window of my attic bedroom, do I realise quite how much I’m going to miss it next year.
I’ll miss our house, first and foremost – our madcap, bigger-on-the-inside house, with its cracks and creaky floorboards and hoards of “inherited” Fox family junk. We moved in five years ago, back when it looked like the set of a low-budget horror movie – no wallpaper, no carpets, no /anything/, riddled with spiders and damp, mostly held together with masking tape and prayers. We’ve been doing it up ever since, but there’s still work to be done yet.
I’ll miss our impossible road, though maybe not the way it slants at a near-vertical angle. I’ll miss it when it snows, when it becomes the go-to student sledging destination – the sight of groups of four or five at a time hurtling down on a tarpaulin, or solitary dare-devil surfers on kitchen tea trays will never not be amusing.
I’ll miss St. Thomas’ church, only two minutes up the road yet I always managed to be late for Sunday service. I spent thirteen years forming both faith and friendships there, losing the former in recent months but miraculously keeping the latter.
I’ll miss the courtyard outside it, where we’d huddle together and warble Christmas carols every December – children clutching cups of hot Ribena, mothers clutching toddlers, and fathers sporting all manner of ridiculous festive headwear. It was also the place I had my first kiss and my first cigarette, and regretted both immediately after.
I’ll miss my schools, all three of them… even Lydgate Junior School. I spent four of the worst years of my life there – kids can be cruel at at times – but came out of it having met some of the best people. I’ll miss card games in the Tapton common room, and mucking about on the piano in the music practise rooms.
I’ll miss Weston Park, where my brother and I would spend afternoons running amok both out on the grass and inside in the museum. I’ll miss paying the obligatory visits to Joey, the increasingly ratty-looking stuffed lion.
I’ll miss the town centre – my first date at the Odeon, endless coffee-drinking in any of the many Starbucks’, even the kidnappings-come-shopping-trips instigated by certain over-enthusiastic friends who fitted the teenage girl stereotype much better than I ever did (or would want to).
I’ll miss Sheffield Young Writers in the Children’s section under the Central Library – my bonkers second family of writers and scribblers, convening every fortnight to create new worlds on paper over kitkats and cups of OJ. I’ll have been there for four years this December, and every minute was worth it; I’m no longer the mumbling, nervous wreck I was at thirteen, and I have them to thank for it.
I’ll miss Mrs Clement’s house up the road, and half an hour a week she’d spend teaching me piano (or trying to). A firm believer in tough love, she cut me down more than once but nonetheless did her best with a difficult student. In seven years, I never once worked up the courage to call her “Frances” to her face.
I’ll miss the people. All of them. The school people, my immediate friends, some of whom have put up with my nonsense for much longer than I thought possible. The church people, Mum and Dad’s friends, to whom I am and probably always will be “Ruth and Jon’s girl”. The orchestra people – the ones that actually bothered to talk to the weirdo in third clarinet, that is. The SYW people, without whom I would not be writing this. I’ll miss my bonkers, infuriating, wonderful family, with our injokes and silliness, and unwavering support despite our differences.
I’ll miss nights like this, too. Usually, the early hours of the morning are punctuated by drunken renditions of dated pop ballads, or incoherent testosterone-fuelled shouting, but for once the street is quiet. The streetlamps are lit as far as I can see, littering the ground with a sea of orange dots. Here in the city, the ground has more stars than the sky, and I pick out my own made-up constellations as I reach out to drum my fingers on the cold slate of the rooftop.
I’ll miss this city, these seven hills.
My seven hills.