It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I boarded the train at Reading and took the three-hour journey north to the once industrial but recently gentrified city of Sheffield. There I met with seven similarly wide-eyed souls. Nothing had physically barred us from returning, and yet it had taken a group of relatively motivated individuals fourteen years to get their acts together. There was understandable excitement, but also a little nervousness. Will it be how I remember it? Was this a good idea?
Cautiously we ventured out. The students (who had all been toddlers and foetuses when last we’d lived there) regarded our sensible, practical clothes with vaguely amused condescension, whilst the older locals were complicit in their acceptance where previously their had been only judgement.
We found our old stomping group much changed, but also strangely familiar. Large towers had arisen, and some intimate settings had been swallowed up, but the sense of rediscovery was palpable – What did that shop used to be? Oh look, that’s still there!
Emboldened we sought out our most cherished haunts. First there was ‘The Broomhill Tavern,’ originally famed for having light fittings strong enough to swing off, then the fantastically named ‘Springvale Beer Engine,’ before finally our hall of residence ‘Tapton,’ a building that, when seen through objective eyes, was a garish (and now derelict) 1960’s monstrosity. But our eyes were anything but objective! To us glorious snap-shots in time had afforded the bricks and mortar an awkward kind of grace. Speaking to a security guard we learned that demolition plans had once again been blocked by the surrounding neighbourhood. A great symbol of our past was to cling to existence a little while longer.
An Italian restaurant was the scene of our most shameless reminiscing. It was here that we proposed a series of increasingly self flagellating speeches and basked in the glory of having stayed in touch over the years; growing through various trials and tribulations, joys and disappointments, births, deaths, marriage triumphs and failures.
Returning to the place that was the making of you evokes feelings that go way beyond nostalgia. There is delight that streets not walked in over a decade can still be considered home, marvel that rose-tinted recollections really were as good as you remember them, and yet at the same time it’s as though it all happened to someone else – in my case a slighter, hairier, less cynical self. Having said all that, and despite its blandness, I find that the word ‘lovely’ seems to sum it all up just right.