It had been a good meeting on Friday evening and we had sat and talked for quite some time on our return to Sheffield. On Saturday it was decided that we would abandon the car in favour of public transport and wander into the city centre. It took some doing, as we felt no need to hurry and ended up getting lost in Rimbaud whilst discussing the vagaries of poetic translation and interpretation. From there it was not much of a step to Leonard Cohen, Victor Hugo and Saint-Exupéry and we could quite easily have lost the day. However, we needed to get a better photograph or two in the Cathedral Church for Dark Sage… a project which could be completed in mere minutes… so we finally got ourselves organised and headed towards the city.While I love living in a more rural area, I do rather like the vibe in a city. There is something in the air, and occasionally it is good to spend a little time soaking it up. Not a lot, I hasten to add, but there are bookstores and artworks, statues and architecture on a scale not seen in the villages I love. There is music in the streets and people-watching is a never ending fascination, especially in a city like Sheffield with a vibrant University and arts scene and where the artistry of many students extends to their appearance. The graffiti is of a high standard and mingles happily with the grandiose buildings of Victorian civic pride, while modern concrete monstrosities snuggle up to mellow Georgian brick.
We headed down to the Showroom, an independent cinema, to see if there was anything on that might take our fancy and in search of refreshment, pausing to snap the poem What If..? by Andrew Motion on the side of the Hallam building. The question was, coincidentally, one we had been pondering based on some of the symbols in the church. We found that we were just too late for a talk by Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk. The book, which my companion had recently given me, lies beside me as I read the final chapters. Just one of those odd coincidences. The event was part of the Off the Shelf literary festival and there was a call for poems to be submitted. Oddly enough, as we had been looking at poetry before leaving, one of mine was still on the display of the phone. Another coincidence, of course, so I was prodded to submit it at the festival desk.
There was a further stop for refreshment at a small pub in a quiet street and a futile foray to a store before being introduced to a rather unusual but altogether delicious pizza. Seated in a tiny yard we marvelled at the buddleia growing in the crevice of a roof. You just never know what you are going to find tucked away in a city. In the cracks of the mortar and between the brickwork mosses and wild plants seem to thrive in an apparently inhospitable environment and the tenacity of life itself seems somehow to be reaffirmed and celebrated by the gentle invasion of Nature. We may build our cities upon Nature’s breast but it is she who nurtures her children. We cannot keep her out and to be fair, why would we want to? At eye level there may seem little but plate glass, chrome and price-tags. Look up, however, and there is always something to see. Amongst the finials and sculptures there are birds and green things growing. The stars, however, are faint here, drowned by the artificial light.
In some cases though, you also have to look down and we paused to look instead at the stars of the Sheffield Legends outside the Town Hall, plaques commemorating those from or connected to the city and who have made their mark in the world. We left our shadows on the pavement there… it is, after all, the closest we are ever likely to get to joining their number!
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