What Not to Do in Sheffield

If city lights dazzle you, don’t come to Sheffield. Don’t get me wrong, there is the odd streetlamp, and the Moor’s quite pretty when it’s lit up, but it’s no Blackpool illuminations, is all I’m saying.

If you’re after Korean street food or a trendy tattoo-cum-craft beer bookshop, don’t come to Sheffield. I’ve seen a bookshop, sure, and there’s a Korean supermarket right by the token £3-a-coffee cooperative, and, yeah, I know the odd person that bribed the guy near TK Maxx for some ink; but it’s no Soho.

Don’t misunderstand me, please: Sheffield is a fantastic place to live. I love the way people call you duck on the bus and the trees fill up the sky. Wandering down Division Street is as fine a way to spend a Saturday afternoon as you’ll find in any Northern post-industrial town, and the food market is, as my mate put it, decent. The university bubble is a haven of white-collar tolerance. Sometimes they give out free ice creams outside Hallam and there’s a golden postbox for Jessica Ennis. Best of all, although no one will believe me, I once saw a seagull washing his bottom in the Botanical Gardens fountain.

These things aren’t to be sniffed at, and I’m not trying to denigrate the place in any sense of the word… But people are always visiting and asking me about the top tourist attractions, about the so-called must-dos and the must-sees.

“Rosie,” they say to me. “What are the top tourist attractions in Sheffield? What are the so-called must-dos and must-sees?” (I’m paraphrasing.)

This leaves me in a quandary. I can’t exactly tell them to go look at a postbox, and the few times I’ve dragged visitors to the Botanical Gardens, the famous bottom-washing seagull has been conspicuously absent.

Far easier, and, in my opinion, far more interesting, is what not to do in Sheffield. So here it is, dear reader: my top three things to avoid doing at all costs in my adoptive hometown:

1. Don’t go for a walk along the canal.

Heaven knows I’m a fan of canals; I once spent an entire summer researching them as part of an ongoing canal/poetry mashup.

Sheffield canal, on the other hand, is, and I hate to use this expression, shitty as fuck.

A walk along the canal system in my hometown is a walk straddling nature and industry, a celebration of harmonising elements of our world. Children frolic along the towpath; families cycle along behind Dad like ducks following their mamma; a fleet of canoers startle a swan.

Walking along Sheffield canal gives me an adrenaline rush, but not because I’m breathless from the beauty of nature. The surface of the water is so thick, I’m pretty sure it would support my weight and the few straggly waterfowl explain why the Peking duck from Chopsticks tastes so weird.

To walk along Sheffield canal is to get a passive high. If I ever ran for office and was asked, “Ms Rosie, have you ever smoked marijuana?” the only honest response would be, “No, but I have inhaled.”

2. Don’t go to a match at Bramhall Lane.

Hillsborough is where it’s at. GO ON, OWLS!!

(Maybe this one is a little subjective.)

3. Don’t, under any circumstances, go to the museum by the Winter Gardens.

I forget its name. I’ve only lived here for two years.

I was desperate for a wee and the public toilets in the centre haven’t been opened since they were trashed in the traditional Hogmanay celebrations. I ducked into the museum to relieve myself and then, out of a sense of obligation, nipped into the exhibit about cutlery.

Did you know that Sheffield was the leading manufacturer of cutlery for the best part of the nineteenth century? I did.

Bless him, the exhibit attendant had been standing by a display of sparkly (but still dull) forks all day. He pounced.

I am now an expert in how they make the tines just sharp enough. Thanks, weak bladder.


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