Today is Sheffield Part 2 and this time, I am going too! Needing to be sure of meeting the deadline for delivery of the package, Tigger has taken an early train at the expensive rate, her ticket paid for by the company, and I am taking a later train at the cheap rate. We shall rendezvous joyfully in Sheffield.
Drinking coffee and eating a naughty chocolate muffin at St Pancras, I wonder what the day will hold. It will be a short visit to the Field of Sheaves because my train home leaves at 16:27. I hope there will be other visits when we can spend longer enjoying what it has to offer.
At 9:45 I make my way to the train. It is quite busy and I am seated next to a young lady. Fortunately I have the aisle seat. The train leaves promptly on time. I have Richard Feynman’s The Meaning of it All in case I become bored watching the scenery passing by the windows. The day started grey but as we leave the station, the sun emerges timidly from behind the clouds.
Yesterday, Tigger reported that it was very cold in Sheffield. I am therefore warmly dressed, too warmly dressed for London, I soon discover, so I hope it is still cold up north or I am going to feel uncomfortable.
I have received a voice mail. It must be from Tigger. Even though the notification has reached me, I cannot listen to the message because we are out of signal. Each time a few bars appear on the signal indicator, I dial voice mail but before I can sign on, the signal is lost again. Frustrating. I shall have to wait until we reach a station where, I hope, there will be a steady signal.
I finally heard Tigger’s voice mail at Leicester. She has made the drop and is returning to the station to meet me. I tried to send a text suggesting that as there is still an hour to go before I reach Sheffield, she should find something interesting to do, but before I could send the message, we had left the station and the signal had vanished. Grrrr!
By Derby, we have lost the sunshine. The cloud cover has closed in again, dressing the land once more in its winter greys.
Derby is another good city worth exploring, but today we are merely passing through. Another time, perhaps.
I haven’t opened the Feynman book once during the journey. That will be a pleasure to come. Unlike Einstein, the meaning of whose cryptic sayings people still dispute, Feynman was known for the clarity of his explanations that has made him one of the foremost expositors of science to the public.
We need more like him, speakers and writers who will engage with the public and while entertaining them, instruct them. This is the only way we are going to dispel the dreadful fog of ignorance and stupid beliefs spread by religions and other groups with various sectarian axes to grind and money to take from the credulous.
Chesterfield, with its famous twisty spire. Another lovely town worth visiting. If you don’t already have it on your list, write it there before you forget!
The train arrived in Sheffield on the dot. Tigger and I met up in the station entrance hall and set out to explore and find lunch. The idea was to visit the Weston Park Museum in the quaintly named Mushroom Lane and have lunch in the cafe there.
In Fargate, we took some photos and Tigger discovered the 1 o’clock time signal. Despite having lived in Sheffield as a student, I had never noticed this. It was originally installed to warn cutlery workers to return to work after the lunch hour.
Operated by jewellers H.L. Brown & Son, the siren still sounds every day at 1 p.m. on the dot, though I doubt there are still any workers who need it as a reminder to go back to work.
Bus 51 took us to Weston Bank where the Firth Building of my old university is. The museum is situated in a corner of Weston Park.
We had lunch in the cafe and then went to look around part of the museum.
My favourite part of the exhibition – and I award 10 out of 10 for this one – is a live colony of leaf-cutter ants. This is installed in a transparent tank so you can see the ants at work. There is also a real-time Web cam providing close-up views. I spent some time here.
After my last visit I mentioned that in my day, the museum had had a visible bee hive. It still did and I must have missed it. We found it this time but unfortunately it was empty. The museum’s bee colony has succumbed to the mysterious disease – or whatever it is, for no one is sure – that causes colonies to collapse and die.
This is a worrying problem, not merely because the livelihood of bee-keepers and the supply of honey are in jeopardy but because bees are essential for pollinating plants, whether with are talking about wild flowers, trees or farm crops. In other words, the decline of the bee threatens the food supply in a very real way.
At 3 pm we decided to make our way gradually to the station. My ticket is valid only for the 16:27 so I could not afford to miss it.
We walked through the Winter Gardens and on down to the station. The famous water feature is partially closed off to the public as they are doing repair work to the walkway.
The train is packed. Nearly all seats are reserved and people are left standing. I have a reserved seat but I want to sit with Tigger, naturally, and all he seats in the vicinity are also reserved. We walked along the train and finally found a pair of unreserved seats, literally right at the end of the train.
Those who are less fortunate are having spend the journey standing or sitting on luggage racks.
Was it worth going all the way to Sheffield and back for such a short visit? Yes, I think so. I am very fond of this city where I carried out my university studies and made the transition from naive teenager to adult and I enjoy seeing it again. When I knew Sheffield in the old days, even Sheffielders would refer to their city as “A mucky picture in a golden frame”, the latter being the beautiful countryside in which it is set. The days of the mucky picture and the carefully whited doorsteps and windowsills are long gone. Today, Sheffield is a pristine city justly proud of its cultural heritage as it is of its industrial and technological heritage.
In Sheffield the old and the new combine harmoniously. For example, the trams that I loved to ride and remember fondly, have been reincarnated as the supertram that whisks you speedily and efficiently around the city. I am glad to see so many beautiful old buildings still in use, some of them open for the public to admire them and the age that built them. If I came to live here now, I would for all practical purposes, have to forget about the old Sheffield that I knew and learn to know the new Sheffield of today. Sheffield is a dynamic modern city, evolving before our eyes.