On Sunday, our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary, rather than driving straight to the supermarket with the list that Lady Pudding had given me, I took a detour to the Crookesmoor area of Sheffield in order to take a few pictures for the Geograph project. It was a lovely, bright autumnal day. It may be just me, but I find the sunshine on clear autumn days to be more intense than in summertime or spring. It makes photography very easy.
In 1981, I had been teaching for three years and Shirley had put in just a year since qualifying as a State Enrolled Nurse. Times were hard as they probably always are but we did the arithmetic and found that we were just about able to buy a modest house in what was a traditional working class owner-occupier part of lower Crookes. It was an end terrace, recently updated by a builder and the address was 40 Leamington Street. It cost £15,250.
In the weeks before our wedding we worked hard to paint the place, lay carpets, get in some furniture and a second hand cooker and fridge. The three-piece suite cost us £50 from a posh house at Abbeydale. We had seen it advertised in the evening paper.
Returning from our one night honeymoon in Lincoln, I carried Shirley over the threshold to begin our married life together. We lived happily in that house for eight years and it was where our children were conceived. Frances wasn't even one year old when we moved across the city to the more salubrious Sheffield 11. This time the house sold for £45,000.
We both have happy memories of Leamington Street. We had lovely neighbours and friends in the area - Ruby and Glyn, Kirk, Tony, Colin and Lorraine, John and Irene, Mrs Harris, Paul, Scottish Joe and Maureen, Harold and Sylvia. Though you can't tell from the photograph, the view from the back of the property was quite wonderful - over the central bowl of Sheffield with its twinkling lights, tower blocks and chimneys. Just round the corner was "The Closed Shop" pub where many's the pint was consumed amidst raucous laughter and idle conversation. It was a home from home.
It's over twenty one years since we left there. We sold the house to a university student's parents. Many terraced homes were being bought up in this way so that now the area is almost exclusively a student ghetto. See the brick red rendering. I painted that twenty five years past. It would make a great advertisement for the long-lasting qualities of "Sandtex" masonry paint.
Walking around the old neighbourhood was like stepping inside a personal history book. Echoes of old times. The social webs that were woven. On that wall Glyn sat and wept as he told me that after thirty five years, he'd been made redundant from his job as a steel turner. He never worked again. That's where the old corner shop used to be. This is where the DIY man fell from his ladder and died. That's where Colin and Lorraine's cats would wait for them after closing time. Number 40 Leamington Street became part of my very DNA. And it seems just like yesterday...