9 reasons that I loved Don Valley

It was decided today that Don Valley Stadium is going to close, be demolished, and save Sheffield City Council £50,000,000.  Here are 9 reasons why I love(d) Don Valley.

  1. Opened in 1990 Don Valley was built on the old steelworks and was paving the way for a new Sheffield that was leaving behind the pain of 80s.  Sheffield is a thriving city and as a child I always looked at Don Valley as something modern and hopeful.
  2. I loved race walking and there was no better feeling than stepping onto the track in a big stadium, and best of all when it’s in your home town.  I’ve got some great and some painful memories from racing on the track and on the paths and roads in and around the stadium.  I got disqualified in the national road championships there in 1998 😦  But won the English Schools there in 1999 🙂
  3. Quite often on school holidays we’d go to the Star Track athletics holiday clubs.  I used to love getting coaching in all the different events.  I especially remember being intimidated and inspired by Tony Minichello (Jessica Ennis’ coach).
  4. In 1991 Don Valley hosted the World Student Games – it was a fantastic spectacle but the most memorable moment was Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, tripping over on the red carpet whilst carrying the torch!
  5. Dad managed to persuade school to let us have a couple of days off for the World Student Games, it is my best memory of athletics as a spectator.  We were there especially to watch the decathlon and I can remember avidly adding all the scores up working out who was winning.
  6. Don Valley has hosted loads of other world class athletics events.  It was crazy seeing Jan Zelezny throw the javelin over 93m – breaking the world record and nearly hitting the TV commentators who were interviewing nearby.  We were also there when Kelly Holmes had her homecoming after her Athens double gold and the atmosphere was amazing.
  7. Don Valley hosted loads of big names in music – Def Leppard, Michael Jackson and I remember one of our best teachers ever, Mr Marsden, getting so excited about Tina Turner coming to town.
  8. I love Don Valley for the little details.  I loved the smell of the high jump bed and the way you could just catch a glimpse of the Supertram through a gap in the stand (back when trams were a cause for excitement!).  I remember at the World Student Games the ‘click, click, click’ of the string on the flag poles, and then every time you’re resting between a training rep, or the silence before a race starts, there’s the clicking again – like the familiar ticking of clock on the mantelpiece at home.
  9. Which brings me to my last point – I haven’t been back for ages but Don Valley always felt like home.  I just found it special, magical and inspiring.

It’s really sad.  Obviously it has sentimental value for me, but since the council also closed Woodbourne Road track a few years ago there isn’t a stadium left in Sheffield.  England’s fourth biggest city, the city that produced the mastermind and the symbol of the Olympic legacy and it won’t have an athletics stadium.  I hear that Woodbourne Road might be re-developed but the fact that City of Sheffield AC currently use a track at a village in Derbyshire for their home fixtures says a lot for how Don Valley was being used!


Life outside the Olympics

The wife and the daughter are having a little boogie on Just Dance which prevents me from watching the Paralympics.  Was at a loose end for a few moments having had the European Champs, Olympics, start of the football season and now the Paralympics to keep me occupied all summer.  So I went on a bit of a browse round some of the links from my blog and quickly remember a whole stimulating world of innovation, learning and observation that I had forgotten about.

The sport has been pretty inspiring this year but it all takes place in a big bubble that doesn’t transfer too easily into the real world.  After a week down in London at the start of August I returned to life in the West Midlands and realised there are whole bunch of people who don’t give a monkeys about Sheffield’s finest heptathlete or a sideburned hero from Wigan.  They have much more pressing matters to think about like trying to scrounge a few cigarettes, wondering whether to get another abortion or whether they’d be sleeping on a bench, sofa or bed that night.

So, sports junkies, there is another world out there.  Don’t forget to engage your brain with it or pay attention to those who might need a bit deeper support than ‘our greatest team’.

Benjamin Button on friendship

I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night.  I found it a really sad and poignant film.  Particularly the way it explores building attachments, sharing experiences and loving people and then losing them.  Naturally, due to his reverse ageing, Benjamin is forced to deal with this even more head-on but it seems his peace is found in his acceptance that this is the way life is.

People come into your life, you love them, you lose them.

Yesterday some friends came to visit and asked if we’d stay in touch after we leave Solihull.  Of course we’d love to stay in touch with everybody everywhere but it just isn’t practical.  We’ve only been married 8 years and we have dozens of friends from Sheffield, Solihull, Montenegro and other places as well as many other friends we have known before we met.  All of these friends are precious to us but I think the best way to cherish a friendship is to recognise that it is a friendship for a season.

Maybe the friendship is for a particular job or course.  Or to help overcome a particular difficulty or stage in life.  Some friendships span a decade or two and maybe a few can last a lifetime.  But just because people drift or don’t have the practical means to keep in touch does not mean the friendship has been any less significant.

Facebook is great for keeping in touch with old friends but is there a danger that we end up prolonging friendships beyond their natural course and therefore diluting the impact of that person on our lives?  I’m not saying it is like this, it’s just a thought.

But anyway…my point is this;  let’s cherish the friendships we have and have had and be thankful for the different seasons that people come into our lives and the roles they play there.  To all my friends out there, thanks for being there.  I am very grateful for your support and all the great memories – I look forward to any times together in the future and will be sad if that is not meant to be…….

Homesick at Christmas

To be honest I had barely missed the UK for the first two months in Montenegro.  There are a some people I had affectionate thoughts of and it’s frustrating not being able to watch Match of the Day.  But apart from that I was very satisfied being in Montenegro.

But I must admit Christmas time has hit a bit hard.  It hurts to think of friends and family gathering without you.  It’s nice to catch up on facebook but it also reminds you of what you’re missing.

Below you can listen to Coles Corner by Richard Hawley.  The video comes across a bit cheap but the music and lyrics resonate with feelings of loneliness in a way that lifts the soul.  Coles Corner was a traditional meeting point for Sheffield people.  It was before my time but I must have spent hours just down from Coles Corner waiting for buses and friends and watching the world go by.  Would love to spend just 10 minutes there now….


Strange people read my blog

My blog is clever and tells me the things people type into search engines before they are directed to read my blog.

Here are some of the more notable ones – the mind boggles to think what some people were hoping to find:

  • rada washing machines
  • tiger woods alien
  • difference between none and no one
  • candle song kendrick reflection (twice!)
  • lesbians in sheffield
  • he wore wellies
  • embroidery in sheffield

X-Factor v Sports Personality

I’m really chuffed with the results.  I’m chuffed Jessica Ennis was voted 3rd – she’s a great athlete and she’s from my club so I guess I’m biased.  Must have been an incredible event for her in Sheffield.

I’m pleased that Jenson Button didn’t win, he’s done amazing things this year but no way near deserving to be the winner.

And it was great watching Ryan Giggs receive the award.  I loved the humility that he hadn’t bothered to rehearse a winner’s speach.  He was utterly stunned!

In my opinion, in comparison to X-Factor, Sports Personality is one of the most inspiring moments of the year.  When you look at the collection of sports stars, what they have achieved, what they have been through to achieve it and the legacy they leave, it really makes Olly and Joe (as good as they may be) look like an over-hyped pair of karaoke wannabes.

But to be honest, that is my opinion.  I have always loved sport and disliked pop music.  What is important, whether you watch X-Factor or Sports Personality of the Year, is that you are inspired by normal people who have taken their opportunities and achieved their dreams.  That is something we can all do.

What’s in an accent?

It appears that I am slowly being drawn into the league of Yam-Yams.  In Solihull there are usually only subtle variaties of the the West Midlands family of accents, but since I’ve worked in West Brom for the last year or so I am surrounded by people from the Black Country…and the accent is proving contagious.  I used to really dislike the Brummy/Black Country way of speaking but I really quite like it now.  However, what is in an accent?

I’m from Sheffield.  I’ve never had a broad accent but have been fiercely proud of my city and whenever the tones of my speach betrayed my origin I was filled with a warm glow.  At some times I have loathed other accents, considered them inferior, particularly when I lived in London and felt like the only northerner out of 9 million people.

But should an accent be forced?  You see I’m faced with a dilemma now:

a) Do I let nature take its course and allow whatever accent pours forth to do so regardless of what I sound like and who it identifies me as?

b) Do I supress the Brumminess and very carefully and deliberately cling onto and nurture my Sheffield accent?

I believe it would sound better but is it fake to force yourself to speak in a certain way?  Help!  Anybody else ever had similar problems?  I am from Sheffield and will never forget it, it has made me who I am.