Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Sheffield – A Reverie

Part of my job here at the sunny University of Nottingham, is to organise workshops, conferences, that sort of thing.  I am in the process of setting one up for November and it will be held in Sheffield.

I grew up in Sheffield. Lived in Hillsborough for a while, and went to infant school there.  My family moved when I went up to Junior school, so I went to Parson's Cross, and then onto Chaucer Comprehensive.

I have never really felt any romantic need to reminisce about Sheffield before, in fact, when I moved away at 16, I actually felt it was a good thing.  It seemed to me at the time, what with the increased unemployment and the general degeneration of the city centre, that it was a dying city. Sure, I would have liked to have stayed a little longer - I wanted to go to college with my friends (family dictated that I move to Skegness with them after my step-father was made redundant).  Even if I had stayed for college, I knew that I would not have made a career or home there. Compared to other cities at the time (circa 1986/7) I felt Sheffield was dirty, and run down, which thinking about it now, with the eyes of an adult, it probably was. 

I haven't really been back to Sheffield since about 1989.  I understand in that 20 years, there has been many changes. I have heard over the last few years that the local authorities have made an effort to revamp Sheffield and improve its appearance and reputation.  It now has a tram system, and a couple of Universities (they were only polytechnics when I was there).

I don't remember a whole lot about my time there, as I had literally just finished high school when we moved, but there are a few lasting memories.

The Sheffield Show - most large cities and towns have an annual fete or show at some point during the summer.  I remember going there as a kid, and wandering past all the stands and being give free stuff! Admittedly, a lot of this stuff was publicity and promotional items such as a pen, or hat or key ring sporting the logo of some local firm.  They used to have fair ground rides and a there was a display area that had the local dance/karate/scouts club or whatever doing some demo. There was a stage too, run by the local station Radio Hallam.  I remember one year being quite impressed they had Showaddywaddy on.  Okay - I was only about 8 at the time!

Peace Gardens – Never really knew why they were called that.  It was a great place to have a seat and some lunch in between all the busy hanging out and chatting with pals.

Rebels / The Wappentake – During my high school years – I discovered ROCK!!!  I fell in love with rock music, particularly of the heavy metal/punk/Goth variety.  Two of the coolest places to hang out if you like rock or alternative music was the Wappentake (or just the Wap to its friends) and then onto the Rebels nightclub.  Now, I was never really old enough to go into the Wappentake.  I tried to once, with some friend – all of whom were younger than me – and I was the one that got kicked out. The gift of looking younger than my true age that I treasure now, I hated back then.

Rebels however, were not nearly as scrupulous about the whole age thing, and so in the last year of highschool I was a fairly regular visitor to said establishment.  It was a dark and dingy club with one bar and a sticky floor.  The seating round the edge of the room was interspersed with the occasional speaker which meant that the whole thing vibrated.  You had to climb several flights of stairs to get in, then bought your ticket (for a whole £1 if I remember rightly) then immediately turned to your left and handed it to the guy on the door who threaded it onto a string.  There was also a tv high in a corner that showed videos of Power Hour – a late night rock show.  When I went, it was the height of NWOBHM and bands like Def Leppard were kings, so a sea of denim and leather greeted you as you walked in.  There was also the cock rock queens – fans of Bon Jovi et al, and your thrashers in their Bermuda shorts a la Anthrax.  The strange and exotic goth girls with their crimped hair and lacy collars – what I desperately wanted to be – but I usually went in jeans and a t-shirt as I had told my mom that I was just spending the night at a friends. 

The Hole In The Road – or as it it officially known – Castle Square.  This was, to a young child, a strange and magical labyrinth.  It was built as a means of pedestrians being able to navigate from one busy shopping street to another, avoiding the dangers of the traffic above.  You would descend an escalator and then walk through the hole, the top of which was open to the sky, and ascend up to your desired destination.  I don't know how many times I attempted this but never seemed to get the right set of stairs the first time.  There was a few department stores above that had display windows round the edge, but the thing I remember most is the fish tank.  There was a large fish tank embedded into the wall on one side and was always a great meeting point for friends or lovers.

In the later 80s it fell into disrepair, with damaged lighting, graffiti, and general refuse – it became a muggers paradise.  Sadly, in the mid 90s, they filled it in.  I do think that this was a big mistake and that the council could have found another way to have the tram navigate the city centre, and instead spent some cash renovating it, repairing the paving stones and creaky escalators.  It was a unique feature of Sheffield and the city and its residents are the poorer without it.

Anyway, come November, I will hopefully get a chance to have a quick nosey around and will report back.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Vampires... Have they wussed out?

Yes, I know it has been a while. Meh... I figured I would come back eventually when I had something to say.

I have something I wanted to get off my chests. There has been a lot of talk recently in the sci fi/fantasy/horror media, that Vampires have wimped out. I think, looking at the evidence, they may be right.

When I was young, I eagerly devoured as many horror books as I could get my mits on without the parental units noticing. Back then, the vampire was a thing of horror. They were a veritable creature of the night, and a true Prince of Darkness. Books like Dracula, Pan Book of Horror, and the many Hammer films starring the enigmatic Christopher Lee, or the strange atmospheric Nosferatu were the staple reading/viewing of my youth. Of course, I also had a soft spot for the werewolves and mummies etc. too ... but the vampire always fascinated and drew me in, while at the same time, made me afraid of the strange shadows cast by the Star Wars curtains in my room as the street light shone through from outside.

What drew me to the vampire I think, was the fact that even though they were a monster, they looked human, and could pass for human quite convincingly. They did not have our fear of death or disease. They had a freedom from the rat race and did not have the same petty concerns that rule most adult's lives. They were more often than not wealthy, and lived a life of luxury and darkness. The Victorian vampire epitomised hedonism. The sting in the tail, the horror, came from their animalistic, all encompassing hunger - their need to feed on the blood of humans. While on the one hand I would like to romanticise that I could consider humans as little more than cattle, but any truly non-psychotic person finds the thought of taking a human life – even for sustenance - as abhorent.

Then... along came Ann Rice. Along came her vampires who were troubled, and tormented by their nature, and resorted to feeding from animals. We sympothised and empathised with them. The Lost Boys made them a bit rock n roll, but ultimately little more than misunderstood boys looking for a mothers love. The vampire was further defanged by Buffy the Vampire slayer, who actually turned out to be more of a vampire layer. Her vampire beau had a soul, and fought evil in order to redeem himself for all the death & destruction he caused during his long. He got his nutrition from stolen donations from the blood bank.

The vampires in the Underworld franchise had all the poise and grace that wannabe Vamps/Goths imagine a vampire to be, and I had hoped that they would prove to be the comeback that vampires needed, but they got their asses handed to them on a plate by the werewolves…

This trend continued with books like Anita Blake Vampire Hunter and all its copycats. The final nail in the coffin is the Twilight series. I tried… I really did try to like this series but there are so many faults with them, some previously discussed in this blog. The thing that grinds my gears the most is the vamps of the Twilight-verse are nothing more than sparkly vegetarians. It is quite laughable really. Talk about watered down. Not real vampires in my opinion.

There have been a few glimmers of hope. Let The Right One In for instance was heading in the right direction, although I am horrified to hear that they are making a US version – for audiences to lazy/ignorant to be bothered reading subtitles. This will of course be an inferior offering because of it. The graphic novel world has tried to stay faithful. If you like gory you could check out 30 Days of Night.

This examination began when I heard Neil Gaiman proposed that vampires go underground for a couple years and re-emerge as something different. I quite agree Neil. Go away you sparkly tortured souls, and make room for the new Count Orlak, Dracula or Richard Straker.

Okay… rant over {/rant}

In other news, my tarantula Athena shed her skin yesterday. It is always a traumatic time for the spider and the owner. Thankfully, it all went swimmingly, and now she is all shiny and new. I have to wait a good 10-14 days for her exo-skeleton to harden and her innards to sort themselves out before I can feed her again, then it will be a rampage on locusts.

I have recently had one of my young nephew to stay overnight. He has been plaguing his mother & me for months to come to my house 'on holiday'. Mr Madnad & I picked him up from his mums on Saturday morning, and he was so excited he did not shut up for the first hour in the car. Constantly talking absolute drivel and finding it all hilarious, in that slightly manical and hysterical way kids can be when they are excited. He fell asleep for most of the rest of the way. Phew!

We took him to the castle for the rest of the afternoon but I think the thing he wanted to play with most was the sand pit - and this is a kid that lives on the coast. Back at mine, he got to beat my husband at wii bowling - and then got to top his own pizza. He all spent a good hour running up and down the garden ( in an effort to tire him out ). He was very good, and went to bed after his bath with no complaints or fuss. I look forward to his next stay.

Any of you that have had to tolerate me boring them about Michael Sheen will know that I am very excited at the recent news that he is to star in Tron 2. It has not been confirmed what role yet, but I am suspecting it will be the big bad replacing, or in a similar role, that David Warner held in the original film. This appeals to me on many levels as I loved the original and lurve Michael Sheen – so win win!

It also kind of makes up for him appearing in Twilight. *rolls eyes*

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