crookesmoor grand tour

I went to my first conference last weekend. It was only in Sheffield, but that’s apparently far enough away for the University to put me up in a hotel for the weekend, so it’s still exciting. And it was exciting. I got very little from the talks themselves, but getting the chance to meet and talk with people – in some cases, people whose work I’ve been reading for the last year – was brilliant. I brought back a table mat from Wagamama with what could be the beginnings of my thesis scrawled on it, courtesy of some professor from Stanford. Ace.

I stayed in Sheffield for a bit after the conference. It was a nice sunny day, and I was feeling nostalgic (when aren’t I feeling nostalgic?), so I got the late afternoon train back and spent a few hours strolling around those old haunts. Finding myself in my old stomping grounds, it’s only right I do some st0mping.

Walking through Crookes now is such a bittersweet experience. I miss the days spent living there like nothing else – they were brilliant, all three years of them. When you return to somewhere you love, you see things differently: every road and building has a memory attached to it, and everything you used to take for granted makes you smile. You get to a busy road junction and cross with muscle memory. That traffic light’s gone red, which means… and you’re across the road safely, even though it’s been two years since you’ve been there.

Those three years in Crookes were truly the best. That last year, well, that was audaciously good. But as I made a long turn back towards the station, I realized that the times I missed the most – and remembered the most fondly – were the final months there, after the January exams and before finals. That time we designed our own ridiculous cocktail and the barman actually made it for us. The Saturday nights that would begin with the most brilliant series of Doctor Who, ever! The intoxication of, for the first time, reading some graduate-level mathematics for my dissertation, coupled with strolls through the remaining lectures and coffee – lots of coffee – with my coursemates. Those glorious afternoons with Jilly, right at the end; lazy and sunny and perfect. And thus I learnt a truism: the last days are always the best.

Sheffield, all my love.

(But I like Manchester, too! So it’s all good.)


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