Hi,

Thanks for staying with me here. After so many years of being constantly busy my ability to recall exact timings of events has definitely diminished. I have had a chat with my husband and it appears I missed a rather significant event from my last post – oops!  Therefore I shall include it now.

In the last post I had asked my husband if he was around for the fashion show and he said he was, so, I presumed that he hadn’t left yet. In fact it turns out that he had left, but then returned for the summer of the show.  Let me explain.  As I have previously stated, my husband did not have any interest in the gallery and was not able to help, despite having tried.  Indeed he was not best pleased that I had started it at all.  He wanted to pursue a career in creative writing and had thought I wanted to pursue a career as an artist. For very many years he did not understand why I gave that up to build and run a gallery. After almost precisely a year, I got home one day to my husband looking somewhat sheepish, and to say I was surprised by the announcement that followed was something of an understatement.  Chris announced that he had just secured a job abroad and would be going to work in Portugal for 2 years, teaching English as a foreign language. In all fairness, Chris had asked me about applying for jobs abroad and I had readily agreed he should as I was already pursuing what I wanted to do, but of course it felt very different when reality hit.  Yes, I did want him to get a job, and yes, he didn’t see me much anyway as I was always at work, but it was still still quite shocking news.  However, the deed was done and he was going to Portugal.

It was a very strange thing, but until the day he actually left the country I suppose I hadn’t really taken in the fact that he really was leaving.  I had so much to do and did work extremely long hours so I suppose I just didn’t think about it.  Chris said afterwards he didn’t think I was that bothered as I hadn’t been at all upset, and I hadn’t, until he actually got on the plane.  That is when the reality of it suddenly hit me like a tone of bricks and I broke down and sobbed.

What was done, was done, so I threw myself into the gallery.  I didn’t count the hours, I just worked and worked and worked.  When Chris left we were still living in the shared flat above the butcher’s shop; the site of my first exhibition and the sum total of my market research.  Sharing a flat as a newly married couple was interesting at times with the odd comment from our flat mate Graham on marriage gender politics tended to add a little spice … but I digress.

As I was spending so much time at the gallery which was across the other side of the city I decided to move and since we had very few possessions and no furniture it wasn’t difficult.  I moved into a small flat above Kate’s Cafe, a transport cafe just up the road from the gallery. It was small, cheap, furnished and close to the gallery, suiting my needs perfectly.

My ‘situation’ did raise eyebrows on one or two notable occasions. One in particular still makes me smile;

Quite early on in my Cupola journey, a young woman called Joanne started working for me on a part time basis, on a very poor wage I’m sad to say, but it was all I could afford.  I have a feeling that it was whilst working on the fashion show that I said to Joanne that I needed to go back to the house to get something and did she mind coming with me.  The look on her face when she saw where I was living was priceless.

“Do you live here?” She asked incredulously.

“Yes” I answered.  “Why do you ask?”

Looking slightly uncomfortable, she answered “Well, I thought you’d have a big house out at Dore* or something.

*For those non Sheffield readers, Dore is considered one of the ‘posh’ areas of the city.

I shouldn’t have been surprised as so many galleries are run by people that are certainly better heeled than myself, often by people who don’t need to make any money out of them.  Joanne could certainly have been forgiven for thinking that I came from a ‘posh’ background as I do have rather a ‘posh’ accent, or so I am led to believe.  I tend to joke that it is my ‘BBC’ voice.  I hail from a small village in the East Midlands, Kegworth, which sits on the borders of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire so I don’t really have any excuse for my accent, it just is the way it is.  Sometimes, it seems to be an advantage and sometimes it does not.  Sometimes knowing Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen‘ sketch by heart has its advantages too.

Now, when my customers started discovering that my husband had left the country, their reactions were the most interesting.  I felt their comments usually said more about them than about me.  The two most common reactions were:

A) “I’d never let my husband do that!”

or

B) “Sounds like the perfect marriage!”

I always try to see the positive in everything, so used to quip that with my husband abroad I got 3 foreign holidays a year! This was true of course but it wasn’t easy, and let me tell you for the people who have not experienced this kind of thing, it is easier to leave than to be left. I found it much easier to visit Chris and then come back to the gallery than for him to come home and then leave again for work. People were brilliant though. Whilst looking after the gallery, one couple even cleaned my outside toilet until it gleamed,  and, I can assure you that wasn’t on my to do list!  I felt really blessed. I had both customers and friends volunteer to look after the gallery whilst I was away.  It was amazing really, though I did come back to some rather long lists and pages and pages of notes!

 

Supertram comes to Hillsborough.

Whilst my husband was still away the Supertram works came to Hillsborough!  Wow.  How could anyone have known was was about to ensue? The word chaos was an understatement.  During these works 1 out of every 4 businesses in Hillsborough closed down, equating to 94 business closures just in Hillsborough.  It was devastating. People lost their businesses, their homes and very tragically some even took their own lives because of having lost everything.

I, however, determined that I was NOT going to be beaten. During this incredibly difficult time, I possibly learnt more and faster than during any other period.  I was confronted with and had to deal with lies, stupidity, obfuscation, politics, misinformation, ignorance and bloody mindedness. But at the same time forged wonderful new friendships, experienced enormous generosity, kindness, determination, collective cooperation, passion, intelligence, creativity, selflessness and the will to survive!

cartoon 'Road to Hellsborough' in the Sheffield Star Newspaper

Cartoon ‘Road to Hellsborough’ in the Sheffield Star Newspaper

 

I have many stories and numerous press cuttings from this period which I will share with you plus all the details in the next instalment. It is one of the most challenging episodes of running Cupola I have experienced.

 

K x

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