Jillian Thomas has had a soft spot for Sheffield since 1974, when she moved to the city with her father, who was chief environmental officer of the then newly-formed South Yorkshire County Council. A financial planner by profession, she moved away to progress her career in Leeds and London, but always knew she would return. Now she is back home, running her business from the leafy surroundings of Renishaw Hall, just over the Derbyshire border. “This has become a truly inspiring and rewarding place to be,” says Jill. “I’ve loved watching the city emerge from the grimy landscape of the days of steel into a vibrant, cultured urban centre.”
I went to see Richard Hawley play in the Devil’s Arse cavern at Castleton in December 2009. The roads were covered in snow and ice and we sat in a freezing cave; it was minus four degrees. I had on three pairs of trousers, two pairs of socks, two coats and a very unattractive hat and I remember trying to eat slices of Christmas cake without taking my gloves off.
But it was the first time I’d heard Richard live and his voice and personality made up for my teeth chattering and the icicles forming over my head. Hawley had handwarmers in his pockets and was chucking them into the crowd, though sadly none came in my direction. He’s a truly impressive performer and one of the few artists who sounds even better live than on CD.
Bluebell Woods, Todwick
I lived in Todwick for over seven years with my faithful Weimaraner, Lucy. We explored all the walks in the area but we loved spring the most, watching hares boxing in the fields, playing hide and seek in the long grass. Just off Kiveton Lane was a wood which was truly magnificent when the bluebells flowered: an absolute carpet of vibrant blue.
My parents’ house, Fulwood
My early childhood was nomadic, while my father established his career. We arrived at Fulwood when I was 12 and this was the first place that felt like home. The house was always full of love, a creative environment for a child to grow emotionally, and I thrived on the responsibility I was given from an early age. They taught me never to give up, to go that extra mile. Their parenting made me the person I am today.
Sheffield railway station
My passion is for travel, which has got me in trouble from time to time, including being caught up in the Thai tsunami in 2004. Most of my journeys start and end at Sheffield railway station. It feels like coming home when I see the train pulling in to the platform.
My grandfather worked on Horwich loco works all his life, building steam trains – a passion that continued through my late father and remains within me. I’m not a trainspotter but when I know there’s a steam train going through the station, I always make an effort to go and see it. There are few things more atmospheric or redolent of our glorious industrial achievements of the past.
While I travel all over the world, I never forget the beauty of the Peak District. It’s wonderful that right on our doorstep is a landscape that easily competes with Norway and the Alpine regions for sheer beauty. I appreciate the barren beauty of the highest moorlands but in the winter you can’t do better than walk the Derwent Valley between Baslow and Hathersage, where the views along the edges are softened by the vibrant reds and oranges of the trees below. We live in a world-class environment and I think myself lucky.
This is the location of my business and I still get tingles up my spine as I head up the driveway. The seasons change the park beautifully through the year and with such a rich history it’s a fabulous place for a business. I love the city but to be able to work and plan in such perfect tranquillity is a tremendous advantage.
I wouldn’t like to calculate how many Saturday afternoons I’ve spent at Hillsborough, nursing a Bovril and questioning the referee’s eyesight and parentage.
There were the good times, watching the likes of Mick Prendergast, David Hirst, Chris Waddle and Paolo di Canio. And the not-so-good, when I watched the grass grow as that was more entertaining than the football. My support is for the blue half of the city but I’m a football supporter most of all. Both Sheffield teams need to get back to where they belong, in the top tier of English football.
Moon Exclusives and Richard’s Fabrics, Hillsborough
Sheffield-based Deborah Moon has been my tailor and dressmaker for the last ten years. My work involves many events and I like to ensure I have a one-off outfit. I take her a couple of ideas and fabric and she never fails to come up with the goods.
Richard has been a feature of my life since I was 12, when he stood on the Moor – an absolute gentleman who knows I like my cloth dramatic and unique – and that I expect the highest quality for a competitive price.
Richard and Deborah manage between them to make an average woman feel like a million dollars.