BRICKLAYER Mick Fox was looking for a new challenge when he ‘met a man in a pub’ and bought mobile knife sharpening business Ultrasharp.
Three years on, he has served his apprenticeship, honed the necessary skills and doubled the number of customers.
These days Mick, who’s based in Sheffield, takes care of the knives at more than 600 hotels and restaurants, from Derby to the Yorkshire Dales, Buxton to Doncaster. His clients include both the area’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Fischer’s Baslow Hall and the Old Vicarage at Ridgeway.
His contacts lead to curious escapades too – such as the Charity Cheesecake Challenge he is organising at Sheffield’s Copthorne Hotel on Friday.
More than 40 chefs and as many amateurs as turn up on the day will put their skills to the test to raise funds for Weston Park Hospital. “There’s a £10 entrance fee and the only other rule is that it has to contain cheese!” says Mick, who lives in Gleadless with wife Clare and sons William and Oliver.
John Street west terrace, Bramall Lane
I bought my first season ticket on here in 1989 and stayed until it was replaced with the John Street stand. There was something about the west terrace that you didn’t get in any other part of the ground. Maybe it was the ‘oldness’ of it, with the old wooden stand behind, the tunnel separating you from The East, and the wooden floors and staircases that led upstairs as you queued for a Bovril at half-time. The atmosphere, the humour, the lads. That was what the West Terrace was about.
the Blue Bell and Mulberry Tavern
I spent the majority of Saturdays in the early 1990s in these two watering holes and met some great friends, including my wife, Clare. The most fascinating thing about the Mulberry was that there was a different real-life drama unfolding in each booth every time you went – a great place for people-watching.
The Blue Bell was a dark tunnel-like pub, entered via a dark corridor, which was filled to the rafters with characters. I still frequent it now, as Cavell’s Bar, on the odd occasion.
This was THE pub crawl in Sheffield during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. There was nothing better than standing outside the numerous pubs on a balmy midsummer’s Friday evening, always starting at The Cremorne and always ending in The Hermitage, with visits to the Old Crown, Tramways, Barrell, Sheldon, Pheasant, Albion, Landsdowne and Beer Engine inbetween.
The Old Crown is the only real pub left on there now sadly. It holds a dear place in my heart as Clare and I held our afternoon wedding reception in there (before moving on to The Lane for the evening), and is also where we celebrated the christenings of William and Oliver.
The Old Crown has always been run properly. Roy and Margaret Marsh and, for the past decade or so, Pete and Sue Lowe, are proper publicans with proper staff. The Old Crown will probably be the last proper pub on London Road.
My grandparents, Elsie and Jim Fox, used to live just past the Three Merry Lads at Lodge Moor. My brother Andy and I had great fun as young lads in the enormous garden that seemed to run as far as Rivelin Dams. The garden included a terrific series of ponds, with bridges crossing in front of a summerhouse. I used to love watching my reflection in the water and ended up having to be fished out by ‘our Pete’. My grandparents’ final resting place is at Wyming Brook, on a sandstone rock that juts out overlooking the Dams. A truly beautiful place.
Home of Handsworth Boys FC. My eldest lad, William, started playing for the under-7s team in 2009 and has continued to progress well, representing the under-8s. My mate, Glenn, and I were approached to manage the team and have never looked back. It is so rewarding to see the things we practise in training with the lads being implemented on the pitch on a Sunday morning. We are lucky to be involved with such a forward-thinking and well-run club.
The facilities at Oliver’s Mount are second to none, with further improvements imminent. Although our under-8s league fixtures are now complete for the season, next month will see the lads proudly wearing the famous amber and black shirts at Bramall Lane during a mini-soccer tournament – and two managers trying to hide their excitement at stepping out on to the hallowed turf.
I actually started my working life as a bricklayer and spent the majority of my apprenticeship on the Orchard Square project for John Laing Construction. I loved every minute of it and look back fondly at some of the scrapes I got myself into while doing the sandwich run, the bookies run, the chippy run, another bookies run and finally spending my ‘tips’ in the various pubs that the lads frequented after work. I do look at the place with pride when I pass, knowing that I helped construct such a stunning development.
Sheaf Valley Baths
The coloured rubber wristbands with the matching coloured hooter. The red or blue corridors that led to the changing rooms. The Rolf Harris drawing. The Top Splash. The viewing balcony. The heat of the baby pool. The depth of the diving pool. Bar Sixes from the little café. I really miss Sheaf Valley Baths.
My youngest lad, Oliver, has an obsession with trains. He tries to deny it as he gets older but as soon as he sees one, as if overcome by train-tourettes, he points and wails ‘Trrrraaaaaiiiiinn’. One of his favourite places, as was mine as a child, is Bamford Park. You can safely do absolutely anything there. Football pitches to play on, monkey bars to swing on, long grass and trees to hide in and trains to wail at. There’s even the short walk to the café on the other side of the railway tracks for one of my dad’s favourite pastimes, slurping tea. And while we have done all the above, William is still on the football pitch trying to kill a ball with his right foot.
It would be unprofessional of me to mention any particular favourites but anyone who knows me will vouch that I pass on some fantastic recommendations of good places to eat out. Whether you are after a basic pub lunch, a romantic meal for two, something exotic, or top end fine dining, Sheffield and the surrounding area has a vast array of talented chefs producing amazing food, so get out there and support your local restaurants!