Happy birthday Jan, this post is for you. – Love!
Jan and I decided to take a ride to Sheffield to pay homage to her grandfather Septimus Rhodes. He was born and raised there; got married and won a long shot horse race bet which allowed them to come to the US. Jan had researched the locations and found that Sep’s home was taken down and several other changes had occurred but the church where he got married was still in operation. She was also interested in finding the YMCA where Sep used to go and where he became a gymnast.
The train to Sheffield left from St. Pancras station, we took a taxi there with plenty of time to spare. After getting our tickets we killed time until it was time to board the train. Our tickets had no seat numbers, so we assumed that we could sit in any seat which did not turn out to be the case. We got up from our seats to vacate them for the people who had reserved them and I wanted to find out where we could seat. Just outside the train was a conductor and I asked him for help. He got on and told us we could find seats in the car behind us. Just as he finished I heard Jan salute him in Turkish “merhaba.” She had noticed his name badge and recognized it as a Turkish name. Sure enough, he was indeed from Turkey and after the pleasantries, he told us to go to the first-class and he would be there in 15 minutes. We made our way to the first class and as soon as we sat down they served a nice cup of coffee.
Oguz Kucukoglu, the conductor who actually lived in Sheffield, was a very pleasant young man and he sat with us to chat as long as he could and he told us a bit about Sheffield now. Periodically he would get up as we approached a new station and announce to the passengers the next stop and wish all a nice trip. As we were approaching Derbyshire he told us to look out to see the church with the crooked spire, nice tip.
The ride to Sheffield was just over two hours and we enjoyed the ride, the countryside which is very similar to any other place except perhaps a little neater. We pulled in to Sheffield on time, bid farewell to Oguz, and left the train. Just outside the station was a long steel sculpture with water cascading over it. It probably signified the steel connection in Sheffield and was an interesting piece of work.
To make the most of the trip, we decided to take a taxi to the farthest point to see and planned to take another taxi backward. So, the first stop was St. Augustine Parish Church. The weather was overcast, occasional mist drizzle made it more wintery. The church was closed, we were looking through the window to see the inside as a man approached and asked if we were trying to get inside. He was the church organist and came to pick up his car, a very lucky break for us. He opened the door and let us in and we saw where Sep and his wife must have stood in the altar. The stained glass windows were quite nice and Peter Verity, the organist told us that they were all by a single glass artist and significant works. We took photographs, chatted with Peter who very kindly gave us access to the church and said goodbye to him and went to the street to find another taxi. That proved to be more of a problem, no taxis were coming by. So we decided to walk a little. Eventually, we came to a bus station and decided to hop on one to go backward. On the way we saw shops, restaurants, etc. and one was Elif Kebap House!
Jan thought the neighborhood being gone there was no sense in trying to find it but I inquired about the YMCA and the bus driver said the location would be right where we were and we immediately left the bus. We asked a group of men if they knew where the YMCA was and one of them told us that he was born and raised in that area and there had never been a YMCA there. Apparently, it was taken down before this man, perhaps in his early 40s, was born. So that destination was out. We decided to look for a place to have lunch. On the train, Oguz had told us about a new Gaziantep restaurant called Zeugma, named after the ancient city near Gaziantep. We had no luck with the taxi drivers, they were not as knowledgeable as the ones in London. So, we decided to stop at the KFC for a quick chicken dinner and then went back to the train station only to see a taxi covered with Zeugma ads! We looked at the steel sculpture, photographed our reflections, and got on the next train back to London.
We were back at St.Pancras on time, actually earlier than we had anticipated. We took a taxi back to Phoenix House and snapped a few more photographs on the run. Sometimes these can turn out to be interesting and I got lucky with the man on the street almost participating in the window display ahead of him. We came back and relaxed a little and stayed in for supper that evening.
Another enjoyable day in and around London, we also managed to say hello to Septimus albeit with over 100-year delay after his birth. Better late than never!