This is a short non-fiction story I wrote as part of a writing course I did in 2019. The course details can be found here. It was called Write Like A Grrrl and I would highly recommend it for anyone, at any level, who wants to gain some practical tools for creative writing. I think some of the course organisers may also be offering remote coaching whilst we’re in lock down.
It’s very difficult to explain what makes Doncaster special.
To a first-time visitor, it’s an unwelcoming, intimidating and rather grim place.
The high street shops are mostly boarded up, the beautiful heritage architecture is derelict, and the people seem ready to fly off the handle at any moment.
As someone who grew up there it took me a very long time to tune in to the good in Donny—about 25 years in fact.
I spent my childhood and teens counting down the days until I could go out into the world and become who I wanted to be.
I did just that. I went to Leicester at 18 to study Contemporary History at University. Then after that, I spent the first three years of my twenties working and saving then backpacking for 2-3 months. When I turned 24, after months of careful planning and preparation, I flew all the way to Melbourne on my own and spent 12 months there building a life from scratch.
A very formative and memorable experience, but in hindsight I do feel compassion with a sprinkling of loving pity towards my younger self.
She was so determined to go out into the world and become who she wanted to be, that she felt the best thing to do was to literally go to the opposite side of the planet for a year.
Then, at 25, I found myself back in Donny.
In Doncaster, keen to hold on to the new sense of identity I had, I began interning for a grassroots arts & culture magazine (which remains to this day both the worst paid and most fun job I’ve ever had).
Halfway through my six month stint back in The Donx I really began to open my eyes to Doncaster and its people. What makes it special is it is full to the brim of self-made people.
People who’ve gone out into the world and become who they want to be. Oh the irony.
A bus journey into the town centre one day brought this home and left me smiling for days.
I was sitting behind a woman and a man who looked to be in their sixties. Friends; not a couple. The woman wore finger-less gloves.
I learned the woman was named Mary and the man was named Rick. A third man boarded the bus and joined them.
“Morning Rick, morning Mary. Y’alright?’
“Aye, we’re alright Dave. You?”
They chatted quietly until the bus reached the market, where they started wrapping the conversation up.
I need to mention here that in my whole life, Donny is the only place I’ve known that has an independent military memorabilia shop. It’s always struck me as odd yet endearing.
Dave: “Right. Rick, Mary, I’ll see you at the cafe in half an hour.”
Rick: “Alright Dave.”
Mary: “Where is it you off to?”
Dave: “I’m going to the military shop!”
Rick: “Oh! Don’t forget to salute when you go in.”
Dave: “They salute me!”