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A Letter to Leeds

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By Judith Sullivan

Regular Shine writer Judith Sullivan is leaving Leeds after over 20 years. Here is her farewell epistle to the city she loves.
 
Ah Leodis, you have been so very good to me, welcoming and nourishing me since 1997. And yet I am leaving you behind this spring. I am the problem, not you. The pastures new beckon and I must heed the call.
 
Leeds, you have inspired, amused and thrilled me - never the same one week to the next, one year to the following. At heart, you remain the gorgeous, eccentric, varied site so appealing that even the French ran their hallowed annual bike race over your hills, your valleys and the hard tarmac of the city centre. So cosmopolitan, you house the world’s foremost armaments museum. So beautifully planned, that parks small and large dot your every neighbourhood, but you remain a vibrant centre of industry and commerce.
 
Before I came here, I knew you only as the meeting point of one Thomas Spencer and one Michael Marks in the late 19th century. My music pals knew you as the setting for an iconic The Who album. I decamped from Paris (yes!) and came here for love (of a man). That man, so very sadly, has left us, both Leeds and his circle of friends, richer and stronger for having included him. Essex-born, he lived here for more than 50 years.
 
There is so much to catalogue in this marvellous town and I will try to do her justice by naming just a few of my favourite things:
 
The Hyde Park Cinema, a century old and still graceful and exciting, a rallying point for cinephiles of the lefty bent. Manager Wendy knew all of us regulars by name and personally responded to our requests for showings. This is no faceless Cineplex, but a screen away from home, a sometimes down at heel but never stingy friend of long standing. She will reopen post-lockdown, beautified but still our local movie house.
 
Roundhay Park. The majesty and breadth of this oasis are such that having used it as my walk for more than 14 locked-down months each visit seemed like the first. The adorable kids, the pug-nosed canines, the sweep, the paths, the bounce, the family bonding. All we had to do was look at its landmarks, like the rotunda, from a different angle and it was virgin territory. Not so long ago, a friend and I sought out local sportswomen statues at the park’s southern periphery. We were underwhelmed by the artwork, but delighted to discover something new.
 
Kirkgate Market. Originally from Baltimore, I relished its famous Lexington Market there. Though an ocean apart, the Lexington and Kirkgate have much in common. A down-at-heel faded glamour, a perpetual busyness, an aroma all their own. The developments
at Kirkgate in the past decade have not overly gentrified the downtown site and it remains affordable and accessible. The street-food stalls are beginning to hum with business. I personally recommend the Vietnamese stall Banh & Mee for its healthful, yummy, inexpensive eats.
 
Aartis Restaurant. My husband’s and my local. Inauspiciously tucked atop a coffee shop on Street Lane, this family-oriented restaurant makes some of the best curries this side of Bangalore. No fuss, no frills but darn, the food is good!
 
The staff at LGI intensive care. I’m decamping in part because of the sudden death of my husband last October. Smack in the middle of lockdown, the people who ushered Clive through his final journey were professional in every second. Attentive without being overbearing, they treated Clive as a person, rather than a patient. Clive’s daughters and I received compassion of the type money simply cannot buy.
 
The list goes on ... but space is tight. In my early days here, every time I spoke during a bus ride, a driver or passenger would develop saucer eyes and exclaim ,“You’re not from around here, lass!”
 
They were right, I am not from around here. I will never master flawless Yorkshire-speak, nor will I refer to lunch as dinner. But Leeds, I adopted you for 20+ years and I do hope you kind of adopted me, and may shed a tear when I take that final LNER trip down to the Big Smoke. I will weep for you, with much joy and some sadness.

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