Having recently left the warm, fluffy confines of North-East Derbyshire (believe it or not, you do not actually live in Yorkshire) for a city containing a millennium-old cathedral that still feels more modern than most residents of Dronfield, something feels amiss. Though the town itself is extremely beautiful, and its residents form a generally tolerable mixture of pleasant and just-about-okay-at-arm’s-length, what is it about my new home that is just not, as Elton John said of our small market town during his visit to Chesterfield’s B2Net (now Pro-Act) Stadium, ‘pretty much okay for a small market town’?
Indeed, with Sir Elton in mind, perhaps the first thing any of our fitness enthusiasts may notice about post-Dronfield life is the extreme difficulty one will find in selecting a fitness suite and/or gym in a new town. Of course, Dronfield’s people, ever a paradigm of health, are safe in the knowledge that our fitness suite is endorsed by the town’s own ‘Rocketman’, Graham Baxter. However, how can any health-savvy Dronfieldian, in an unfamiliar and altogether less boring town, select a gym without the assurance of Dronfield’s finest political mastermind and health guru? Under the leadership of The Baxter that other towns lack, it comes as no surprise that Dronfield has repeatedly been considered ‘Healthiest Market Town Between Sheffield and Chesterfield’ during the last decade.
Another reason for the fine health of our peace-loving folk (to any readers unfamiliar with Dronfield, we’re essentially slightly taller hobbits*) is almost certainly the communal love of walking through the fields and speed bump-laced streets of the town. While joggers, having failed to join the Graham Baxter Fitness Suite, obviously don’t count, the abundance of sweaty, overweight pedestrians found in all weathers and terrains of Dronfield are in fact in such abundance for a far stranger reason than it would appear. Upon my first day in this strange, new town, I encountered a fearsome, metallic beast that swallowed pedestrians and teleported them to locations all across the town, never before seen in Dronfield: A Bus.
While all of you will know that in Dronfield, buses appear simply in the form of dishonest timetables and crushed dreams, imagine my surprise to find that, outside of Dronfield, buses take the form of visible, largely punctual and entirely real vehicles. Nonetheless, while the cheap novelty of convenience and the ability to get somewhere on time may appeal to those from other towns, I feel I can say with conviction that Dronfield’s people would shun these portable pedestrian boxes in favour of blind and hopeful faith in the second coming of the 44.
These differences finally figured out, I momentarily believed I could now rest easy, having acknowledged and accepted the unusual truths about life after Dronfield. However, that nagging feeling of an undiagnosed unfamiliarity still continued to plague me – just what is it about Dronfield that feels different? Pondering this question, I set off on a stroll to the nearest Co-op to clear my mind, perhaps run into a few other idle strollers along the way. It was, at this point, that I twigged on to what really did feel unusual about my new home (aside from the fact that not every single street in the town has a Co-op, which is a disconcerting realisation…)
All of these people had places to be. Be it a University lecture, a trip to ‘Europe’s Worst Nightclub’ (originally voted to second place, though the winner burnt down several years ago) or a cheeky mugging of a tourist if you happen to be an angry local, everybody is walking with a purpose, and not just to an empty bus stop. So what really does create the mind-numbing tedium of Dronfield that feels like a disappointing yet familiar home?
Nobody has anywhere to be, or anywhere to go. The town is boring, lifeless and populated almost solely by the over 70s and pubs. Life outside of Dronfield is generally more exciting, busier, and altogether more interesting than life by the Peel Monument. Yet somehow, it becomes quickly uncomfortable knowing that there is no longer at least one acquaintance in at least one pub at least as near as two streets away, fully equipped with overly-friendly landlords, in a town where everybody knows everybody else through at least somebody. By all means, move to a bigger town, with bigger sights than the Peel Monument and bigger rivers than the Drone. Bigger places and lives can easily be found outside of Dronfield, but never wish these things upon a town that is enjoyable for being quite the opposite. If escaping my hometown’s bores has made me realise a single thing about the town, it would be this:
Nobody should want Dronfield any other way.
*Unstone is, of course, Mordor.
Contributor: James Williamson.