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Dear Denton, Texas

26 January 2016


Dear Denton,

The humidity licks my skin as I sip a Shiner beer on your scorched grass. Across the road, coffee shops, candy meccas, a cinema and thrift stores shine from the incandescent lights blazing above my head. It’s 7pm and I’m already drunk.
I’ve been sat in your Square for a few hours. Nestled into the hub of activity, inbetween Hickory and Oak Street, staring at your baroque-style county courthouse with awe. It was a long drive from Houston through Dallas, with nothing on the radio but country music and nothing on the side of the road but churches and isolated x-rated video shops for the horny truck drivers looking for anonymity. Driving through the Lone Star state is kinda like any long journey; time and places start to blend as the concrete carries us on.
The Square acts as the pulsating heart of your aesthetic appeal. You feel nice, like a mini version of the bohemian Bethlehem that is Austin. But it’s time to get this night into motion. We move on to Pascales, a drinking spot for hotshots, owned by Denton band Midlake. The place is ablaze with fancy cocktails among the humdrum of chess playing patrons, majestic bookshelves and quirky paintings. It’s ridiculously crowded so we stand against the walls, sipping our whiskey sours and mojitos, bobbing our heads to the soul soundtrack. We move downstairs to Andy’s Bar. There’s a band playing and the lead singer resembles Justin Vernon under the inexpensive stage lights, his creamy voice filling the dark corners of the establishment. It’s got a good atmosphere. Down a further set of stairs, we move to a cellar-like room. We find pool tables, Texas-shaped clocks, cheap drinks, and bar staff with horn-rimmed glasses and coiffed haircuts. Erin slips a dollar into the jukebox and R. Kelly’s ‘Bump N’ Grind’ bellows from the speakers to the collective headshake of the disgruntled drink pourers. It’s time to leave.

We head down to Fry Street where a string of drinking palaces glow invitingly, intermixed with late-night food joints for post-bars replenishing. Lucky Lou’s is our gateway. It’s a place where you can guzzle a $2 luminous green frozen margarita while watching intoxicated people play darts, pool, and throw beanbags. Leathered-up bikers and timid college students stand side by side shotting tequila below bicycles that hang precariously off the walls.
After Lou’s we head to the grimier end of the street. At Side Bar and Public House the drinks are dirt cheap and the dance floors are just plain dirty. It’s approaching closing time and a torrent of guys swim through the masses of patrons to find girls to grind with. I must say I find it a little intimidating. But then we leave. We head home to my friend’s house on the other side of the University of North Texas campus, floating through the mosquitoes and feral cats, and stumble into bed.

Now, it’s morning. After drinking coffee outside on the steps, and baking in the 100-plus-degree Texas sun, we head back to The Square to treat our growing hangovers. Another thing you excel in is grub, whether it’s catering to the munchies of stoners or to those in want of sophisticated dinner dates. Yes, despite their blase aura, your citizens keep it classy in this aspect.




We drive through you as your local radio blasts songs of the 70s. Pops of colour sprout from inbetween bungalowed cafes, under bridges and on the side of coffee shops. Fledgeling artists hammer graffiti and murals onto the surfaces of this urban canvas. Inside Denton Donuts, a bakery near the square’s recycled books emporium, sat at a table decorated with newspapers, I order the “Red, White and Blue” doughnut. This may be because I wanna feel a little more patriotic for the states, or because you're starting to strike me as the perfect mix of Red and Blue politics. The white creamy centre, perhaps.

The day flies by as we head to Denton Thrift and sift through the racks of cheap, great clothes. Then, it’s on to Taco Cabana for happy hour margaritas and Mexican food. Everything is affordable here, and so it seems easy to do things to excess. The food, the alcohol, the drugs. You strike me as a place that could act as a vacuum, allowing one to either have fun on the fringes, or be inextricably sucked in. Maybe it’s good my stay is short. Once again, it’s 7pm and I’m drunk.

But it’s not all just watering holes and nacho bowls. Where else can I head to a house party and find myself in the middle of a showcase of local music? In a dude’s converted garage, three bands from the area sing to the swarms of people. It’s unbearably humid inside, and I find myself rubbing up with strangers in the sweat-soaked euphoria of arrogant drunkenness. I don’t understand what vibe the opening guy is going for with his experimental approach, making odd sounds and pausing halfway through his set to venture outside and get himself another beer. But I don’t care. With long dirty blonde hair sitting upon his bare torso, he epitomises the effortlessly hip attitudes of the Denton elite. Caught in a web of mason jars, marijuana and maki, Denton kids could be at home in the borough of Brooklyn.

Even the plethora of deadbeats, who get by on cruising couches and skipping rent, find sanctuary in your merging of arts. A cool aesthetic that extends from the majestic courthouse to back yard games of beer pong. It’s the college town where North Texans come to get creative. I know I’m left with a kind of inspirational residue from my time spent in Fort Worth County.
In the Rocky Horror Picture Show, during the song “Damnit Janet,” a sign stands behind the duo as they sing to each other. “Denton. The home of happiness.” And artistically, it’s true.




Why Female Friendship Is Everything

19 January 2016



We sit on her bed drinking tequila cocktails, eating cheese and not worrying about our thighs as snow blankets the tree outside her window. It's cold inside so we calmly huddle together, drawn in through conversation and the tenderness of unforced laughter. Four females, friends and new acquaintances, watching YouTube videos of other women telling their stories. Feeling the glory of being united, of a kind of sisterhood.

I recently read Lynn Enright's Mourning the loss of intense female friendships (I know, I know- late to the game). I don't know why but it really shook me. I guess because even though I know it's inevitable that someday gurl-time may be swapped for the likes of marital bliss (/monotony) and talk of mortgages, I seriously CAN'T EVER imagine not having weekends like this past one described above. I can't imagine not being surrounded constantly by ladies I love.

Maybe it's because I've never been one for long-term romantic relationships. Mostly I think it's because I've found friends I can laugh with, cry with, spoon with, drink with, dance with, and I just can't picture life without these bloody wonderful women. Without those phone calls whenever one of us is walking anywhere. Without those evenings spent under blankets, eating calorie-soaked cake, and watching Sex and the City in serene silence. Without having a code word we say whenever we're having the roughest of days, so that we can just jump right in to helping each other without the bullshit of niceties. Without our wine-stained teeth winking at the mirror while we apply copious amounts of lipstick in unison, maneuvering so we all have enough space to preen adequately. Without shaking our limbs in a circle in da club, throwing shapes you'd never in a million years show to someone you wanna shag. Without that FIERCE loyalty that eclipses everything. Without that limitless closeness of platonic girl-on-girl friendship. 

"Now, when I want to see [my friend], which I often do, I have to consult a diary, email her and arrange to meet her for brunch somewhere. And brunch is nice, of course, but I’m sad that we’re never going to shoot the breeze in our pyjamas again. " - Lynn Enright

I've felt it more this year than I ever have - that slow, drawn out parting of linked arms. Galpals of mine, who at one time or another have been the ones I've meticulously called, texted and revelled in bestfriendom with, now live hundreds (even thousands) of miles away from me. I love Leeds and I love my life here, but I miss the possibilities of popping on a bus to certain friends' houses. Christ, if I miss that already, what the hell am I gonna be like in twenty years time? When even bigger, more boring responsibilities gnaw away at friend dates. When it's probably not socially acceptable to laugh at silly boys' Tinder profiles over a glass of wine at 3pm in the afternoon. 

But then, I think of Frances and Sophie in Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha. I think of Tina and Amy. I think of Thelma and Louise. I think of motherf*cking Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York and Samantha Jones, the most badass forty-something soul sisters. 

I think of ongoing Whatsapp conversations when we're a world apart, I think of sending a message to a chica I haven't spoken to in a while and marvelling at how easy it is to strike things right back up again. I think of how my friendships with these women have formed me, and girl, bricks don't break easily. I'm the sum of every single one of these ladies because of the intense bonds we've shared. 

Relationships may come and go, but real, raw female friendship is forever -- no matter our postcodes. In 2016, I've resolved to devote a hell of a lot more time to nurturing the ones that really mean something while I've still got it to spare.

Though let's all avoid a car-crash SATC sequel style trip to Abu Dhabi, yeah? (Seriously SJP, what were you thinking?)


5 Blogs I Love

17 January 2016


It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Seriously though, pick a city anywhere in the world and you'll be able to tap into daily life there through numerous photo-filled posts. 

If you think about it it's pretty bloody amazing. Seeing people of all ages carve out their own little digital frontier on the wild wild web. But does anyone else sometimes find it a little overwhelming? There's such a constant stream of great content spattering at us from our little iScreens that I often start to feel like my eyes are swimming in a never-ending colourful cosmos of letters. How can I possibly read it all?!! I've got a permanent case of blog-induced FOMO.

Luckily, I've found a few blog buoys in the ever more crowded Insta-sea that coincidentally make perfect snowy Sunday reads.

Here are five I love:



Emma Gannon is a superstar. Her writing is all kinds of intelligent, funny, and generally just badass. Reading her wondrous words, I can't help but find myself thinking how much fun she'd be to have a glass of wine with! Every Sunday she also smashes it out the ball park with her newsletter filled with musings, Q&A's, and links to articles that are always absolutely on point. Her book Ctrl; Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up and Stayed Sane Online comes out in July - it's gonna be insanely good.




Katie Oldham's writing is magic. Literally, she's the most amazing wordsmith/rockstar I've seen on the interwebs. Every arrangement of letters is concocted in a way that's streaked with the mastery of prose. Long live natural born writers writing blogs! I love the unique ways she has of telling her stories, of lust and love and wanderlust. Her blog has made me ache for New York City in the most beautiful way.



Olivia Purvis is another one who knows how to write. Seriously, girl got a gift! Everything about her site, her Snapchat, her Instagram (and her!) is super cute. As is her little pooch, Maggie! I've been really enjoying her interviews with influential women recently, along with her travel guides and recipes. Her aesthetic is like Wes Anderson meets a quirky French patisserie - lovin' it.



Meg's writing is brimming with honesty and authenticity. I'm new to her New York based blog so I'm still in the process of spending my Sundays reading her anecdotes, and feeling so strangely connected to someone an ocean away. Her eBook Places I Stopped On My Way Home is so far so brilliant, and invokes in me my own NYC love story.



Omg, how yum does the above look? I also only discovered Cate's blog really recently, but it's the most parfait foodie haven! Gorgeous recipes (mostly vegetarian, and more recently vegan) spliced with bright, bold, bloody tasty looking photos of food. Heaven on a plate. 

Which blogs are your Sunday go-tos? Let me know below your recommendations! 

x


SNAP! Yorkshire Recipeboxes - Spotlight

14 January 2016


Ah, January. It’s a month that serves as the almighty paradox: hopeful New Year’s resolutions are bouncily made (New Year, New Me whut) yet the weather remains depressingly bleak. Icy feet meet fresh new sneaks. It’s the time of year that makes you want to come home from work and get straight into your pyjamas and slippers; it’s NOT the time of year where you can be bothered to battle through the elements to do your food shopping. It’s also hard to lose those stubborn excess Christmas pounds when a takeaway constantly seems like THE BEST IDEA EVER.

I first saw SNAP! Recipeboxes on Twitter, and was instantly drawn to their premise of using fresh local Yorkshire produce. Good ol’ Yorkshire grub, eh! The perfect post-January treat. SNAP! are a new family-run company based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire (about 15 minutes away from my Mama’s house) who source their seasonal ingredients from other independent businesses across the green and purple paradise that is God’s own country. Founder Charles explains “We source everything 100% locally in Yorkshire, partnering with exceptional local farmers, independent growers and artisan producers who share our values of quality and taste. They’re real folk taking real pride in producing real food.”

Anyone else get frustrated with recipe books which list numbers of unobtainable food bits in the method? An obscure type of date you say… now where the hell can I get that from? With SNAP! there's none of this hassle. The boxes are delivered straight to your door (omg, yes) and contain ALL the premeasured ingredients for three quick, delicious meals including two evening meals and one brunch, along with recipe cards. Now, I’m no Nigella, but I just about know how to follow a recipe. Fingers crossed.

The first recipebox will hit doorsteps on Friday 5th February. You can view and order which recipes you’d like here: www.snaprecipebox.co.uk. Don’t worry if you’re not at home, Woolcool and Sorba Freeze insulating packaging keep your ingredients cool and fresh for up to 24 hours.

Keep your eyes peeled for my review of box numero uno!
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