“[Leeds] may not be my city. But it my kind of city.”                                   – Vicas Swarup

Contemporary and historic together, Leeds University

So we’re back in the city, or more precisely two cities. We were in manchester, Daisy-chain and I, but that’s a story for another day. Because now we’re in leeds… getting ready to say goodbye. But before we said “goodbye” we decided it’d be rude not to at least say a quick “Hello!”, so once we had Daiz all packed that’s exactly what we did. I guess the most accurate greeting that I know of would be “Aloha”, no it being Hawaiian doesn’t make it more fitting, it would be it’s double meaning. It wasn’t until my visit to O’ahu back in December that I realised the true extent of aloha; Aloha Spirt is so much more, but as a greeting it is used for both Hello and Goodbye. A friend I met on the north shore explained it perfectly with this little quote

Green flash over Waikiki Beach, O'ahu
Green flash over Waikiki Beach, O’ahu

“Meow is like Aloha – it can mean anything.” – Hank Ketcham

Channeling this beautiful greeting we decided to make the very most of our brief moment back in Leeds, as we both knew we’d miss it. Of course, we will be back, just not for a few month and with less frequency. What with Daisy-chain moving to manchester, yep, she’s moving to my beloved city , there’s less of a reason to visit this beautiful city. And yes, I really do believe Leeds is beautiful, she’s a eclectic mix of old and new, tiny corridors open spaces, obvious places and hidden beauty. Not much not to love, right? Leeds is to me a marbled city, you know like a marble cake? Different aspects all swirled together beautiful, mixed but still separate and different, never become on single entity instead creating more distinctly different ones. It’s eclectic in that way.

Fountains outside Cross Aracade’s historic facade

“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams”                          – Herb Caen

It contains all sorts of individuals, past and present dreaming up different versions of the city, all of which are swirled together to create the leeds we see to day, and a vision for the leeds of tomorrow. By Caen’s measure Leeds must be vast, and reaching up to meet the sky, Leeds must be great. And well it is by my measures too. One of my favourite things about leeds is the organic way all the different aspects of Leeds’ eclectic personality seems to grow and change, unlike many cities it hasn’t been regimented in it’s development.

IMG_2303 1
Neons lit church windows at The Joint

One of my favourite things about leeds is the organic way all the different aspects of Leeds’ eclectic personality seems to grow and change, unlike many cities it hasn’t been regimented in it’s development. New ideas and dreams have sprung up filling the gaps between the pre-existing projects of those who have gone before; some times literally filling the gaps, like the Trinity centre has along side the victorian arcades, other times creating something new using the shell or ruins of a long forgotten dream like Trinity St. David’s Church where Get Baked present: The Joint a ‘dive bar’ serves delicious not so fast food in a grungy heaven. It’s one of the biggest difference between Leeds and Manchester, it’s not divided and separated, curated, will different aspects of itself pocketed away, but all jumbled together. Giving her a unique texture. A different tempo.

Catching Ben Howard opening, coming in late

“The two elements the traveller first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish” – Federico Garcia Lorca

Dreams of a new day colouring in between the shadows

I love this quote. While Lorca was talking about the tedium and emptiness of typical life in the city, a life so enslaved to society that it could make almost anything acceptable when seen as a means of escape. But when I first heard this it struck with me to of the things I love the most about cities, especially Leeds. How it is more than just concrete and glass that make up a city, emphasising the human aspects of the city, the sights and sounds they create. Sure cities are hard and harsh, full of lines and angles, filled with pain and anguish, drudgery and tedium, but they are so much more than that. They are filled with people, thousands of dreamers, thinkers, movers and shakers. These people, all the people living their lives among the lines and angles softening them, making shapes, colouring it in, relieving the drudgery, making geometry into something beautiful. Turing the whole city into an escape, allowing dreams to become realities.

University of Leeds' sustainable community garden
University of Leeds’ sustainable community garden

As for the rhythm, each place to me seems to have one, a deep under lying beat, one you can feel in your chest, the same way you’d feel a loud bass. When you in a place it’s rhythm is in you, changing your perspective, slowing your heart enabling you to fully understand the beauty around you, or speeding your pulse letting you take in everything that’s flying past you. The rhythm of a place allows you it understand its soul. By sharing it’s pace with you, one naturally falls into step, allowing you to know it, to know how it goes so you can understand all that happens with in it. Almost like learning a language, once you know a place’s rhythm you can translate the rest of it, the rhythm is your bable fish. To me the high pace ‘furious’ rhythm of a city is enthusing, energising and often inspiring, often giving me the drive to keep going, keep trying or pick myself back up again. A lucozade for life almost.

Foodie photos before digging in, Carluccio's
Foodie photos before digging in, Carluccio’s

So of into Leeds we ambled to say our “Aloha”s. But what to do? What would be fitting way to spend such a day? We decided to go with a swirl of things ourselves, a lot of the usual with a little of the new. Eating, yes I get that was a bit of a given. Shopping, it’d be rude not to right? There’s all our favourite shopping haunts so we’d have to get our fit. Photo taking, we’re both photographers at heart, always seeing the beauty in the world trying to capture it. To share the way we see the world with the rest of the world. So yup another given.

Coffee, there’s always coffee. I am a little bit of an addict, can’t go with out it, especially when I know there’s a good cup to be had, and Leeds well she has her fair share of coffee shops to fall in love with.

My Leeds coffee sweetheart, Mrs Atha's
My Leeds coffee sweetheart, Mrs Atha’s

But we also wanted to mix in a little of our usual beloved adventure, something new to see, something to explore. As soon as you decide you want to venture somewhere new and exciting in a place you love, suddenly you can’t decide where to go, so we decided on breakfast. Well more that we needed breakfast… more accurately second breakfast. Yup we were letting our inner hobbit out, and decided to think over our options over good grub and a tasty little pick me up. Caffeine for me, and coco for daisy-chan. Yup she loves her liquid hugs hot and sweet, while I little mine a complex with a little edge. Thankfully of differing tastes tend to converge when it comes to where to get our fixes is one, and that time of day there was only once place we’d go, Roast & Conch, Hotel Chocolat’s graphic and cool urban escape. It’s design and flavours are as much of a drug as their delightful, world conscious chocolate; guaranteed to leave you wanting more.

2 girls different tastes; same love, Roast & Conch

Still undecided we headed to the shops, coercing each other into different outfits, silly and serious, looking for any special pieces that would compliment our wardrobes perfectly. That’s the best think about shopping with you best friend who has a similar taste but very different style… she know exact what you’d love, and exactly what you need, as well as what suits you, she can give you an honest opinion because 99% of the time she does actually like what you’d wear, but you never have to worry about looking same-y even when you borrow each others clothes, because you’d never put an outfit together the same way. And you know you’ll get an honest answer – that makes you look short, you’ll never wear it, you have 3 dresses just like that already, or even that it looks beautiful. We know each other too well to bother with fake compliments, the idea that you like it so that enough. That makes Daisy-chain and I the dream team, especially shopping in a place we know so well. It also makes us dangerous, and highly detrimental to each others bank accounts… And yup we made a purchase or two. It’s impossible to resit when there two of you to egg you on!

Vintage ‘only the brave’ diesel belt, Blue Rinse Leeds

Shopping urges quenched we decided to head down to the waterfront. After all this time we realised we’d never taken the canal path through the city down to the Royal Armouries, and well it’s quite beautiful. A long forgotten aspect of the Leeds Leeds used to be back in the day. It’s beauty often overlooked for the ease and speed of the newer roads. So with the sun overhead we walked from Wharf to Wharf, past beautiful old bridges, and the remanence of the cities industrial heritage. Passing by the red brick of the old city seeing it moulded around newer additions to the river side. Seeing where new interest had emerged and rejuvenated the Quays and Wharfs. Bringing the cities effervesces to long unused path way and building, infusing the hopes of the future with the knowledge, wisdom and strength of the past.

Stepping down to the river side

“I just want to take time to myself, because my life is like ta-ta-ta-ta. So I don’t want nothing special, just to breath … [to] take my bike and go by the riverside” – Renzo Rosso

Ok so we didn’t have bikes but were were by the riverside, and we weren’t alone. Unbeknown to us it was the waterside festival. Our karma must have been good because we’d stubbled upon a wonderful treat, the whole waterside walkway buzzing with activity, from quaint cafes we’d never even heard about to tasting events, crafts, art and design, community event, fun, games even a treasure hunt, there was some thing there for every one and a lot for us. The highlight of all of this for me what how through this festival the city was rejuvenating itself, and it’s community bringing them together, crossing boundaries and social divides to have so fun and bring some life back in to a beautiful part of its city and its history.

Postcard flyers for Leeds Waterside Festival 2015
Postcard flyers for Leeds Waterfron Festival 2015

It didn’t even particularly seem to be about commercial gain, simply bringing the city and it’s people together. From a sporadic and casual knitting class outside a quaint cafe o the crowd of onlookers watching a game of bowls, it just seem to be stirring the pot as it were, swirling the city and its inhabitants, reinvigorating them. It also seems to subtly support several issues close to my heart like encouraging people to cook, grow their own fruit and veg, recycle and try to think sustainably – the most obvious example of this being the ‘junk float’ a community team building exercise where all who wanted to participate could bring junk to help make the raft or participate in its construction and testing, ‘bring you junk or jump in helping us use it’ seemed to be there motto.

Polarid self timer, and art in balance and precision
Polarid self timer, and art in balance and precision

After getting our fill of the fun and frivolity at the waterfront festival we headed back into town, taking the under bridge tunnel, laughing and joking our way though. We were once again hungry, and low on caffeine, ok maybe it was just me running out of juice be still, the hunger had set it. So once we’d reach the familiar paths of the city, and the beautiful warmth of the sun we ambled our way back to our decided eatery. If you haven’t already guessed my aforementioned beloved Mrs Atha’s. We did of course make a stop or two a long the way, chatting all the while about something and nothing, even spying a vintage Wimbledon Judges shirt. Walking unthinkingly along our familiar path through the city reminded me of another quote about friends, in a beloved city, living there lives on familiar streets the know and love, with the knowledge that how ever big the city feels they’ve always got each other:

“Eventually all the pieces fall into place… until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason” – Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City

Daddy & I playing swapsies with our veggie treats

We’d done just that today, laughed at well everything and just lived, accepting what ever would happen would happen, and enjoyed every second. That didn’t change when we met up with Mum and Dad, our carefree banter continuing along the comfort of the familiar streets. To mum going to Leeds is coming home; it’s where she grew up, and no matter how much time elapses between visits it never seems to loose it’s familiarity for her. The city itself might have changed, as we ourself change slowly and quietly over time, but its feeling, its rhythm, its essence stay the same. Making it still the place she grew up no matter how much it appears to have changed. Sitting down waiting for a undoubtably delicious food, while chatting away, I quietly hope I’ll always have that here too. An subconscious familiarity, like belonging but not quiet. Maybe it’s more along the lines of knowing, of understanding the rhythm of a place. So while I tuck into these tasty treats, I’ll leave you with this:

“My art is an attempt to reach beyond the surface appearance. I want to see the growth in wood, time in stone, nature in a city, and I do not mean its parks but a deeper understanding that a city is nature too – the ground upon which it is build, the stone with which it is made” – Antony Goldsworthy

Waterside snaps of Daisy-chain and I

Mahalo Leeds, Aloha

Yours, Disaster Dreaming x

One thought on “Leeds

  1. I study in Leeds – beautiful photos! I haven’t tried the Hotel Chocolat cafe yet but after reading your post I think I may need to add it to my list of places to try in Leeds before I leave!

    Liked by 1 person

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