I'm hovering in one of the window seats at Brew Dog in Leeds city centre. Wherever the north got the 'it's grim up north' tag is a mystery, because the old and new mix in this city leaves me wanting to explore every corner. I'm waiting for Phoebe Dixon, a Leeds blogger who is still fairly new to the city, but insisted on giving me her own take on it.
Phoebe is a Leeds lifestyle blogger, dabbling in fashion and beauty and essentially, whatever takes her fancy. I've come to see her blog as an online diary and it's a refreshing read with an onus on The North. Phoebe, 26, picked today's starter location - not a luxury restaurant or the best salad spot in town, but Brew Dog, a hipster's dream and a UK bred beer haven. Phoebe slips in unnoticed and comes in for a polite handshake before asking what I want and sharing her favourites: "The Punk IPA is your easy drinking, classic choice. It's probably one of my top three beers because I know exactly what I'll be getting. Too much choice is my downfall, so I too often opt for the easy option - not sure if that's a good thing". After working through some tasters of the guest choices, we each opt for a pint of Punk and take a seat in the window.
Inbetween sips, Phoebe introduces her city: "I am obsessed with Leeds. I just want more people to experience it."
"There is such a sheer variety in this relatively small space. I moved to the city in 2015 and feel like it's never stopped developing since I arrived. Me and my boyfriend go out for breakfast at least once a week and I think we've only been to the same venue on three occasions. The indies which I just want to shout about work so well with the new developments and before you look too deep, it's like there is space for everyone here". Phoebe is referring to the £150m development, now home to John Lewis in Leeds, a super casino and some first-outside-London favourites like Anthropologie and & Other Stories. It was met with some opposition from locals as it took up residence next to a local, ageing favourite of the city market.
"I'm passionate about supporting indie businesses where I can and Leeds makes that incredibly easy. But, the shopaholic in me is still endlessly excited about the slick finishes, collectable carrier bags and getting lost in the experience that come with the chains." That shopaholic she's referring to has been outed on her blog recently, amongst my favourite posts from the Barnsley-born, Huddersfield-raised blogger. Her post about 'the secret world of a department store fanatic' had me nodding along, as well as all too many visions of the Shopaholic films which Phoebe admits to living out in reality: "It's definitely not just me that repeatedly justifies a new buy with an incredibly invalid excuse. Not to sound incredibly vapid, but shopping really is therapy."
Aside from frequent escapism in the shops, Phoebe is more likely to be found developing her writing at home. "Writing has forever been something I always come back to. All my family are much more science and number focused, but somehow I fell hard for words instead. I live my life digitally now, but nothing beats that pen on paper escapism."
"I've got into writing just so I can, whether that's taking prompt from somewhere else, (Phoebe is subscribed to a writing prompt newsletter, where you're provided with a different writing challenge everyday) noting a sentence of gratitude or handwriting letters and notes." For someone who has a career in digital marketing (also here in the city, of course), a demanding hobby of online writing and a habit of getting lost in YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, it's a surprise to hear there's still so much focus on the handwritten word for this 20-something.
When I ask for her favourite restaurant in Leeds, her eyes light up. "I love the experience of dining, unless I get a genuinely terrible meal or terrible service, I still massively enjoy it. It's something I've put more focus on with the new blog, the Leeds Guide (a self-populated map of Leeds, filled with restaurants, bars and things to do) will forever grow as I discover new places, new favourites and fail to tick off every restaurant in Leeds as places seemingly pop-up overnight."
And are there any downsides to this ode to Leeds she's created? "Of course it's not a beacon of joy in every aspect. I come from the countryside, no matter how much I claim to be a city girl, waking up to a derelict building site is in no way comparable to a bedroom view of rolling hills. I also have dreams of getting a corgi that seem to be ramping up daily, but I'm not about to bring a puppy into a city centre flat that only has five square feet of grass outside." Phoebe earlier confessed that she joined a group on Facebook titled 'Disapproving Corgis'. If her corgi obsession wasn't already big enough, it's now hit fever pitch. So there's no plans to head down South and fulfil the 20-something dream? "You can take the girl out of Yorkshire... But the thought of paying London living prices full time is enough for me to turn into my dad, with the constant rhetoric of 'how much?!'"
A text flashes up on her phone with the heart emoji next to her boyfriend's name, he's asking about tonight's dinner plans "we're both massive foodies and he's got into the habit of pausing before he eats to ensure I have chance for the perfect Instagram shot. Isn't that modern romance?".
With a weekend date night planned in minutes, Phoebe strolls out of the bar, leaving me to soak up the people watching opportunity. I've made a promise myself to come back and better explore Leeds, maybe London is losing its touch?
Something a little different for you today, I'm hoping you enjoyed a glimpse into how my mind works. Here's to things getting more creative every so often... What do you think?
Tee - J Crew
Jeans & bag - Primark
Boots - George @ Asda