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Texas: on first glance

31 Oct

Huey Lewis & The News soundtrack me into the state with The Power of Love. Apt, really; I’ve been travelling at 88mph and I’ve hit a cultural time warp.

Weirdly, Texas feels more foreign to me than Sao Paolo had. The signs are in English, but the fonts lend them the quality of another language, here Serif reigns supreme. This is the thing that has had me at odds the most this week, sort of a visual jet lag – a creeping sense of unease every time I saw a sign for a grocery store or a motel or a laundromat, or any of those other words that are familiarly foreign.

Pylons rush by, speeding giants cutting a slow, deliberate path through the landscape. They must need a lot of electricity here. Another power station flashes by. Storm drains slide past. At least that’s what I think they’re called. Visions of kids drag racing or throwing stones nudge the edge of my memory.

And it’s flat, so flat. Flat and flat pack.

I know I’m abroad because of the trees. I spot the odd Palm tree and that flat, bright, open light that rarely filters through the canopies of London, leaving us scuttling beneath it in the gloom and shadow of Canary Wharf, the Westway, Council Estates.

Cars race and flags fly.

A supermarket called Food Town.

Centre spelt with an ‘er’.

Toll roads that aren’t the M6.

A yellow school bus! In real life! I almost point this out to the driver, or myself, but I don’t.

More pylons. More flags.

We pass a gun shop (store?) nestled between a subway and a sushi place. Could make for an interesting lunch break.

Phone numbers that spell something. That never really caught on at home, did it?

The freeway thins out and the patches of strip malls thicken, clump and multiply. Taco Bell. Jack in the Box. It’s like a drive-thru museum of childhood movie references that I never really got.

So much road! Where can it possibly all be leading to? Great, swooping swathes of smooth, sun-bleached Tarmac, looping and soaring, o’er storm drain and ‘neath freeway.

We peel our car off the freeway and we’re into a kind of suburban-industrial cocktail, garnished with more pylons and more flags.

A deserted film set, a cardboard cutout town. I half expect to walk through doors and see the sky; bright and flimsy flats from a stage that no one is on.



Empty space.

#13for2013 mixtape challenge 4: Holiday Destinations

30 Apr

So, I’ve been slacking this month and have only just managed to get my mixtape done in time for us to start a new mixtape challenge afresh in May. We don’t have a theme yet, but watch this space and we’ll come up with one shortly. If you have any ideas, let me know on Twitter. This month’s theme for the #13for2013 mixtape challenge was Holiday Destinations.


Since the theme was set, I’ve been lucky enough to book a holiday to Seville and Malaga in sunny Spain, so I decided, quite simply, to base my holiday around those places, with a few general references to holidays/spain in general. Enjoy!

Final call for the playlist at gate 8…

Recycled Air by The Postal Service

Sunny Seville by Super Furry Animals

3am Spanish by Hockey

Spanish Sahara by Foals

From Africa to Malaga by JJ

I’m going to Spain by The Fall

Seville by Pinback

Mañana by Desaparecidos

Holiday by The Get Up Kids

Spanish Bombs by The Clash

Spanish Harlem by The Drifters

Jump in the Pool by Friendly Fires

Phew! It’s almost time for May’s mixtape, looks like I just made it…

IBTL in before the lock meme



#13for2013 mixtape challenge #4: HOLIDAY!

4 Apr

So, a new month dawns and with it comes a new #13for2013 mixtape challenge. If you haven’t heard of the challenge, you can find out more about how it came about here.

Anyway, last month we had an amazing response to our Animal-themed mixtape challenge, with people going conceptual with the Chinese zodiac, people monkeying around and a whole host of people joining us to make mixes who hadn’t done previously; including Slick Nick and Vinny and Lauren.

This month, the theme has been suggested by Bob Flood. In light of the current lack of spring, sunshine, vitamin D or anything to make us feel remotely like the seasons have changed, he’s suggested we go on a musical trip with this month’s mix theme being:




So, take that theme and go nuts with it. Maybe you want to take us on a muscial journey to one place. Maybe to several of your faves. Maybe to somewhere you’ve never been but like the sound of. From Blackpool to Bali (or maybe Miami to Ibiza?), it’s totally up to you.

Do get involved if you like the sound of it, the more the merrier! It’s mixtaping for music’s sake and you can do it however you like, blog post, Spotify playlist, YouTube playlist. It can be as complex or as simple as you like, the only sort-of rules are:

  • Stick to 12 songs
  • Stick to the theme of holidays (however loosely…)
  • Share your playlist with us on Twitter; use the hashtag #13for2013 and tag me @GemStGem or Tom @ThomHoops
  • Finish your mix by the end of April, ready for the next theme.

I’ve already got a few high expectations for mixes based on my favourite submissions from last time. No pressure…

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for future mixes, send them my way.

Happy mixing!

Away up north

12 Dec

Apols for the lack of posts, it was my birthday last week and my wonderful chap whisked me away to the land of whisky, snow and Irvine Welsh.

We had a wonderful couple of days in Edinburgh, more pics to follow, but for now, let this picture of the very beautiful Edinburgh Castle in the snow whet your appetite.

edinburgh castle in the snow hipster instagram blog gemma critchley


11 Sep




That’s what’s in front of me.

I’m blogging from the seventh floor of my Sorrento hotel on the last day of my holiday. It’s been completely wonderful with lots of delicious food and vino, peaceful walks, snoozes, reading and gymming.

I feel like I’ve totally recharged my batteries, ready to tackle the new ‘term’ of work with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

I’ve been reading a lot about The Tao (and, more specifically, F*ck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John C. Parkin) and have been learning how you should just let life flow around you and through you, and go with it rather than kicking against it.

I’m going to live more like that. Just take what happens as it happens and know that everything will always be okay, stop trying to make things go one way but instead follow the natural flow of the world and get ready to accept everything it has to offer.

Well zen, like.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

22 Aug

I want to plan a road trip to visit loads of awesome seaside places around the UK. I spent many a happy summer in Skeggy and Cleggy as a kid and I think it’s time to rediscover the Great British Seaside.

skegness is so bracing postcard vintage Uk seaside postcard

I asked on Twitter where to go and received lots of awesome-sounding suggestions, here they are:

Whitby – @LaurenPotts, @middleplanet
Staithes – @LadyRach
Blackpool – @CharMar
Seahouses, Bamburgh, Craster, Alnmouth, Alnwick, Farne – @EllenSCole
Robin Hood’s Bay – @NatalieHarris
Weymouth, Bournemouth, Ayr – @LouiseReviews
Cornwall (not Newquay) – @ThomHoops
Aberdovey Wales, New Quay Wales, Fowes Cornwall – @DigitalOutside
Southend, North Cornwall – @MikeTreat
Scarborough – @PhilKirby
Northumberland Coast – @katherineross
Anywhere but Rhyl – @shuttershimmer
St Andrews – @Lotpop
Teignmouth – @LaylaRobleh

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! If you have any more suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

I’m really liking the idea of Scottish/Northumberland seaside as I’ve never been up there, also never been to Brighton or Cornwall so looking into that too. Probably won’t be until next summer that I get around to it, but I’ve always said that there’s so much of this country that’s absolutely beautiful but that I never visit, so I’m looking forward to exploring it a bit more.

Holiday mixtape challenge

14 Aug

In light of my upcoming trip to Sorrento (three weeks tomorrow I’ll be there!) I have created a Holiday Mixtape as part of the little mixtape exchange that Swashbuckling Stuff and I have had going for the past few months. If you fancy making a mixtape and sharing it, please do! The more the merrier.

sorrento italy amalfi coast mixtape holiday mixtape music italo instagram hipstamatic

The theme and rules for this challenge go like this:

My Holiday Mixtape:

Choose 11 tracks
Make a Spotify (or Grooveshark/we7) playlist
your mix needs to be themed around holidays, with one song for each of the following categories. I’ve put my songs under each category so you can see what’s on my mix:

Postcards from Italy – Beirut

In the aeroplane over the sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

Holiday – Dizzee Rascal

Beach Girls – Sleigh Bells

Club Tropicana – Wham!

That’s amore – Dean Martin

Scenes from an Italian restaurant – Billy Joel

I’m on a boat – The Lonely Island

Holiday banger

Left and Leaving – The Weakerthans

Getting home
Home – Crystal Fighters

Enjoy! Leave a link in the comments if you make a mixtape.

So Faroe way

25 Jul

I want to live here:

igloo unusual architecture faroe islands grass roof cute house

I’ve wanted to go to the Faroe Islands for years and seeing this awesome little igloo house with a grass roof has made me want to visit there even more.

faroe islands lagoon church cute houses architecture faroe islands awesome blue water

faroe islands faroese house grass roof cute countryside cottage faroe islands waterfall sea cliff beautiful car hire faroese

I once had a dream about the Faroe Islands where all of the rocks in the sea were really brightly coloured jewels and I was flying over the rocks, really fast and close. I can even remember how the springy, spongy grass felt as I sat on it in my dream, watching Puffins play on the jewel rocks below the cliff I was sat on. It was really windy and wild, but I felt really calm.

The pictures I’ve seen of the islands so far really remind me of the South island of New Zealand, particularly around Queenstown/Te Anau. Really lush and magestic, with terrifyingly awesome rocks rearing out of the water and heart-stopping cliffs dropping away from your path. The blue water also looks like the glacial water you get in New Zealand too. Beautiful. I have a thing for nordic-esque countries, though. I loved Sweden and Iceland when I visited those places, and I imagine the Faroe Islands to be quite similar, but with more of a small town feel to them.

I’m basing my entire knowledge of the islands on one dream and a quick flick through Google Images, but that’s enough for me for now. I know there are negatives, like the fact that the rocks in the sea aren’t made of Jewels, the Faroese kill whales and it probably rains even more there than it does in Leeds, but still.

Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

In Bruges

13 Jul

Okay, I promised more about Bruges, here are some of the highlights…

Leaving the UK behind:

leaving the UK behind hull zeebrugge ferry bruges north sea P&o

Belgian beer (Delirium Tremens Red, mmm!)

in bruges belgian beer delirum tremens red camra real ale

More Belgian beer…

beligan beer brugse zot belgium bruges

And more…

belgium belgian beer bottles liquor store shop window bruges

And finally, my favourite… Coconut beer!

coconut beer mongozo belgium bruges beer belgian beer

I’d highly recommend visiting Bruges if you get the chance (or the thirst).

I’m not at Glastonbury

24 Jun

I can’t stand hippies. Or festival goers. Or mud. Or wackiness. Or not showering. Or rubbish bands.

hippies use side door no hippys glastonbury

The most perfect festival in the world is Primavera Sound in Barcelona. All on concrete, by the sea, no grass, lots of beautiful hipsters, easy to smuggle Sangria in, sunshine, hotels not tents and pizza cones.

This country is a proper no-go when it comes to festivals.

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