Thursday, 25 September 2008

Reasons to be cheerful… one, two, three

Mint chocolate milk shake, Come Dine With Me and a nut free life

In 1979 Ian Dury & The Blockheads released the song “Reason’s to be Cheerful” in honour of this I attempting to write a column based on me trying not to be a moaning mini so your lovable Jo is back to remind you why life is still predominantly pleasurable despite the fact that there are too many people with faces like bulldogs chewing wasps hanging round Piccadilly gardens.

Reason one is my discovery that in Asda not only are Friji milk shakes on a marvellous three for only two pounds offer, but a new mint chocolate flavour has been cleverly invented. My chocolate milk addiction began on bank holiday Monday three years ago when I discovered that after consuming almost my entire body weight in Pina coladas and undercooked BBQ food, it was really much the only thing I could keep down for the following two days. A cool refreshing drink that is both yummy and high in calcium with the added bonus of Minty fresh breath. Who could ask for more?

My second high point in life is Come Dine With Me on Channel 4 I religiously watch the repeats every Sunday due to the embarrassing fact that I adore this show. In case this genius program concept has escaped your viewing habits the basic plot is four strangers throw a dinner party for each other in their own middle class suburban terrace houses complete with matching dinner plates and garden gnomes. Everyone scores each other out of 10 in secret and the winner get £1000. So you get free food and drink, a cheeky nosey around people’s houses (which usually includes a peak in their underwear drawer) then share with the nation their mushroom risotto actually looked like mole droppings and smelled like wet dog. So imagine my delight when I happened across an advert asking for contestants. While being on TV isn’t a life goal of mine, as I see it as similar to football – I make a better spectator than player, I would gladly make an exception if it meant I could go on Supermarket sweep or cook leak and potato soup serves with honey glazed ham and in season roasted vegetables on Come Dine With Me.

My final reason is that Kellogg’s have created honey cornflakes. This renders my once woefully disappointing existence to almost being standable. I was always partial to Crunchy Nut cornflakes but unfortunately a pesky nut allergy would send me to the ranks of pushing up daisies if I decided to nibble on the aforementioned delightful breakfast family favourite. Now if I can only find a substitute for cocoanut milk in a Pina colada my life will be complete

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The wonders of vintage fashion

I have always been a people watcher, or maybe just incredibly nosey. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than sitting in a café with a cranberry and orange muffin and a creamy hot chocolate with sprinkles creating stories about other patrons and passers by. Is the flame haired woman in the high heels and maroon pencil skirt an innocent colleague of the navy suited man who is sitting opposite, loosening his tie and adding copious amount of sugar to his espresso, or is their relationship something far more intricate and exciting. The shirt and tie hints at work but the fish nets tell an entirely different story…

Fashion reveals just as much about a person intentions as body language, it become a means of non verbal communication. After all no one has ever come up to me claiming they saw my clever wit across a crowed room, but I have had the odd “cracking dress” comment. Dresses in my wardrobe could tell of dancing in heals, or of finding the perfect scarf to match a yellow trim, or giving my hair a 50s flick because the red top demanded it, there is even a few stories of spilled drinks and dry cleaning too. Vintage shops fulfill my fascination for fashion and stories. Each item is not only unique but has a history all of it’s own. I have an original 50’s green and white dress with black flowers and a thin matching belt. It flattens my stomach a lot more easily than sit ups and has pleats which flatteringly cover my bum. I purchased it from American Graffiti for £20 in the Northern Quarter and I knew instantly it would become one of my most prized purchases. It reminds of Reese Witherspoon’s wardrobe in Walk the Line and I like to believe that over 50 years ago the dress was seen with white kitten heals, leaning against a juke box, with its arm round the waist of a guy who was smoking (as all the cool kids did then) while the owner of the dress was chewing pink bubble. It is such a beautiful dress I refuse to believe it could ever be owned by the leader of a dull life. While my interest in outfits may yearn for the fabulous, original and intricate my limited clothes budget usually demands Primark and Topshop, as well as taking full advantage of the Oasis sale, but there is something incredibly satisfying going out in an item that is not owned by anyone else. It is mine all mine! There is something really gutting about walking into a pub and your eyes being drawn to someone in the exact same dress, and to add insult to injury she has better legs. Being a mere 5foot 2, long leg envy is a frequent occurrence.

Thankfully Manchester is positively over flowing with vintage boutique, just head to the northern quarter and you will then them nestled between galleries, sex shops and bar which are frequented by Manchester musical glitterati. You can’t help but wander in shop doorways after seeing flared skirts and spotty neck ties, stood next to double breasted jackets with paisley cravats. Ryan’s vintage has by far the widest and often cheapest selection, a great place to go if you are mood for retro track suit tops and t-shirts. Or, if you feel fashion should have a social conscience you can visit Oxfam Originals on Oldam St which stocks a carefully selected range dresses, shirts, coats and one of the most impressive range of neck scarves and ties I have ever witnessed. If your taste is somewhat more discerning or you simply like your surrounding to transport you back to a time when knitting was a hobby and the term courting could be used without anyone breaking out into fit of giggles, then Rags to Bitches is the shop for you, which features a collection of couture designs based on vintage designs as well as more upmarket dresses and evening wear. These beautiful items are far too impressive to merely sit in the pub, they demand to be taken out for cocktails, will only sit on leather seats, and must be worn with expensive shoes as well as carefully selected accessories. As well as fashion there is a fascinating collection of jewellery, broaches, bags, shoes and trinkets, which gives the place a very intimate feel.

If you have a passion for 60’s dresses and all things kitsch then Pop Boutique should be your first port of call. I have a beautiful black and white spotty knee length dress from the late 70’s which has enjoyed many a night out after I spotted it in the window with a red flower broach attached to it. Down stairs is filled with home original home accessories which can transform even the most mundane abode into a haven of brightly coloured 60’s chic. And if all that shopping has worn you out there is even a café.

Happy Shopping

Reasons to be cheerful… one, two, three

What ever happened to be Mystic Meg and other stories?

In 1979 Ian Dury released the song “Reason’s to be Cheerful” in honour of this I have decided to create a column based on the marvel and wonder that is today and not my usual wine fuelled whinge of future calamities and mocking attacks on society in general. I have essentially found enlightenment, and have decided this should be shared.

My first reason that this will not be the winter of my discontentment is the current lack of Mysic Meg on my television. Mystic Meg was a popular "psychic" and astrologer who had regular astrology columns in the News of the World and now is responsible for the horoscopes in the Sun. She came to greater public notoriety when she hosted what became a regular item on the first broadcast of the National Lottery draw in 1994. Despite the fact that I celebrate her TV demise her predications were always a great source of amusement, they inevitable centred around the premise that at least 90% of the population were able to win. The letters B, C, N and had special meaning and the winner will be someone who wears shoes... Despite always convincing

The second is that Big Brother has ended, for a while I have up most respect for Andy Warhol’s prophesy that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame as it has indeed come true and doomed the public into believing that flashing body parts on Channel 4 is a viable career choice.

My third reason for my contentment is my mother has given me my Grans old telly, which was nice as the telly is similar to me as we were both made in the 80s.

While it looks very cool in a silver back to the future sort of way no one can get it to work as it has no nobs to tune things in, only a really large silver remote that looks like Zacks mobile phone from saved by the bell only with not as many buttons on it. Because of this generous gift, last night I had a dream that it suddenly started working and showed only 80s telly and this morning I'm very disappointed that this hasn't actually happened. But it is quite a small telly (another thing me and the telly have in common) and I'm not sure the hair and shoulder pads (or the jewellery of Mr T) would fit on the screen.

PS. anyone good at fixing tellys? As i like this telly I've named it Merryl and I want it to work

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Why Facebook is evil...

5 reasons why facebook is evil

Although it was set up as a student social network site, since September 11, 2006, anyone aged 13 or older may join facebook. The site has more than 58 million active users worldwide, with membership expected to surpass 60 million users by the end of 2008. But there is dark and sinister side to the nations new favourite pastime which I feel it is my duty to highlight. And before you try the “but everyone else is doing it excuse” just remember There are 1,321,851,888 people living in China and communism still sux.

1. The world realises you are out of your tree
People that indulge in the silly practice of sobriety often mistakenly believe that drunken rambling is an ineffective use of time, effort, brain matter and good whiskey, this is in fact false. I would like to suggest that the art of the drunken rant is as old as ale itself and should be celebrated. What else would we do when drunk apart from talk bollocks. The problem with facebook is that instead of blocking out the shit I spewed over my numerous bottles of happy hour wine and happily forgetting the whole embarrassing affair my so-called friends share these things on facebook. Does it make my life better the fact that the world knows I was so engrossed is an argument about who is better between Superman and Super Ted that I fell off my chair? No it doesn’t! But if you wondered I concluded that Superman is far superior because Super Ted isn’t real…

2. You can’t hide your drunkenness
I know I look like a gurning pug dog after six pints, but at the time so does everyone else so I’m not too concerned. The problem is when the sorry state of me is captured on camera and plastered on Facebook. Is it really necessary? Drinking and driving is banned why can’t drinking and photographing be also outlawed?

3. The World knows when your love life goes down the pan
You have just been dumped; you’ve eaten anything in the house that contains sugar, re-watched dirty dancing and cried, and listened to Sinead O’Connor. To make matter worse you are now planning to go out to place where you could probably catch clap off the carpet with the sole intention of pulling just to boost your fragile ego. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly feel any worse you realise your single status has been shared with all of your ‘friends’. Plus the night out you planed also ends up on Facebook so your ex can smugly sit back and view the photos of you desperately slobbering over some Billy no mates who has a face like a mouldy potato.

4. You can’t hide from freaks
Facebook seems to have more freaks than the 192 bus to Stockport. I don’t care if you “like my picture” or think I “look cool”. I do not want to meet you, exchange bodily fluids with you or marry you for money in exchange for a visa. If you still think you may like to meet me I suggest you look at the drunken photos I was tagged in, if you’re still interested I think you need medication.

5.You waste your life away
I once spent four hours playing Scrabulous, although that probably speaks more about me being an anally retentive geek than the evils of facebook.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Cannes 2-3

It is not difficult to scratch below the sun tanned surface and see the cracks beginning to show. Private beeches charging up to £20 a day to park your derrière on sand are filled with balding men approaching middle age, whose stomachs are bursting with years of decadent three course dining, accompanied by long legged girls who look a good deal younger and sound as though their entire education consisted of beauty at the local college. Whether this is a long term meeting of soul mates or the girls came as a bonus for frequent users I am unsure.

Silver haired ladies who are still striving for a golden tan long past their sell by date line the public beaches. Placing an accurate age on this particular group is almost impossible, sun damage has reduced the texture of their skin to a bulk buy box of rubber bands. What is so wrong with being pale and interesting? It is as if there was a town rule passed some time ago which stated no one is allowed to be white. You can be caramel, bright orange, the colour or tomato soup or raw meat, but never any colour that can be seen in nature without some serious genetically modified intervention.

Small white square elastoplasts kept appearing like a twisted dot to dot puzzle across the backs, arms and faces of glamorous thirty something’s. Despite my French being mainly limited to ordering alcohol, getting rid of French men and explaining medical emergencies thanks to my colourful snow boarding history I managed to piece together the puzzle by over hearing beachside conversations. The word malignant manages to cross languages, it would seem the recurring theme was mole removal due to skin cancer, but despite the obvious dangers to health, like junkies craving one more hit, these willing victims still lined up ready for their next fix of ultra violet, risking their youthful looks, elasticity of skin and even their lives. This was the first time I considered tanning to be a kind of addiction. Burroughs recollection of addiction...
“I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of heroin addiction. I did absolutely nothing”

When tanning becomes a necessity and daily occurrence, it can no longer be a leisure activity, or possibly I am just ever so slightly bitter and enviously that my leisure activities constitute someone else’s daily life.

Cannes Day 1

First stop Cannes

Cannes is in the Côte d'Azur region of France about 15 miles from Nice. In the summer the twisty roads are nose to tail blocked with convertibles in an array of colours and fashion, all costing a similar amount to my flat. For many the main promenade, Boulevard de la Croisette, with the beach on one side and luxury hotels, shops and boutiques on the other sums up the area. The bourgeois flock to the area and expect to have an unending supply of what ever they demand. In the words of Baudrillard, “Seduction is not that which is opposed to production. It is that which seduces production”

During the day, the focus is on the fine white sands and the azure blue of the warm Mediterranean. It is a place to be seen strolling in heals high enough to be classed as a weapon of mediocre destruction when placed in unethical hands. The emphasis is on pleasure seeking and spending a lot of money pursuing it, while simultaneously ensuring everyone is else is transfixed by you, behind Dolce & Gabbanna glasses. No one converses they merely look, judge and walk away, I can’t really think of anything worse deliberately avoiding eye contact with strangers while they rate my behind in a bikini, or attempting to look graceful while walking in heals in sand. I have never been able to perfect the in vogue and aloof look.

I’m lying on the beach in my Primark bikini and “Vintage” Oxfam glasses and I am suddenly faced with blind panic as hope to God I never become that self obsessed. I must shame facedly admit that I have gone to absurd lengths for my own personal amusement which include dislocating my neck snow boarding, applying to be the director general of the BBC, on the basis that I was hung over, the Hollyoakes Omnibus was proving to be just as monotonous as the first time round and I was a fan of East Enders and Neighbours. I also wanted to earn £105,000 per annum so I could increase my shoe collection. Although all this pales in to insignificance compared to the pinnacle of my self indulgence which required me to have my broken arm re-plastered as I got it soaking wet playing with myself in the bath. I also enjoy therapy and first dates as I can devote my time and energy to talking about myself, but I would like to believe my verbal diarrhoea is deemed to be more entertaining.