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