Thursday, 27 August 2015

Other Bracefaces: Lisa Scott-Lee

Whilst sometimes I may act like I'm the only person in the world to have braces, I do often draw upon the experiences of other's who have gone through metal-mouth too. Especially when they had braces in adulthood!

Lisa Scott-Lee is one such source of constant inspiration. Not only because she rocks electric blue glue-in hair extensions in a way no one else can, not just because Electric really was deserving of top 10 UK singles status and not just because I've met her (and pissed her off) - but because she had braces.



Steps are one of my favourite bands - the 1990s and early 2000s dance-pop group were the soundtrack to my closeted and brace-less adolescence. Lisa was never exactly my favourite member, preferring the rippling abs of Lee, the beauty of Faye and the voice of Claire (pretty much the rest except Scott-Lee and H to be honest!) and when she had braces in the band, it just gave me another reason to shrug her off. But now, as an adult in her shoes, I know what it's like to be a superstar popstar with braces (kinda).



Her braces were the perfect accessory to have in the video to Stomp, playing a mischief-making young-un wrecking some cockney's bachelor pad with her synchronised dancing and general merriment. Proving that braces aren't that bad, you just need killer dance moves and a mirror ball choker.

 
 
However, her braces were probably less atmospheric for the Downton Abbey-esque The Way Make Me Feel video where her bashed in noshers would have been far more fitting for a Victorian themed ball. I especially love the Director's placement of Scott-Lee behind the harp, in an attempt to hide her gob, when in fact the vertical harp chords act like a tic-tac-toe on her horizontal braces! Ingenuous.


All in all, Lisa has been a rock in a deep (electric) blue sea of braceface paranoia. Constantly remind me that if Lisa Scott-Lee can wear braces and have the career, legacy and cultural impact that she's had - then I can do it too!

...wait...?

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Womanchester, oh the womanity!

Of all the public statues in Manchester, there's a metal tree, a horn, a stone, a bicycle, at least sixteen men, but only one woman, Queen Victoria. Can you believe that? In a city that brought the world the Pankhursts, the suffrage movement, allowed women to attend its University before any other higher education institution, the home to the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and just all round bodacious place to be?



Well, a campaign, WoManchester, is under way, lead by Councillor Andrew Simcock, to rectify this issue and raise the public money (up to £500,000) to fund a new statue to commemorate a late great lady of Manchester. The statue won't solve the inequalities between women and men in this city (or this country) and 1/2 million pounds later the balance between statues of men and those of women won't be rectified at all, but it's a step and a statement.

Simcock has just completed a bike ride from top to tail of Great Britain, from Land's End to John O'Groats in Scotland, to raise funds. You can donate to the cause here and the long list of potential subjects has been revealed, which you can view here

Each of the 20 women that make the long list were celebrated at 20 separate intervals of Simcock's bike ride, with a picture taken (some of which are below) to snapshot the moment.


 






The incredible Marie Stopes makes the list, Stopes wrote the controversial Married Love in 1918 which taught readers about the female orgasm and the need for women to enjoy their participation in (albeit heterosexual, married) sex. She also spoke about birth control and campaigned for women's rights on the subject. If you've not read Married Love, read it, it's amazing and also shocking how little we've moved on.

Of course, the Pankhursts also make the list with Emmeline, Sylvia and Chrisabel up for nomination, but also Enriqueta Rylands, who founded the John Rylands Library on Deansgate in her late husband's name. Although, interestingly, there is a statue of Enriqueta within the library, in the main reading room, starring across the magnificent room across to a statue of her husband, so perhaps she should let another amazing woman get the gig this time round?

The long list will soon become a short list and then it'll be up to the Mancunian public to decide. Who will you vote for?

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Pilcrow Pub

Manchester is building a pub. Trained craftspeople, builders, coders and makers are coming together to lead an army of volunteers to co-operate and build a pub in Manchester, for Manchester, by Manchester.


NOMA's coordinates, which is why it's sometimes called NOMA 53°.

The team behind The Pilcrow Pub have a site, the as yet unnamed square in NOMA* and they have an architect, but that's pretty much it. Now, they need Manchester to fill in the blanks, you can join up as a volunteer here.


Construction should start in January 2016, with workshops being devised to up-skill Mancunians on just how to go about building this temporary Pub. Once built, the pub will move around NOMA and will host local beers, food and learning spaces too.
Why The Pilcrow? Well, you may not know (I didn't!) but the pilcrow, ¶, is an oft forgotten punctuation mark that signifies the end of a thought. It's still used by editors and proofreaders, but has long since been dismissed in the wake of WhatsApp and Twitter. The mark will be stamped onto each piece of the puzzle that is The Pilcrow Pub, an emblem to the organic and ever changing nature of the project. Read more on this here.

Excited? You should be!

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

"It's like Uber, but for massages"

"It's like Uber, but for massages," is how I've been describing Urban Massage to anyone who will listen to me talk about the latest craze to sweep Manchester WIFI networks. Essentially it goes like this, you download the app, search massage therapists in your area and book them with as little notice as 60 minutes, direct to your home, hotel or office! Urban Massage are live in London, Bristol and now Manchester, with therapists on call to kneed out your knots and tease out muscle tension, from the comfort of you own home.

Now, I'm a big fan of massage, I try to get one every month, to help relieve tension in my back. I take all my stress internally, meaning sometimes I can barely move my neck, but, having a massage in my own living room is new for even me! This is also the first professional massage I've had from a guy, so double trouble.



All set up and ready to go in our living room! Spot the cat!

Dave was his name and he arrived right on time armed with a fold out massage table and his bag of aromatherapy oils and what not. He quickly got set up and we began. He seemed a little nervous, I was his first ever Urban Massage client and, y'know, I was reviewing him. Still, he quickly got into it.


Here's Dave!

I must admit, this was a very different massage from my usual rub down. No dimmed lighting, no atmospheric music, no hushed voices and aromatic burning oils. Instead I chatted away with Dave throughout, the cat kept pissing around and didn't understand why my head was poking through a hole in a table and it was all rather jolly... not exactly a calming massage, as my treatment was entitled.

I felt that, because it was my home, I was the host and therefore never truly let go. I wanted Dave to think I was nice and a good conversationalist, I offered him a drink, y'know hosted him. Normally, however, I barely look up at my therapists as I de-robe and say, "firm pressure between my shoulder blades," and plonk myself on the table, face down.

Urban Massage seems perfect for workaholics like me who just need the use of their neck and shoulders back before their next meeting. But, on the all too infrequent occasion that I take time to myself, I need to be properly looked after, in a spa, with pinky plonky muzak playing.

That's not to say I wouldn't use Urban Massage for those occasions when I just can't get to a salon and need a good kneading!



Try our Urban Massage for yourself with £20 off your first booking by using this code: 

RJORDANCLXNGLE

This post was written with my disclosure policy in mind here.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

5 things you don't expect to happen when you get braces.

I'm a #braceface, but apart from being able to store copious amounts of food in my teeth, like a hamster does with its cheeks (whether I like it or not), there are some unexpected privileges from being a metal-mouth, after all.

1. Your nails are nicer. 

I've always been a nail biter - well, not so much a nail biter as a biter-of-skin-around-nails. As a result, I suffer from flaky and generally unappealing skin around my fingernails. But, when one has braces, one cannot chew one's hands. This little treasure, when coupled with my new near-religious Sunday hand pamper routine (read more about this here) means I've got hands as soft as a baby's arse! Who knew?


2. You almost never have bad breath.

Bad breath is not something I've ever particularly suffered with (or at least, no one has told me!) but since having my brace affixed, I've worried about bad breath - there's simply more for the bacteria that causes bad breath to stick to now, so it's sort of inevitable. But, because I'm a little paranoid, I use mouth wash around 3 times a day, and sometimes brush at lunchtime too. So, I'm minty fresh 24/7!

3. You get a nice pout.

When I first had my braces on, and then a couple of other periods when they'd achieved a significant milestone and moved teeth somewhat forcefully - I've had a lovely pout. Don't get me wrong, it's not all the time, but when swelling means it does happen, it's enough to make you think, "oh, a silver lining," whilst holding back the tears from agonising pain.

4. Your lips are nicer.

Much like my finger chewing peeve, lip biting was a bit of a thing for me. Not (just) in a sensual come-to-bed kinda way, but in a biting chunks of flesh out and then realising what you've done when you can taste blood kinda way. But now that I have braces, that's not a problem!


5. You become more confident when speaking in public.

This is probably something very specific to myself, because I've never been shy when it comes to public speaking. But, when you just have to get over the fact that 9 times out of 10 you're going to accidentally spit on someone and, you know what, there might just be a bit of salad in your braces, you almost reach a new state of enlightenment and just get over stupid nerves and think, "fuck it, I've got braces, and I'm gunna spit on you."

END.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Edinburgh, the International Festival and The Fringe

The boyf and I recently took a sojourn up to Edinburgh, it was my birthday gift to him, and our first ever time in Scotland! Edinburgh is a wonderful city, with a centre small enough to navigate on foot and set around some gorgeous gardens and boasting truly awesome architecture.
A photo posted by Jordan McDowell (@jordanjmcdowell) on

The Scottish-American author, Andrew Carnegie once said: "Edinburgh is a city which makes you think about what a city can be, or what it should be," and he was absolutely right. The city just works; the way the central train line runs uninterrupted through the city's valley, flanked by the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, the way Waverley Bridge and North Bridge fly over, through the sky. It's a city on many levels and each level is a totally different experience, from the lofty heights of The Royal Mile and old town Edinburgh, a cobbled wander into the past, through to the hustle of Princes Street and St. Andrews Square and then the beauty and tranquillity of the gardens, deep in the valley. Coming from Manchester, a much busier and more hectic city (by some additional 2m people), where cars compete with swarms of people, trams and buses to scurry through the narrow streets of the built-up metropolis, experiencing Edinburgh, in all its uniformed sensibility, was quite a change.
 

An average day in Manchester (Greater Manchester Police Flickr)


An average, albeit sunny, day in Edinburgh (BBC)

We visited just before The Fringe, which many people, including myself, had heard of - but don't 100% know what it's about. Well, I assumed it was just a comedy festival, because I knew a lot of comics tend to showcase works there, from reading the autobiographies of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. But, it seems its much more than that.

The Fringe was set up as an alternative to the more classical Edinburgh International Festival, where performers of classic arts and dance are invited to the city to showcase their talents. (Just like Manchester International Festival, but less contemporary and it doesn't solely commission brand new works.) Instead, The Fringe allows pretty much anyone to participate and therefore has a broader spectrum of arts on offer. This year, the two opposing festivals will run concurrently, throughout August, EIF bring with it a calendar of high art and The Fringe, over three thousand performances and works from late night cabaret to street performances, with many bars, hotels, tents and traditional play houses playing host, all over the city.

As a result of getting to Edinburgh just before the masses descend for the cultural event, we got to take a sneak peak at some of the events before anyone else!

Sunshine on Leith is a musical based on the music of The Proclaimers returning to The Fringe by popular demand after its 2007 run and the 2013 film adaptation, with the same name. We got 2 4 1 tickets to the preview show at The Famous Spiegeltent, a temporary venue in St. Andrews Square with a wig-wam like structure, in hexagon shape with stained glass windows and a pop-up bar.

It's a great show, that tells the story of two Edinburgh lads returning home after serving in Afghanistan and realising what home means and what they want from life, now knowing how valuable it really is. And, who knew The Proclaimers had so many good songs? I particularly enjoyed Letter from America and, of course, 500 Miles at the finale. Worth a go if you're in Edinburgh for The Fringe - especially because St. Andrews Square also plays host to a gorgeous outdoor acoustic tent and Prosecco bar! A tented and decked portion of the gardens, with patio heaters, bars, facilities and Hard Rock Cafe sponsored free acts to enjoy in the sun or the evening.


A photo posted by Jordan McDowell (@jordanjmcdowell) on
Also running at the same time of the festivals is the David Bailey exhibit at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Bailey's Stardust (until 18 October). The exhibit showcases some of Bailey's finest works - with some new pieces never having been on exhibition before! Documenting Bailey's career from Andy Warhol selfies and the many and stunning images of Kate Moss in the 90s through to his photo-journalism trips to New Guinea and also Ethiopia, for Band Aid.

If you're a fan of portraiture photography, celebrities from bygone eras or, like me, just a fan of Bailey - it's well worth a visit!

Whilst you're there, pop next door to The Scottish National Gallery to see some beautiful examples of Italian Renaissance painting and the full length portrait of the Honourable Mary Cathcart by Gainsbourough, which her widower hid away for years - finding her beauty too painful to see after her premature death - and which was bequeathed to the gallery by her family on condition it never leave Scotland. There's also a surprising little exhibition of etchings and carvings inspired by the Greco-Roman Gods, called The Olympian Gods (until 18 October), all free.

See more of my trip on my Instagram @jordanjmcdowell
Check our my restaurant reviews for Scotland on my TripAdvisor contributor pages

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Saturday, 1 August 2015

Dig The City Manchester 2015

Dig The City is back! Manchester's urban gardening festival returns to the city centre from 31st July - 6th August, so, what better time to introduce you to our little green corner of the city, than now? 

Our 18x4 ft rectangle of outdoor space is our little gem and we love it. Space comes at premium in the city and outdoor space, is like gold dust, so we adore our little plot of "outside". The balcony is just off our kitchen, so it made sense that our approach to urban gardening be edible, a little kitchen garden of delicious surprises.


We spend a lot of time out here too, because the balcony is covered and protected from wind and rain on three sides, so it's a cosy space to sit even when the weather isn't too good and we have the door open from the kitchen pretty much all day when we're in, so the cat can sprawl on the astro-turf and hiss at the neighbour's dog.  



We picked up the astro-turf for next to nothing from Home Bargains, but it doesn't quite extend the full length of the balcony, we were testing it out to see if we liked it before investing in a fitted run, which isn't cheap. Turns out, we love it, and will probably make the investment next summer.




Our petit pois are doing really well, as are our mini herb selection, Thyme, Oregano, Basil and Parsley. As I type I have a roasted cherry tomato and caramelised red onion soup cooling with our home grown basil leaves in it!




We also have two types of fresh mint, perfect for cocktails, three different types of strawberry and two different types of chilli growing too!


Going to dig your city?

digthecity.co.uk

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