Didsburydad's Blog

From the not so mean streets of M20, blog about being a dad, Didsbury and dealing with parental confusion

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Year 6, SATS and the 1982 World Cup

This is not a polemic against the evils of modern primary education (yet). This is a note from a man looking for solace from his virtual shed whilst trying to wind up a reluctant Didsbury Son for the misery of year 6 SATS. This all still seems very new to me and Didsbury Son has the demeanour of someone who has just found out that the Easter Bunny is diabetic and the Tooth Fairy makes necklaces of children’s teeth to sell to vacationing crocodiles.

 
I never worried about exams. This is not necessarily a good thing. I wasn’t very good at them, but between worrying about football, Scooby Doo getting run over and whether everything was big enough, small enough and the correct shape I was too busy to care about exams in any great detail. My History O’Level that mixed up the Spanish Armada with the 1982 Spain World Cup X1 was a denouement; although I still feel that if the Spanish had played Arconada at the back of the Armada Galleys and Juanito, Joaquin and the wonderfully named Roberto Lopez Ufarte upfront they would not have lost to Northern Ireland in 1982 or Francis Drake’s Plymouth Argyle in 1588. I digress.
 
After the competitive parenting nightmare that engulfs Year 6 children in autumn and winter as Didsbury parents try to gee up/ threaten/ cajole/beg indifferent ten-year olds to care about their parents’ aspirations whilst trying to sound nonchalant in the playground – this is a step too far.
 
The electronic rewards given for hard work or success over New Year are a dim memory. Their equivalent parental guilt-inducing disappointment is long gone. These are now the  year 6 establishment, the top of the tree, cock of the school, wind in the sails of primary education.
 
Reception minis look to them with adoration. Year 4 wannabees crave their friendship, attention and worldly-wise life-experience. Most have seen a 12A for crying out loud. They have passed the big 1  0 and they are in no mood to spend the long nights of summer’s childhood wasting time on education that could be spent more usefully staring at screens and watching hamsters dressed as pirates fall over.

Beef Carpaccio - as enticing to a 10 year old as a night in studying for their SATS

 
There is no answer. By September they will be back to the bottom of the pecking order in their too big blazers, desperately trying to drop those Ts and flatten vowels so lovingly cultivated on the banks of Wilmslow Road. Short of pretending there is a power cut every night for the next three weeks so that we cannot do anything but read and write I am left with the only true option of a strategic Didsbury Dad; leave it to Didsbury Wife to talk him round, dream of a bigger virtual shed and feign understanding.

Caravans are the new hotels, Didsbury By the Sea

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Two weeks is a long time in the life of a Didsbury Son and one week is a long time in a caravan on the Welsh Riviera enjoying the wide range of rain driven weather patterns. Welsh Weather, that echo of chirruping sparrow and screeching sun that can change quicker than a transformer into leaden skied Hippos tap dancing on the roof of your caravan.

Our first afternoon here was idyllic. A beautiful hot spring day spent walking up beaches in shorts listening to lapping seas and well-fed seagulls. Didsbury Son and I stripped down to dig a joyfully pointless hole with seats in. The therapeutic value increasing inversely proportionate to its beautiful pointlessness. How we laughed as we created a jacuzzi. How we didn’t reckon on it actually being a usable jacuzzi so quickly. The perfect British seaside scene. Father and son digging, laughing and casting aside worries, Didsbury Wife in North Face coat close-by.

The sound of rain on a caravan roof can be mesmerising; then funny, then persistent, then overwhelming, then a precursor to a nightmare about water boarding. Still, it allows you to get to know the site, the caravan walls and the stock of Londis very well.

Caravan sites are microcosms of the worlds that they represent. There is a specific pecking order, etiquette and expectation. One magic moment was seeing Didsbury Son walk into a crowded Gents toilet block and shouting “Daddy!” From behind 10 stalls and through shaving foam and shower head a dozen weary voices, thinking they found a few minutes solace dutifully answered.

I have also had to up my blokeiness quotient to cope with other caravanning men who genuinely seem to know when to use a Phillips Head Screwdriver or the difference between live and earth (I am on a journey of discovery). Ask them about the difference between Spanish and Greek Extra Virgin Oil, nothing.

As a group of us manfully washed up in arctic conditions, pretending this was a good part of the deal I prayed the conversation stayed on sport and away from anything to do with cars apart from traffic. My honest view that DIY stood for “Done It? You’re Kidding” went down like… Anything except for water in a caravan sink. It is possible to sweat in freezing conditions whilst washing baked beans off a plastic plate. I am more Naked Chef than Ray Mears.

A quick guide to caravan etiquette:

1. There are two clearly marked taps – drinking water and chemical waste. They are not cheeky camping cocktails and pretending to empty the chemical toilet in the wrong one isn’t seen as a big jape.

2. There is symmetry between the boys here. They seem dressed, haircutted and taught to speak at Berghaus and White Stuff on the same day. They hunt in packs trying to look vaguely threatening in a way that only privately educated well dressed boys can. It’s not so much the crips and bloods and the crisps and Bloody Mary’s. The scooter tribe (John Lewis, not Vespa) and the bike possee skirt around each other warily like a pack of wolves. Instead of looking for prey they need their tummies tickled. Our tribe is the slouch and snack tribe worshipping the great God Freeview.

3. Being vaguely media and very MediaCityUK has no value.

4. The people you think don’t really exist when you spend your time in a city are real. Somewhere in the world there is someone dressing in a pink pinstriped shirt and blue pullover every five minutes.

5. Bumping into someone only when emptying a chemical toilet or going to a plumbed one severely limits small talk.

If Didsbury had a beach I would have no reason to leave. The ease of an M&S Simply Food and the Fletcher Moss on your doorstep should not be taken for granted. A week and weekends staring at the horizon across The Irish Sea, whilst wearing a coat has tremendously therapeutic benefits and we always hit that wonderful “Welcome to Greater Manchester” sign on the M56 rejuvenated by traditional Welsh fresh air, crisps and Peroni; ready to face branded coffee and aggressive begging with a new vigour.

The Lleyn Peninsula already holds many special memories and places for us. It is hard to beat the combination of mountains, coastline, cheese, and a good percentage of Cheshire’s 4x4s. For the roulette weather, there is the patient and friendly population (with the exception of the Londis in Abersoch).

This is where Didsbury Son built his first sandcastles, gave his first recital and caught his first, and hopefully only crab.

Our 2×2 occasionally gets a little bullied, but my off-road is parking in a field. When someone looked at my coat and asked me if I was a sailor I thought it was a chat-up line, but I am learning.

Didsbury Wife once told me that every child (from the North West) should have a chance to build a sandcastle on a Welsh beach and now I have found three venues close by with SkySports I heartily agree.

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Is Bara Brith a cake or a cave?

The Lleyn Peninsula; Bramhall by the Sea, the Cheshire set on Holiday. Like Gaul against the Empire. We are the Didsbury set in Wales. This makes me Obelix, Didsbury Son Asterix and Didsbury Wife Chief Vitalstatistix.

They call it Cheshire by the Sea because there are a paucity of decent delis and coffee shops and it’s expensive. But we love it. After M20, the A487 and the route from Conwy to Aberdaron contains many of my favourite places, memories and landmarks. The view from The Plas Glyn-y-Weddw across the bay is San Senastianesque; the crabbing on Abersoch beach sublime and the dressed crab near Whistling Sands worth breaking any diet to indulge.

There is a lay-by on the A470; just near Caernarfon (great Chinese in the square next to the castle) where everyone in the car takes a collective breath out and the blood pressure drops by 20-30 points.

The Caribbean is OK. But the weather lacks the diversity and uncertainty of The Lleyn. Yesterday Didsbury Son and I spent the day in shorts digging a hole that was joyfully pointless and therapeutic in equal measure. Today we are under 3-4 levels of clothing staring at the rain between us and crazy golf.

There’s also the cuisine. Fields of lambs chewing grass and fresh vegetables growing with freedom and we have already managed to have chips in paper, polystyrene and on a plate.

We have trips to a forest, on a boat and to a royal pub planned. Didsbury Son is painting stones and dreaming of fish we will catch and I… I am going to read the whole of a newspaper and not check my emails for 48 hours; happy days.

The picture follows our trip to a camping shop to buy Didsbury Son a coat, we were distracted and then lured into buying this ludicrous snood-type thing that would have made a Premiership footballer baulk.

NB: we are in no way denigrating Bara Brith, which is delicious and goes well with Welsh Tea and Butter

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