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 “June, 2012”

Didsbury Son’s Summer of Sport

Euro fever is in the air as Didsbury Son and I cherish this magnificent summer of sport. Finally, after much work and tinkering with tactics I have managed to get the couch and its cushion configuration to co-ordinate with the TV and its remote controller in the kind of symbiotic congruence that the England midfield failed to meet.

The Olympic Flagbearer prepares for the Living Room Olympics by eyeing up a snack

I can now slouch in a spine-melting, double-chin enhancing, muscle untoning place for several hours and reach drink, snack and remote without moving. This tactical and creative acumen has allowed me to bond with Didsbury Son, whose take on TV sport races between boredom and indifference. Last night we recreated the greatest moments of The Euros by staring at each other for 2 hours before I went to kiss him goodnight on his forehead. I missed and hit an ear. Didsbury Son then superbly kissed me goodnight right between the eyebrows and won 1-0 on penalties.

For Wimbledon, we queue up for the bathroom for several hours squeezing out painful 60s singalonga tunes before calling “To me, To you” until one of us pauses or falls asleep. The Chuckle Brothers Wimbledon shield is now nearly as hotly contested as the post shower bathroom slide.

One of my favourite sporting contests is the breakfast pundits challenge. We take turns quoting the wisdom of Shearer and “Lawro” Lawrenson to inspire us; the morning silence is golden.

We have recreated the Rugby Union tours of the Southern Hemisphere by getting up early, putting pillows under our shorts and gurning, whilst pushing tissue up a nostril. We then go to see Australian friends who chase us for an hour before making us look stupid.

BUT- the big one is coming.It is almost time for Indoor Olympics . The games have finally come to Didsbury for the first time since 1948 when there were no charity shops or coffee stops in the village. New era, new challenge.

This sporting feast – adapted from the great Classroom Olympics of the 70s and 80s and not walking on the cracks in the pavement, is the ultimate sporting challenge. It’s goal of moving through the house without touching the floor pits son against dad and dad against gravity and lack of flexibility. Didsbury Son qualified early and passed the E numbers test by waiting to go to Zayn News for sweets. With Didsbury Fat Cat confirmed as flag bearer and Didsbury Wife shaking her head sadly it’s all to play for as we go for gold (a Caramac).

Drug testing is strenuous


The Proud Pirate Dresses for Success

It is dressing up week in our house. Didsbury Wife and I are going to a Toga Party and Didsbury Son is a pirate in the school play.

Last night we showcased our costumes. He looks like Keira Knightly in Pirates of the Caribbean -but pretty. I look good in a Toga. I really do. It’s the way you wear it and the cut of the flow.

I’ve never really liked fancy dress. It seemed to me like an excuse for shy people with limited social skills to party like the rest of the world. NB my theory is that this explains why Heavy Metal fans took ecstasy in the 80s and 90s. It was cheaper than whatever Lager they drank and guaranteed – minimum a hug, potentially from someone who did not smell like, like, well like them.

I did come runner-up in a junior competition as BooBoo with my big brother as Yogi Bear but I always thought it lame.

As an 80s peacock I was permanently dressed up; The Rocky Horror show revival of the 80s should be glossed over but once I realised that at a Vicar and Tarts party. the only dog collar I was meant to wear was unstudded I lost interest and stuck to “Après Ski” or going as a golfer without a stick (or whatever a golf bat is called).

I think a lot of my antipathy is to do with the fact that deep down I love good clothes and admire a well-cut cloth.  Much as I love Hazel Dress, I’m not an Off the peg Jedi Warrior or Fairy. I want to look Jack Sparrow not Captain Pugwash.

Didsbury Son is a different story. The £24 I once spent on his roman legionnaire outfit in year 3 was the best £24 I have ever spent that  was not targeted at football, food or female company. He was Smallius Cuteyus the flying Roman warrior. On Halloween he looked like a skeleton, not a bag of luminous spuds and put Didsbury Son in an Elf outfit and you could convince a 14 year old that a reindeer ate the carrot and it wasn’t me HoHoHoing in red (that’s another story).

So next month he treads the boards as a gorgeous looking pirate to make those preteen head turns and I will be qvelling and cheering the production with the other Didsbury Dads; all convinced our pirate rules the waves – such is the way of the world and the power of youth.

Didsbury Festival: Better than Glastobury and you can sleep in your own bed

I am lucky enough to have been punter, performer, promoter, presenter and producer at a range of festivals over the decades. Whilst my football travels have taken me across the world, I have been to fields and squares across Britain for events that range from reading out loud to meditating inwardly and from huge wave-like crowds lost in the noise and joy of music at its finest to the most dismal community events. Love them. I look forward to the day that Didsbury Son shuffles off to find the joy of shared experiences and events that stay imprinted on your mind forever.

There have been many highlights and many friendships forged. However three things occur to me as I reminisce.

If you build it They will come: Didsbury Dad and Didsbury Son survey the field of dreams before it starts

1. The best friend I have ever made at an event was at a pre-season friendly at West Bromwich Albion twenty years ago. Amid 100 bored people basking like pink sharks on a summer terrace when a stranger approached me selling a fanzine. Two decades later I am a godfather to his daughter and our friendship has outlasted football terracing.

2. Performing at a large festival is a joy I am glad to have experienced; just inspiring and bowel-clenching in the right ratio.

3. This recent fad for 40 somethings going to festivals with their offspring goes over my head. It’s like going to a sixth form disco (if they still have sixth forms or discos). Festivals are for letting yourself go and embracing the moment. I can’t imagine my teenage self and my own Didsbury Dad sharing any ideas of what made a good weekend in a bunch of fields with portaloos, no showers, constant loud music and over-eager Home Counties types off their heads on patchouli. In addition to this, I also always found the older people hanging out with 18 year olds  a bit strange when I was 18. Now I just find it unfathomable.

Now Didsbury Festival is a different matter. It has none of the violence that has marred Beech Road, the rain doesn’t matter – it is still great. It attracts some of the best Asian home cooking in the region and the dog show is fantastic. But more, much more than this; Didsbury Festival is ageless.

This year, for the first time. Didsbury Son wanted time to mooch around aimlessly under his hood with school friends. The sight of these peers caused the shoulder hunch, vowel flattening and T dropping in preparation. They grunted gently like a troop of Orangutans and loped off among the trees for an hour being too young to be threatening, too old to get free cakes. Didsbury Son had already spent hours helping to set up with a stall and next year he will be flipping burgers and enjoying greater freedom.

Didsbury Son has been at every Didsbury Festival since birth; in pram, trolley, tiny boots, parade, costume, school and now as a stall helper. One day he willeither get fed up or win the dog show.

Before he was Didsbury Son I enjoyed the parade as a viewer and with Didsbury Nephews and Godchildren. I remember two glorious summers’ days marching with some group or other with a whooping 4 and 5-year-old Didsbury Son on my shoulders and then dancing with the least convincing and most entertaining Belly Dancers in the city.

This is what a community festival should be – a little something for everybody,  a chance to show-off, an opportunity to see friends and waste money on rides and candy floss. This is why it is the centre of my festival calendar now and one I am already looking forward to for 2013 (along with the Christmas Lights Switch on in Albert Square, always a good night out). Didsbury Festival feels like the real Didsbury to me as all the stratas of our society get together. The Waltons would love it here and this year we had the Premier League Trophy on show.

Didsbury Festival: Queues to be pictured with The Premier League Trophy

So, it’s done;  with another fistful of memories stored and this year I didn’t get over-excited, over-indulge and regret it. Didsbury Arts Festival for September is in the diary and if they could just re-enact the fantastic chase between a game Pomeranian and a chippy Spaniel that greeted us as we got in to the park on Saturday it could be memorable.

Looking forward. A proud cow chews the cud and waits for next year.

The limitations of a Didsbury Dad

It is important as a parent to know your limitations. Much as I avoid the competitive parenting that the school playground and any kind of exam induces, I am aware of the intra-parenting competition that can leave you ragged and being played tunefully by a competent offspring.

Didsbury Son is a pleasure for the vast majority of the time. Even his “moments” come primarily from 10 year-old logic or misunderstanding rather than mal-intent. As all parents know, if your child is in the wrong it is either:
A) another child’s fault.
B) a teacher’s fault.
C) too much sugar from an irresponsible grown-up
If someone else’s child does something naughty it is all down to bad parenting and them being inherently bad.

Once you have mastered this basic concept, the next vital aspect to understand is knowing your place. You are the platter in the parenting buffet. As a Didsbury Dad your job is to hold it up and stop the floor getting dirty but you are not the main course.

Didsbury Son can already wire a battery and build an Ikea table. This is solely down to the nature and nurture of Didsbury Wife. My technical nirvana involved a Kinder Egg. So everything from why the sky is blue to what a scart is and how the Wii works lleave me out of my depth and mumbling into a hand or pretending to cough. Similarly with the compass points of day to day morals. Didsbury Wife just has a better and more consistent grasp.

I tried. I backed up all the be nice, say thank you to everyone who is not too patronising and  don’t swear (the beginnings of Do as I Say, Not as I do) and it worked well until a fateful night I was in on my own with 6 year old Didsbury Son. My little boy awoke and came downstairs for some attention at a critical time in a Big match.

Not hearing him, I had abandoned the Homeresque snacks and was standing in front of the TV with my fingers pressed in a v sign against a shot of home fans singing about not being alone.
In a breath of “Daddy, why are you swearing at the television?” I knew I was rumbled. Didsbury Son nestled next to me as I realised another small parenting battle was lost.

When he was on the receiving end of aggression in year 2 or 3, my advice which included how to throw a direct punch and ended with “… Remember to walk slowly away saying –  These Colours Don’t Run.” was more Danny Dyer than Postman Pat. Live football in the 80s was moe of an influence than I cared to admit.

I am also  rubbish between 8.30 and midnight, my patience and attention span goes. But there is an upside.

In the middle of the night and first thing in the morning I am the Don. I can switch states quickly and multi task a hot milk and a silly joke for a hassled child. Didsbury Son can burp on demand and crack an egg. He can hold his own in a conversation and time a punchline. That is my domain. It’s niche and it works.

Didsbury Wife always dresses him better. She knows how to talk him down with winding him up and is much more patient, especially during live football.

So I know my place and as I get to see Didsbury Son grow I tweak my approach to try and adapt to his growing mind. But there is still little to match hitting the mark with a joke and hearing a laugh start in his belly and force it’s way out or… Better still .

To take an angry or frustrated Didsbury Son and having found the right words, tone and level of concern- feel a bear hug from him they let’s me know he feels safe and re-assured; no football match could be more satisfying.

Didsbury Son leaves home a boy and comes back a…

He left a boy, he has come back a boy with a faux gruff voice and a sense of independence that I am openly applauding and inwardly grieving. Didsbury Son has been away on scout camp. Each week we walk to scouts and call it cubs. Not, I now realise , out of stupidity, infirmness or to be a smart Alec (sorry Alec). I now understand that I call it cubs to support my illusion that Didsbury Son is still the waist-high, hand gripping falsetto who laughed at my daftness and genuinely thought I knew everything.

The Welsh summer hits its stride. The beautiful mountains of Snowdonia rise into cloudless blue skies.

Like all parental realisations I feel myself gradually merging into my own Didsbury Dad. I know why he continued to call me pet names long after I saved pocket-money for 10 Embassy Regal (to look sophisticated in The Dog & Partridge) and began wearing more eyeliner than my own Didsbury Mum (It was the mid 80s).

To put this in context. Didsbury Son was to be away for 5 days on scout camp whilst Didsbury Wife and I swanked it up in rain-soaked Wales. There is nothing like spending endless days hearing rain dance ceaselessly on your roof to make you appreciate home.

By Day 3 I had gone beyond being bribed by chips. I was missing Didsbury Son’s bleep of pixellated demons dying in close proximity (Dad, I’m in a Battle – unleash hell for God and King Harry) and was even missing cleaning up the latest lacerated offering from Didsbury Fat Cat’ s summer collection.

I had half-packed when the news of Didsbury Son’s twisted ankle came crackling through the no reception, Wifiless airwaves.

Within 5 minutes we had the excuse needed to drive East quickly. Didsbury Mum fretted, mobilised troops of waiting relatives to receive our wounded soul as we discussed A&E options and sped through the gathering gloom towards Didsbury.

We smelled Didsbury Son on the breeze minutes from home. Not just us. Dogs howled in admiration as four washless days spent climbing and jumping honked their way home. Still in uniform and indignant at having to leave early, our little boy came home. The same, thankfully not too injured and unfathomably- a little grunty and detached.

It’s time to get the big guns out. If My ickle Wickle ex blondini boy can resist me pretending to walk downstairs infront of them with pants in my head telling a toilet joke I give in.

I will take him for a pint in the Fletch, discuss torque (whatever that is) and pretend I know what youngsters today like to do.

Didsbury Son and I relax infront of the TV in pre-Scout days

Didsbury; the birds, the barbers, the ship canal

Melton Mowbray has its Pork Pies and Eccles its cakes. Swindon, roundabouts and Hull white telephone boxes. Think of London and Dick Whittington springs to mind. Edinburgh – and it’s Greyfriars’ Bobby yapping at you from the gates of the cemetery, a saucer of Irn Bru having been lapped.

But what about Didsbury?

This birthplace of the RSPB, final home of Manchester Ship Canal’s Daniel Adamson and residence of the current Poet Laureate. This leafy suburb was the birthplace of 70s footballer/cricketer Jim Cumbes; hosts the resting place of two of bonnie Prince Charlie’s men and incorporates Fletcher Moss; man, pub and meadow.

A river runs through it.

What are we synonymous with?

Didsbury Son’s self-created Scooby Sandwich? It features 5 essential hydrogenated e-numbers and several incompatible layers. It is good, but…

Didsbury still loves its birds. Rare birds by the river, well-hung ones in Evans and mesmerising rotisseried chickens at The Didsbury Village Farm Shop.

The ship canal spirit lives on in the Mersey Basin and there are professional, amateur and Tai Chi inspired poets giving our village rhyme and lyrical beauty; but they do not define us.

So beyond supermarkets, young professionals and an M20 postcode what is our USP?

I think we have two.
Not the abysmal cell-like flats that have replaced two of our iconic buildings (Capitol Theatre where The Avengers was shot, Withington Hospital where I had my first endoscopy).
Not the ignoring of private car spaces and general manners by the not so yummy mummies at our primary schools.
Not even Wilkinsons on Barlow Moor Road, the shop that defies progress in the most delicious fashion.

In Didsbury – beyond doctors, lawyers, teachers, media luvvies and music biz veterans we do Barbers and Coffee Shops like no other village, enclave, borough or suburb.

Muswell Hill LOOK and LEARN. Alderley Edge, tell the nanny to take notes.

The spirit of Sid the Barber lives on. From Chalkie White and Blade in the East of Didsbury, down past the barbers on School Lane that now outnumber residential houses 2-1. From John at Gentry Grooming and the achingly naff Edward Scissorhands to West Didsbury’s boho barbers of Burton Road. Say it loud Didsbury… We are hirsute and happy Didsbury Dads, Granddads, sons and nephews. Boys and men who need a regular trim and not necessarily anything for the weekend…

We can distinguish between an arabica bean and a full-roast from any number of differently coloured coffee shops. This is no village for Mellow Birds, wherever the RSPB was founded.

Sent from my iPhone

Didsbury Dad’s Real resolution guide

Suddenly it’s June. This is always a shock. The year is only 5/12 done but the halfway stage is looming. That means the date when you have officially failed your new year resolutions and can consign the year to another finger-crossing, 6 ball watching, gym ignoring non-nominated mulch is 4 weeks away.

How you react depends on whether or not your glass is

A) half-full

B) unwashed and growing the kind of cultures that helped discover Penicillin

C) somewhere under the February “South Manchester Reporter”

D) you’re preparing for the future by moving onto beakers that don’t break with lipped lips to sip through.

This means you are…

A) inspired by the challenge of getting the resolutions done in 6 months and already looking at the list positively. Lose ten pounds – Grand National. Cut down drinking – a good idea after 9pm to avoid getting up in the night. Decorate the house – Does re-piling the defunct paperwork count?

B) You are not bothered. The spurt of conscience or promise of pleasure that spurred your resolution left with the tree. There’s The European Championships, The Didsbury Festival and Wimbledon* to slouch through.
* tennis is not actually a proper sport as the action is too quick to heckle properly and they sit down for lemon and barley water every five minutes.

C) In for a shock. One bored midweek night you are going to tackle a stack for recycling, stumble upon your inadequacies and spend a maudlin night regretting everything from the school disco snog you didn’t clinch to the eureka moment that someone else developed to multi-award winning loveydom. Be warned, no amount of counting your blessings sleeping blissfully upstairs will counter this effectively.

D) Ready to repeat 2011’s indifference and shuffle one year nearer the inevitability of having a teenager in the house and getting to an age you can give up.

The problem with the cloud is you can’t just discretely lose pieces of paper. That vodka inspired, over-emotional annual bucket list you tapped gracelessly into your tablet at stupid AM on January 2nd is there in the corner of your screen summoning you like a permanent nagging conscience with a PDF tail.

So, in the spirit of Didsbury Dad-Dom I read mine on June 1st and was shocked. I had actually done some of them, in fact more than half. Others are work in progress and only a couple of the usual suspects lurk un-attended in the recesses of my psyche.

This felt like finding a 2 1/2 month old lottery ticket with 4 numbers. So my resolutions in January 2013 may include aiming for 5. Good luck when you find yours. I’m off to count blessings and do sit-ups before a Didsbury Village Farmshop treat.


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