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 “January, 2013”

Parenthood – Six New Medical Conditions

Being a Didsbury Dad is a wonderful life. Not even the demise of La Tasca, the pavement parking that makes pram pushing painful or the scary designs masquerading as art in the “new” diminished Withington Hospital can dull the glow.

As Didsbury Son edges inconsistently towards teenagedom, his qualities only occasionally dulled by extreme vagueness and the odd sulk, I look at my two new Didsbury Babes with joy, apprehension and a slightly locked shoulder.

It’s not the thought of teething, chicken pox or stranger danger that keeps me awake at night. What allows me to talk to the moon at 4am is the fear that I am going to have to sit through Junior School concerts again. At one of Didsbury Son’s schools it was so bad I booed a Year 3 “Grensleeves”. All dads know that there is only so much feigning you can do when a potential free evening is savaged by a recorder played ingloriously by unknowing fingers and partially cleaned milk teeth.

I digress – this is my 100th Blog so I am having a celebration ramble.

It’s not even the awful school concerts. It’s the low-level parental pain that is more daunting than the realisation I had at a baby clinic recently. In the years when I was larging Madchester and feeling invincible, my twins contemporaries’ dads were in nappies themselves. I talk about Wagon Wheels and Choppers, they get teary eyed over a Game Boy.

In addition, there is the realisation that every hair that grows on these tiny Churchillian bonces takes them a little further away from new babydom.

One sad day all this will be covered in hair

One sad day all this will be covered in hair

So 6 things of which to be wary;
1. The Domino Effect – Baby Boy is a whopper. A milk guzzling, eyelash fluttering, full-face smiling whopper. Leaning over to pick him up without bending properly and then lifting back up nearly 20 pounds of milk and muscle does things to a spine that’s crawled past 39 … Bad things. That pop at night is the morning’s Sciatica, the afternoon’s tingling and the following night’s Ibuprofen.

2. (SOS) Shiny Object Syndrome: I promised never to moan about sleep deprivation. Even when it’s counted in minutes; sleep interrupted by a smiley/crying/wet/hungry baby always has a redeeming feature. It’s downside is that my attention span is down to Didsbury Son’s level. Anything longer then eight minutes is a genuine struggle that needs something bright or noisy shaking to keep my eyes open.
Didsbury Wife pointed out to me that it takes about eight minutes for light to get to us from The Sun. I pointed out it takes approximately eight minutes to walk the pram once around Didsbury Park and then I nodded off.

3. Designer Milk- I never realised that babies projected milk with no warning and can reach a shoulder from 10 feet. Every single piece of clothing that I have has been tie-dyed with Aptamil.

The doctor seemed un-moved when I explained my predicament

The doctor seemed un-moved when I explained my predicament

4. Milk Neck- bibs are fine but there is always a missed trickle that comes to give you a sticky kiss when you pick up a baby to burp them.

5. Golfer’s Elbow – honestly, I have golfer’s elbow and a cortisone injection habit.  Apparently it is widespread. When I sheepishly admitted that it was painful, I was deluged by empathetic nods from fellow sufferers and  it opened a secret world to parental pain that again, no one tells you about when you’re expecting.

6. BootPov – I had wondered why Boots the Chemist had so many branches. Now I know. Every over parent of children under the age of… 30 knows that on birth you give Boots your blood group, PIN number and roughly 90% of your earnings and 50% of your overdraft. I now have enough Advantage points to buy almost a day’s worth of nappies.

These are only exacerbated by Pramrage, CHOCS (central heating overload causing sinusitis) and Shrunken World – even I realise that my daily happiness and schedule tightened by feeds and changes makes my conversation as dull as the lighting in the nursery at 3am and as shallow as the milk my baby boy leaves in a bottle after a feed.

Twins do not always grow at the same rate

Twins do not always grow at the same rate

Men’s Hour – Marking territory, staking a claim and avoiding textspeak

Men – It’s not easy being a modern city man. Finding a clearly defined role that maintains your innate hunter instincts whilst being sensitive to the nuances of your family’s needs and modern expectations demands creativity. There is a tipping point somewhere between the joy of baking with Didsbury Son and agreeing to watch Jennifer Aniston instead of Match of the Day. I tipped many years ago and am now having to redefine masculinity whilst making sure the nappies go on a boil wash but I’m not mixing colours.

A baby gives her reaction to the notion of gender stereotyping in changing and feeding

A baby gives her reaction to the notion of gender stereotyping in changing and feeding

 But men,  understand this. There are dozens of free channels to be watched, hours of tweets to be shared and LOL’d and the cats must be fed – it’s duty. * NB: if you use the term LOL (are you listening David Cameron?) over the age of 20 it is as unacceptable as leather trousers and as inappropriate as a middle-aged ponytail. 
 
There has been much debate about the evolving role of men. When Didsbury Wife was Didsbury Girlfriend I flooded her kitchen whilst attempting to fix a tap. This was a time so long ago there were barely gambling apps. I realised my role and her expectations had changed. As I wrung out, well everything, she reminded me of an old adage
“Either marry  someone who can fix a shelf or can pay someone else to fix a shelf for you.” Then it hit me, a Eureka moment; I finally understood what Tony Blair had meant when he talked about a third way. 
 
I couldn’t fix a shelf – it’s culturally genetic. When Moses gave the 10 commandments to the Jewish people he never told them how to fix them to a wall, he just told them what to eat whilst they were discussing the contents. Paying for it is the intermittent joy of the media freelance something or other so there had to be a third way; I wrote her a story about a set of shelves and a new tap and Didsbury Wife fixed everything herself.
 
There are other roles around childcare that never concerned my  own Didsbury Dad. He worked hard, my own Didsbury Mum did 99% of the childcare and he would do science homework and be patient whilst we jumped all over him and jabbered away inanely, punctuated by his nodding.
 
I am a modern dad. One night each week I do the night shift; emerging triumphantly like the Lion King to theatrically deliver my huge headed baby boy and delicate baby girl for their 6.45 feed. As I stalk the savannah back to the nursery, mane shaking and all but roaring my new masculinity before bagging a freshly changed nappy, I know I am king of all I survey (less than you would imagine without glasses). I am assured of my masculinity, male-modernness and massive contribution to the next generation.
 
A baby boy, keen to retain his anonymity camoflauges his ead with a strawberry lace in sympathy with the loss of freedom to watch endless football highlights.

A baby boy, keen to retain his anonymity camoflages his head with a strawberry lace in sympathy with the loss of freedom to watch endless football highlights.

There is only the tiniest voice in my head reminding me that the other 6 nights a week and 18 hours of most days Didsbury Wife sees to the happiness of the babies, coos and cleans them and more importantly… Teaches Didsbury Son DIY skills so I can write stories and make tea whilst they work. 

Nobvember 2011 and Didsbury Village Farm Shop opened with high hopes, high prices and excellent high fat content pies. Farewell, January 2012

November 2011 and Didsbury Village Farm Shop opened with high hopes, high prices and excellent high fat content pies. Farewell, January 2013

Powerfully written story of modern shame

A Barefoot Girl

On Christmas Eve 2008, I found out I would be losing my job. There is no day of the year to find out something like that, but it seems that Christmas Eve is a particularly bad one. I remember it very clearly, even down to what I was wearing. I was packing to go home over Christmas and I got a text off my friend Susie, telling me that the shop we both worked in had been taken over by administrators. And just like that, I knew my job would be gone.

The truth is, it was actually eight months later that my job finally went, but it did go, in the same way a terminal illness sucks the life out of a human. Long, slow, arduous. I worked in Zavvi, previously Virgin Megastore, in Cardiff. I started out as a Saturday girl, and when I graduated university and still…

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People Don’t Always Say The Funniest Things

This Week’s stranger comment count. A quick midweek blog.

Pushing baby twins attracts lots of looks and comments. This is mainly lovely. A trip around a department store when there is a higher than average percentage of grandmothers can take an extra forty five minutes. As I march the parks and pavements of Didsbury pushing a double buggy and trying to work off the baby weight I gained cooking for Didsbury Wife it is fascinating to see people glance nervously and smile to themselves, even when I haven’t dressed them ( I keep getting the blue and pink mixed up and if I can’t find a hat I know, as all dads do – that a spare pair of trousers makes an excellent headcover.). I have always done this with dogs when out and about with Didsbury Son and it is great to inadvertently spread a little happiness.

You do tend to get certain stock phrases repeated over and over. This week’s favourites.

Double Trouble” 109 times. Ha ha. This is hilarious and any twin parent will be laughing however times people you have never met say this knowingly into your pram. I always wonder if an answer other than a pointless wan smile is expected. Should I tell them they are right, the experiment has not worked and we are trying to decide whether to keep them both or concentrate on the one who sleeps better?

You’ve got your Hands Full”  – not so full I can’t make hand gestures 17

Double Joy” (we like these) 32. The demographic breakdown is primarily middle-aged people with an equal gender split.

I didn’t know you had it in you” 10 Technically, this makes no sense. I always want to ask “Why?” but Didsbury Wife winds in my neck and squeezes my hand in the most powerful of controlled gestures.

You’ve made my day” (these are really nice) 8

Are they identical?” “It’s a boy and a girl” “Yes I can see that. But are they identical?” 3

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Only the mighty Ewan thee Sheep can say what he wants… he is the king of the cot

My weekly favourite was the man in John Lewis on Saturday morning. He was walking around the crockery bit (man hell) with daughter and granddaughter when he clocked me, Chairman Mao and Catherine the Great. He came over and clapped me on the back; brought the rest of his family to have a look whilst smiling at me as though I had added 10% extra to the sale discounts. He looked genuinely made up before telling other strangers how great it was to see lovely twins. He went off laughing and chatting and I felt a warmth I usually only experience when a feed reappears down my shirt.

Rites of Passage and Parent’s Evening

Rites of Passage, those life events so beloved of writers, singers, painters and so often packed with platitudes. With new twins passing landmarks on a daily basis it has at times been difficult for Didsbury Son to get his Rites to the front of the queue. Over the last week we have had a glut of them to redress the balance.

The baby laughed. mark the time, the place, the weather and the cat's latitude.

The baby laughed. mark the time, the place, the weather and the cat’s latitude.

 

Last week he made his team sports debut. It was a magnificent clear winter’s day, he donned a luminous kit several sizes too big for him and was part of a team he had met once before in the dark the previous Monday. His chosen sport (for the moment) is Lacrosse. My attempts to share my love of football have failed consistently over the years.

 

Everyday I learn. The lacrosse stick is on the right, the mesh on the left is a pre-stringed Lacrosse racket

Everyday I learn. The lacrosse stick is on the right, the mesh on the left is a pre-stringed Lacrosse racket

My two memories of Didsbury Son’s football career consist of turning my back for five minutes one Saturday morning in Fog Lane Park to find him swaddled by adult tracksuits shivering unhappily and… a magnificent tactical performance where he spent a whole hour moving gracefully away from the ball. It was not for him.

 

His first memory of football is seeing me – eyes staring with two fingers pressed up against the television as the cameras panned to a close-up of the opposition fans. 5 year old Didsbury Son’s only comment, “Daddy, why are you swearing at the TV?”

 

His indifference is my fault. What I saw as paternal love and exuberance was really the attempts of a dad to squeeze him into static laden shirts, learn pointless songs with refrains that make less sense than a Year 2 song (My favourite was “Tommy Tomato or Have You Ever Had a Penguin Round for Tea – classics) and of hours listening to 5Live drone on interspersed with my yelps. I have learned and am ready for the next two.

 

So Didsbury Son made his debut in “the fastest game on 2 legs” (sic) and looked magnificent. Didsbury Wife and I stood at the side of the pitch shivering quietly, a baby each for warmth and enjoyed our first ever experience of Didsbury Son in competition. I didn’t shout a single inappropriate comment. I didn’t even try and start a Mexican Wave.

These were rites stacking up by the hour. Lacrosse is not an easy sport for parents to watch initially. He wears huge padding and a helmet. I had no idea which child I was shouting for and the ball is too small and moves too fast for eyes that have long since seen their 39th birthday. Twin Girl loved it. She bobbed around happily using her new found smile to anyone in the vicinity. Whilst Didsbury Son thought this was sibling adoration for him – in time it will be. We are back for training this week and this could be a goer.

We also had another rite – the first senior school parent’s evening. In Junior School they are a real disappointment. For anyone who went to school pre New Labour a parents’ evening was a fearful time when the best one could expect was parental indifference after a night of having all your sins laid out before them. The latent aggression of the teachers was part of the experience. The notion of schools being inclusive environments and of children mattering was as ridiculous as the notion of keeping your record collection in your phone. A bit like going to football these days – they now lack the edge of danger and fear to make them interesting.

This had the makings of an interesting evening. We had the twins with us in an unmanoeuvrable double pram amidst harassed parents and tired teachers. There had been an incident earlier that day. By the time we started I was almost looking forward to a night defending his honour before going home to be disappointed, brilliant.

What did we get?

Caring teachers who actually knew who he was and had considered him constructively. We then had enthusiastic and non-patronising comments about the twins (who barely cried and caused no fuss) and even the catering was worth a second or third circle around the room. Amid the general positivity I felt slightly cheated. They were reasonable, Didsbury Son has been doing his best and Didsbury Wife and I agreed on things and nodded at each other like a team working well together; another rite of passage.

 

Even the PE department demonstration looked good

Even the PE department demonstration looked good

 

 

Didsbury’s Top 13 Coffee Stops for 2013

In a move as contrived as an inclusive multi-faith Nativity play.
In a year when nothing has yet happened  beyond changing nappies, patting babies and coping with Didsbury Son’s increasing technological needs, I present my guide to Didsbury 2013.
When I say a guide, I mean Part 1; places to park your buggy, rest your feet, work quietly and catch up. Coffee, cake, work, wasting time:
 1. Airyfairy Cupcake Boutique. Like the bumblebee that represents Manchester it shouldn’t work, but it does. In the space that housed the Withington Reporter when it was part of the community is a little haven. Quirky, but not Chorlton. Friendly, but not interfering and not cheap, but worth it. The free wi-fi helps and the Lemon Poppy Cake wooed Didsbury Wife into a  relaxed hour between feeds. Still not sure what a cupcake actually is but then I’ve never really understood why clowns were funny or Thomas the Tank Engine didn’t scare children.
We dressed one twin in white, one in black and lost them on the floor. (www.airyfairycupcakes.co.uk)

We dressed one twin in white, one in black and lost them on the floor. (www.airyfairycupcakes.co.uk)

2. Didsbury Deli. A little piece of The Balkans on our doorsteppes. Fearsome looking but genuinely pleasant owner reminds me of years spent running Nightime events and the staff are lovely enough to mask the eye-watering prices. The door allows for a double pram, always a good thing.
3. The Art of Tea. No room for a pram (not in a “No Room for a Crib kind of way) so is a baby-free, free wi-fi haven of uncomfy seating, indifferent service but none the less for this. The granary toast with peanut butter makes the springless sofas acceptable. The rest of the menu and the bookshop that Health & Safety forgot make them positively luxurious.
4. Didsbury Perk. A newbie, with big banquettes and some interesting art (not sure about the painting with a view from Costa Coffee including Usain Bolt and David ” The Werewolf” Weir passing each other outside Zizzi but it’s a personal thing). It is on School Lane only 8 barbers (1 furlong = a bushell = a barber on School Lane) away from AiryFairy and The Metro Stop and it has a musical link to RNCM. It’s also v v friendly and half the price of the corporates (£2.25 for a Panini, winner).
A view from Costa without Usain Bolt and David Weir

A view from Costa without Usain Bolt and David Weir

4. Cafe Rouge. Rouge may be a Whitbread chain but, like La Tasca, if you have lived here for a few years you will have a happy memory or two based here. When I was dating Didsbury Wife we would sneak here pre-work for coffee and a kiss on the red velvet seats. They are great with children and the food is worth a snoop. I walk past it and it stirs lovely pre Didsbury Dad memories. When it opened Rouge seemed an unfeasibly gauche addition to the village.
5. Albert’s Shed. I’m old enough to have had my first drink in The Barleycorn in the 80s and my own Didsbury Dad and Mum lived over the shop when this was a casino in the 60s. The building’s re-incarnation, mid credit crunch as a  Castlefield favourite was a little slice of genius. Good fun on a night out and for Sunday brunch on a bright day.
6. The Alpine Tearoom in Fletcher Moss. On a summer’s day, this is the centre of the Didsbury world. A gateway to Fletcher Moss, a great spot to people-watch and hark back to early times when an ice cream and a walk satisfied a child for the afternoon.
7. Fusion Deli. The coffee is genuinely good but the bonhomie shared by Pete and Tom amid the Olive Tofu, the proximity to Inmans and the chance to watch Blockbusters’ demise first hand make this a great stop.
8. Samsi Junior opposite The Red Lion. I think it’s Withington and its green tea not coffee but another fave yapping point.
9. Folk. A one-off. A bit like big curly hair. Whatever is done to decorate the place and smarten it up it still looks the epitome of 80s Didsbury scruffy boho chic and so it should. You get really good food, really poor service with a smile and a fine bar should your coffee need stiffening.
10. Piccolino’s. Replacing The Nose, even after its post Liz and Lawrence bastardisation was always going to be a tall order. This was a venue prime for the cynics and snobs to slate but against all odds it is a top hangout at any time of day.
11. Mr Marvel’s Cafe. It closed circa 1990 something but was Didsbury Wife’s fave hangout and a little scary in smokiest times.
12. Didsbury Mum’s House. There are some great coffee shops in the village but few, in fact none offer this level of service. I can let myself in and there’s always tea and cake. I am always told that I look fine and I’m a success, highly recommended.
13. The Bench at the end of the tree-lined path opposite the river. There’s no Wi-fi, no coffee, no one can bother you and if the sun is shining and contents of the double buggy are sleeping, it is perfect.
Only inverse snobbery prevents the sublime Caffe Nero and the sofas at Costa getting in. Both have their benefits, charms and free newspapers.
Next week we begin part 1 of a 644 part series on Didsbury’s Barber Shops.

Didsbury Dad’s Milestones not Millstones

It’s a New Year and with intentions, aspirations and freshness come a range of stepping stones to measure your annus hopefulus.

With New Babies it is all about milestones. To begin with it’s first feed, change, bath and first family member to turn up uninvited and mention something insensitive / inappropriate / uncharitable (delete as appropriate). This golden period in the hospital is followed the scary “at home” firsts.

The first time you forget they can roll off the bed if you don’t wedge them in properly. The first time you get your baby sorted, relax – then remember there are two of them. The first guests who, having sat doing nothing whilst you ran around them for an eternity spend two joyful hours reminding you how awful it is when people outstay their welcome. There are also the old friends with whom sharing your happiness means more than you had ever thought it would. There are the touching and the funny rite of passage milestones. The first projectile vomit and wee to land on your head, in your mouth or on a pristine work outfit, The curl only a newborn can achieve when they feel as though they have folded into you and for me… the first donning of the football romper suit brought for me by Didsbury Wife when they first appeared on a scan. I put them on the twins and caused Didsbury Son to sag as I blubbed almost as much as at birth, fantastic.

Every day seems to bring a new milestone and at three months there is teething and weaning on the horizon. We already have a stack of memories as bright as a Bermuda sunrise to us and as dull as a foggy Grimsby morning to anyone else.

There has been the first smile, twice. Didsbury Son Junior took longer to come around to a smile that wasn’t pre-Expelair but his beam from a cot at 6am melts the previous 8 hours away in the most perfect manner. His cheeky little sister is already on the way to learning that a flirty well-timed grin can get her around her Didsbury Dad and Didsbury Son. We have enjoyed their first grip, their first kick and their first swim and this week we reached a poignant, and very 21st Century milestone.

This week the newborn clothes have been moved out of the nursery and onto eBay. The filtering that splits between keeps, family, friends, charity and sell is a new and necessary phenomenon. My income now splits equally between Boots, Mamas & Papas and Boots. Terry nappies are great and in the most Didsbury way we try, but there are still only 24 Hours a day and Huggies have this nailed.

New fathers have to learn many new skills. These include singing the clean versions of songs, physical multi-tasking, not moaning about pain, patience and most importantly – when and how to bid up in a VGC Rainforest Jumparoo available in Wigan. We must learn the value, the real value of a Hardly Worn Baby Gap Bundle from a pet and smoke free home. A new dad must now be at one with the language of BNWOT and why positive feedback’s omnipotence means lip-biting about people with whom a good virtual row would usually brighten a slow afternoon.

There will be many more milestones. I look forward to the day when Didsbury Son and I stride onto School Lane, a toddler in each hand for their first haircut. At the current exponential rate of growth there will be 35 barbers on School Lane, each with its own bakery and twinned Charity Shop. Then we will skip to Gourmet Burger King to enjoy the space and light an empty restaurant can create , stopping only to read Didsbury Magazine to find out what’s on 7 miles away in Hale and Altrincham.

So many milestones to look forward to as these two little treasures grow and expand. It’s only been 12 weeks but already my littlest Didsbury Son has ceased resembling Winston Churchill and Didsbury Daughter almost has hair. 2013 is shaping up nicely.

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A baby with the first signs of hair. Chair has one careful lady driver and comes from a house with a big fat cat and a small one whose a bit sneaky

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