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 “August, 2013”

Why I Support Didsbury Free School

Why I Support Didsbury Free School.

Sweating is an essential part of parenthood. From the nervous first 20 weeks of pregnancy when the slightest twinge implies disaster to the nervous last twenty weeks and the nerves around delivery. It is temple-tricklingly leaky.

Then it gets more sweaty. Primarily when lying between two little radiators on a hot night and wondering if its wrong to try and create space by gently rolling them. So many nervous and sweaty moments and then the worst, the sweatiest moment of them all – choosing a school.

This is terrible for men for many reasons. You have to research, feign interest and then genuinely care about something you never enjoyed (school in the 70s and 80s had more in common with Gladiator than today’s sharing and caring edufest), it is an utter minefield.

At Didsbury Son’s first parents evening in reception class Didsbury Wife urged me to ask pertinent questions. The searing pain in my knees from trying to sit on a 4 year-old’s seat pushed me into three pointless posers; Does he have friends? Does he wet himself? Is A Level Mandarin a possibility?

But it’s vital. Didsbury is short of primary school places. We are a burgeoning community and a vibrant set of micro-communities. From Broad Oak and Parrs Wood to Cavendish and WestFest via the sublime outputs of St Cath’s, Beaver Road and Didsbury C of E this is a good place to raise and educate children.

The over-subscription for places is laughable. The rise in Didsbury’s population has been fantastic in widening diversity of available snacks, coffee quality and opportunity. We are lucky to have the shops, services and links we have.
Didsbury people don’t actually take themselves too seriously and we are neither flattered not fooled by our reputation. I Think We’re in Didsbury? There is a heart that is evident in the notices outside the police station and the volunteers in the area.

We are not the Mancunian Chiswick or Notting Hill, we are M20 and our children deserve enough school places as much as any children in any ward in the city.

The rationale behind it all is sound, the partners are good people who know how to run a school. The lack of decent post service catering at St. James and Emmanuel is forgivable and if we need extra classroom space Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Nido have empty tables and chairs to spare. We should not be defensive; we need this.

It is not just because I have baby twins, it is not just because living here does not guarantee a school place 500 yards away. It is these points and the thought of four years sweating over the tactical bun fight to walk to school with our futures.

This is why I and you should support Didsbury Free School.

Facebook. DidsburyCEFreeschool

Now I’m off to imagine a soundproofed shed and a four-layered sandwich


This mighty head needs a local school

This tree near Parrs Wood threw itself on a spiked fence to highlight the lack of primary places in Didsbury.

David Attenborough, Bear Grylls, The Birdman of Alcatraz and Me

Holiday Excitement – Family Style. Holidays should be full of moments that will brighten up a winter traffic jam when the sun is up after the babies and complaining that it is too hot seems a cruel joke.

Way before I was a Didsbury Dad, in fact from my earliest memories I have intimate knowledge of holiday problems.
My earliest recollections are of sitting on the side of European motorways next to a steaming Vauxhall Firenza and an immobile caravan. Since then holiday issues have been spontaneous and varied.
A stunt car recreates my childhood

A stunt car recreates my childhood

aaI have been grounded by war, nearly missed my own barmitzvah due to a strike (I know, we have all been there) and as a teenager was unfairly, if repetitively, a visitor to police stations in a wide range of countries. It was not exactly Midnight Express, but a first “boys” holiday ended with an unforgettable combination of arrest and dysentery.
It has left me sanguine, primarily unflappable and hard to impress wit a little trouble abroad.
I’ve flown Ryan Air, negotiated single-track cliff roads and been liberally pick pocketed. Didsbury Wife once had a job that took her on global jaunts, so a family caravan holiday in that jungle that is Wales would seem an easy week. Until we met this…
spaarrow5 Sparrow Hawk ating
Many things have woken me suddenly over the years; teachers, colleagues, policemen, worry, but never a Sparrow Hawk.
The exclusive deal between Kestrels and Adidas has driven Sparrow Hawks to search out Nike

The exclusive deal between Kestrels and Adidas has driven Sparrow Hawks to search out Nike

We had driven through the night with a car full of blissfully sleeping children. Didsbury Wife had graciously allowed me to lie-in and was feeding and entertaining the whole troupe when I was woken with…”There’s something in the awning you should see”.
This could have been anything – spider, tramp, projection from any orifice of any child. It was a Sparrow Hawk sitting on my sports bag eating a starling North to South – it had got to the Midlands in thorough fashion.
I stormed out, with only the protection of rare birds and the safety of my children on my mind. I eyeballed the bird and we communicated. I told him I respected his hunting prowess, he told me he would not harm my family. I opened the awning shared Avian Human respect and he flew off with his prey. Ish.
After thinking this trumps a trip around the ruins of Criccieth Castle I did what any same man would do. I locked the door and called the site manager and asked him to to open the awning as I needed to go to the toilet.
Didsbury Son has a great story to tell at school and we have another tale to tell the twins about our Welsh Safari.  I learned one important lesson- Dettox gets rid of the blood from most items, eventually.

Babies, Dogs and an endless cycle

Money finds money, fame follows fame and like finds like in so many ways.
I mused on these thoughts as I pushed the Mighty-Headed one and his cheeky-pearl top sister around The Park.

It seemed apt. By 8am this morning I had changed four nappies, each fruitier than the last and demanding a swift handed dexterity that would have satisfied Andy Murray and Paul Newman.

It seemed that every dog on its morning run found a spot directly in my eyeline to crouch and unload. After three circuits I could describe the angle of backleg bend on everything from a giant poodle to a French bulldog.

There are times when, nappy sack opened and wipes at the ready that it is just the wonderful world of pooh without the Winnie.

I can de-nappy, wipe and change with both hands, on any surface with enough space to park a baby’s bottom. I have seen the Y in De-Mystification and worn presents from each orifice from each baby.

There is something therapeutic about a nappy change. It combines trust, grooming and that thought somewhere in your mind that in a few decades you might need the care repaying so you do your best.

So as I dodged a desperate Daschund near the park entrance I did count my blessings, safe in the knowledge that one day they will be toilet trained and I will have breakfast without the smell of baby wipes. But by then they will probably want a dog.

A Sheepdog this morning looking for somewhere quiet to read the paper

Solitude, a fleeting desire

All three Didsbury Babies are back safe with a heroic and tired Didsbury Wife.

I had to cut short a family holiday to work at whatever it is I do for a few days, just as the Premier League season started. This devastating blow and awful timing meant I had to leave our holiday accomodation. A diminutive stable where crying babies echo and there is no downstairs. With only peace, quiet and four live matches over 3 days to comfort me it was hell. Quiet, uninterrupted, hot cup of tea, asleep at 3, 4, 5 and 6am hell. I saw things I had not seen for months – the whole of the floor, a TV programme that was not Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother.
This terrible, serene, uncluttered few days with just the drone of 5Live for early morning company and good coffee on the go got so bad I read a whole newspaper and went to the gym (not just the car park for 10 minutes sleep).

So thank The Lord they are back. My pearl-headed baby girl blessed me by screaming just as tonight’s football reached a climax. The Mighty-Headed boy swivelled like Torvill or Dean through a nappy change to the extent that I could feel beads of sweat on my temples and Didsbury Son gave him 5.8 for artistic interpretation.

Didsbury Son has deigned to spend time with us occasionally when batteries have run out and the house looks like a Toys R Us frat party; business as usual and lovely to be back in the middle of it all.


This Much I Have Learned – holidays with small babies

Going anywhere nice this year? Planning to go or just back and regaling friends with all-nighters, mountain walks, that little bistro or hidden cove up the steps or the golden beaches you walked for hours?

Or have you enjoyed that secluded villa at the top of the hill or fun in a caravan?
The doorstaff in Ibiza have diversified over the years

The doorstaff in Ibiza have diversified over the years

This much I have learned, with Didsbury Son now at an age where I see more of the top of his head than his face, the Mighty-Headed boy on the march and able to get object to mouth in the time it takes to rub sleep out your eyes AND as my sweet pearl-headed girl deciding summer nights are for singing, not sleeping; it’s tricky.
We have opted for short breaks around Wales.
We love Wales. We enjoy remembering to take bags to every shop, like the weather lottery and feel that not being able to shop after 7pm or find baby change facilities a challenge that can really make a holiday special. As I daydreamed  about room service, pain-free moving and walking past Boots occasionally, I realised that my parameters had been re-set my checklist is:
1. No budget airlines. Babies fly free under 2 years old. We have already used this loophole and will do until its closed. However, the equipment you now need with you needs a roadie and you look like The Tweenies on tour. I planned a break, found flights but the baggage cost dwarfed the ticket price  to such an extent it would have been cheaper to buy popcorn at the cinema.
2. The time limit a Didsbury Son can go without wi-fi is three days. After that the pained expression at a life lost and disconnected is no longer entertaining and worse, if the 3G fails I can’t check the transfer news.
Didsbury Son got over his Piokemon separation anxiety in interesting ways

Didsbury Son got over his Pokemon separation anxiety in interesting ways

3. Caravans are fantastic. Until you have babies crying. Then you have nowhere to go. It’s one up, all up and here’s a tip. Anyone who says to you they had a lovely romantic break in a caravan thinks communal washing is foreplay.
4. Remember the supplies. Wherever you go in the world there is a small shop selling the errant nappy, wipe, formula for the same price as a small car.
5. It’s your fault.
6. Time differences are dangerous. At. 9pm the twins are finally asleep; Didsbury Wife and I crave the small gap they have left between them in bed and Didsbury Son is revved up for a film, preferably with mild swearing. It’s a tough negotiation. If it goes wrong there will be harrumphing on all sides and worse, I may have to feign interest in some Alien abducting, world creating  pixelated odyssey that Didsbury Son has had on hold for three days as the promised wi-fi is lost somewhere in the field of sheep behind us.
7. A double pram on sand is a nightmare, get a pool.
8. Keeping twins fed, changed and entertained in a caravan without crying is a test they missed on The Krypton Factor.
Free the Pink Bear 1

Free the Pink Bear 1

This is not to say that there have been those magical holiday moments. When Didsbury Son looked up at me and said those three little words that mean so much, “dad, Free Wi-Fi!”. Paddles in the sea and chips on the beach at night. These and a hundred other happy times that will be etched into our family story.
I hope this prepares you and warns you. It does all have one huge advantage. When you see the sign A34 Didsbury and get the first flatulent waft of Subway drifting up Wilmslow Road it’s bloody marvellous.

The Rise of the West, Didsbury Park goes BoHo

The death of western civilisation has been greatly exaggerated. Didsbury is the hub for the comeback. The rise of the East and it’s industrial powerhouses (Nandos, Cineworld, huge Metrolink car park) has at times threatened to swamp the middle ground of the village and the brandless, roll your own boho chic that is West Didsbury.
As the other axis of evil disintegrated once Hollywood got the catering sorted, so we have a new hero. The promised cafe in Didsbury Park has come good and it’s down to the niche, nice, detail savvy of …and The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon.

Not only does this Burton Road bakery cum cafe buck the one-word name trend so beloved in West Didsbury, but they’ve marched through Didsbury Village pronouncing Quinoa correctly, bringing a smile to Sourdough and leaving Didsbury Deli, Costa, Nero, Art of Tea etc. with poached egg on their faces. They are so nice they make me feel I could wear sandals without irony.

Yesterday morning I sat on a camping chair in a cold awning with a fractious baby girl getting fed up in a travel cot. I slurped tea out of a melamine cup. On Thursday morning I lolled on a comfy rug in the sun of Didsbury Park, flat white in hand, sourdough in mouth and Didsbury Wife enjoying her Earl Grey whilst the babies played with unicorns and butterflies on the safe lawn created by And The Dish…

… And The Dish has taken over the Holt Pavillion until the end of September every Thursday to Saturday. It’s a great idea and an extra incentive for pram pushers to click heels and get their progeny to sleep and for dog walkers to throw the ball more quickly. The promise of a coffee and a treat and some extra quiet time looms lushly.
My only gripe is the 10am opening. On any given morning the park teems with life from before 8am and the earlier you are out , the more you need refreshing.

Is this a shift in power? And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon have more words in the title than The Airy Fairy Cupcake and I foresee a Biggie v Tupac style bake-off around the Metro station.

With Fletcher Moss’s Alpine Cafe a beacon for park life cafe quality, this Didsbury Park adventure promises a race to get the pram to the park and a dwindling Nero card until October.


This overgrown garden needs a cafe of its own


The new cafe is used to dealing with a varied clientele and caters to diverse tastes.

Next week: Nido – why?

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