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 “November, 2014”

Didsbury’s Christmas Tree shines brighter than McBusted

Wednesday night saw Didsbury Village at its best for the Christmas tree switch-on. Stewards in Santa Man. City outfits telling us Santa’s not a red, it was a coca cola conspiracy. A host with a microphone full of enthusiasm and a unique lyrical skill, led us through free mulled wine and pizza, bags of satsumas and women handing out sweets. It was magical. The mulled wine was provided by The Stokers Arms and delivered by Bisou Bisou’s lovely Front of House – a kind of McBusted for the village. Santa arrived on a fire engine with a sound system playing Chris Rea and The Mighty Headed Boy, gently crushing my shoulders from the top down, cried as though Chris Rea himself were coming to sing.
The tree lit up, the sweets were snaffled and a good time was had by all. Only the darkness where once was Cafe Rouge reminded us that not everyone has there own French Patisserie – but we do, happy holidays.

N.B. I have no idea who McBusted are. I even watched I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to see if they were there.

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Ready for the big night out

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The stars came out

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The Mighty Headed Boy v Santa

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More memorable than a beautiful sunrise

Three Beautiful Moments

This is the week when it seems everyone I meet is tired, not well, snowed under, stressed. It’s suddenly a month to Christmas, but a break seems a long time away and too long ago. Money, waistline, politics, Masterchef without John Torode. It all adds down. At times like this I count my blessings. Christmas has always been a great time to be Jewish. It’s like a Get Out of Stress Free Card. But much more than this has made me happy this week.
The nights are cold and clear, the stars are sparkling and the rising winter sun casts a peachy bloom over the city at 8am. This weekend I had the holy trinity of parental joy. Didsbury Son featured well in the school play and the whole event was so palatable I hardly had to check my phone. My joy, the briefest of winks from the stage during the bow. I knew what it meant.
The Mighty Headed boy is a sturdy bundle of noisy joy. His urgent “come now Daddy” when there is a jigsaw on the go or a biscuit spotted in the kitchen is conspiratorial in the gentlest of ways.
But the simple joy that dismissed all cynicism and put me in a good mood all day came at about 5.30 this morning. My pearly princess, after a fractious hour of coughing finally felt the Calpol surging through. She sidled across the bed to me so her right side was glued to me and her head was pushed against my chest and sleepily placed her left arm on my chest, falling asleep to her own mantra, “my daddy”.
Sometimes there are things more restorative than a good night’s sleep.

Dear Didsbury Dad

As an amalgamation of dads across the world (mainly those in Didsbury with a non specific past, a mistrust of strong opinions outside of sport and a love of coffee), I get a lot of post from other mums and dads asking advice. Here are a few which I felt represent the majority of issues raised by parents from, not just Didsbury, but across the world.

Dear Didsbury Dad.
My teenage child is keen to ditch school sports. I am concerned that this may lead to isolation, over-eating and lack of self-esteem. Can you advise me?

Dear J:
don’t be harsh on your child, if they can’t stand school showers let them go. Your self-esteem does not rest on the indifferent loping around of chapped-legged year 9 and 10s as they get hammered by other schools. Your exit from touchline conversation needn’t leave you stranded. My top tip is to embrace this hormone-induced lack of drive in your child. Enjoy the reduction in washing and the lie-in. Join a gym, say hello to people in the sauna and only have a flapjack every other visit. If this doesn’t work stay in bed.

Dear Didsbury Dad
I am coming to Didsbury next week for Small Business Saturday on 6 December. My non-Didsbury wife likes Starbucks and is worried that non-mass produced food and drink won’t taste right and may not contain enough salt. Can you recommend a top ten for coffee, snacks and lunches? I hear Didsbury has a KFC.

Mr X. Wow, what a question. Top 10 independent outlets in Didsbury without mentioning Nando’s in Parrs Wood or the ever-consistent and bizarrely male customer follicly challenges Costa Tesco Burnage. Hmmm….
In no order.
1 Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane with a Fusion Coffee and Panini to sober up on the way to
2. Burton Road – Pinchjo’s for tapas, Folk for experience, Mary and Archie’s for booze.
3. Nip around to the Thyme Out deli opposite the hospital or stop for cake at And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon.
After you’ve togged up at the Independent Steranko and notched a handmade chocolate by the metro, waddle towards Barlow Moor Road for…
4. The glitz, the people watching but not the service at Albert’s Shed.
5. Cleanse at Healthy Spirit opposite the church. Go upstairs for meditation and downstairs for meditation and Ancoats roasted coffee, delicious.
6. Indulge whilst strolling at Bisou Bisou and walk to the pop up art and gorgeous, free Wi-Fi and wall paintings at Central Perk on School Lane.
7. Back via a baking class or two and an AiryFairy CupCake Boutique special to the village where…
8. You must try the bar at Bourbon & Black, a cocktail at Solita and a shimmy with the staff at Chalk Bar & Grill.
9. Via Zantac at Boots don’t miss a Fosters chip barm (gluten free available). You must visit Giddy Goat Toys. I had a toddler incident there last week when he mistook the Olaf in the window for the one he has at home and went ballistic. This just leaves a trip back West for
10. Dinner at Piccolino’s ( in my view still independent), Greens or The Lime Tree – all superb.
You can always take a box of our very own Kansas Fried Chixken home if she’s not happy.

Dear Didsbury Dad
I am the parent of a child at one of Didsbury’s lovely primary schools and live within the catchment area. However, most mornings I drive my 4 x 4 badly through the village reacting aggressively to pedestrians and feel that as I have children I have the right to block driveways, park on double yellows, nick residents parking places and be rude to these residents as my over-pampered, soon-to-be obese offspring trail behind me, heads in screens. Am I bad person? Will karma get me?

3. Yes and yes.

More next time.

Love, Hate and The Festive Season

The Festive Season is nearly upon us. Nearly as in the nauseating adverts have been launched and there is a slight sense of panic surrounding everyone I know. I don’t even have to worry about accessorising my little black dress; but from the taint of the wrong toy to a misunderstanding about the origins, ethos and expectations it can be stressful. There are certain aspects of Daddom that make even the most benign aspects of the season something to dread.
Here are my top ten…

1. Jools Holland’s Hootenanny: In my murky media lifetime I spent many New Years’ Eves throwing the party. There are late September, early October teens and early twenty somethings whose existence is down to these parties. They leave a legacy of slightly crumpled thirty plus ten somethings. However eclectic and enthralling the musicians are – watching a bunch of Z listers pretend it’s New Years’ Eve just doesn’t cut it.

2. The 5am pain of Christmas Day: Didsbury Son was a beautiful bouncing Blondini bed banger at 5am on 25th December. Finally, the Christmas before the twins were born he ambled in at 8 ish and then made a cup of tea. We lolled and had the most laid back and groovy day. I now have another decade of door slamming and early early footsteps to manage. My head, back and knees have lodged a formal complaint.

3. Mince Pies: these sweet and juicy, sticky, crumbly heralds of baby Jesus and a Christmas Market. These hand-sized waist tormentors and palate coverers. I love you, but in the cause of waistline not wasteland I must ignore you and treat you like someone who not only thrived on Movember, but decided to keep it because it “suits me”.

4. False Bonhomie: Hey, how are you. We’ve had no contact but you’re Jewish, I’m an Atheist let’s have a Christmas drink? The human equivalent of a casual Facebook like.

5. The 7am Xmas Eve queue at Evans and Axons. It looks as though civil war has broken out, middle-aged, middle class men from across the southern suburbs have been forced to get from their beds to queue for supplies and hand over wads of cash for a Copper Bronze Turkey. It’s when men know their place and the taste can be worth it.

6. 28th December – knockdown.
You spend £15.99 on some plastic tat. You cut two fingers on the unwrapping, spend £8 for a battery that lasts 6 minutes at the only shop open Christmas Day afternoon and three days later – having stubbed your toe tripping over its unused, unloved cadaver on the stairs, it’s 2.99 in Tesco.
This venting is working, I already feel more festive.

7. The Queen’s Speech
I am sure she’s a lovely woman. Bringing up four kids in the spotlight must be difficult, although Victoria and David are doing okay so far. BUT. If I want to hear old people talk about their lives, whilst talking on behalf of the nation I can listen to a phone in on BBC Local Radio.

8. The Stove Room.
Lovely shop. Great to have it in West Didsbury. The cost of a bag of wood. It’s enough to make you go Aga.

9. Wine at £6.50 a glass
My time on the other side of the bar learning the rudiments of wet sales and profit margins on them has ruined me as a date. Didsbury Wife has to put up with a cost breakdown to ruin each round. Only out hated by paying for sparkling water. No need, no point.

10. Christmas Specials
I love watching TV. Couch slouching whilst watching aimlessly with Didsbury Son, hands on snacks is one of life’s pleasures. But (with the exception of Porridge, Dad’s Army and On The Buses) I am struggling to find a Christmas Special less sour than a lime. It’s the screen equivalent of bonhomie.

With that out of the way there is much to enjoy – The Snowman is slowly edging out Frozen, Atuls is always open and time off work means a quick stroll to Bisou Bisou and The AiryFairyCupCake Boutique. There’s the Xmas Light Switch on (and talk of it being plural this year), there are Blagg’s Christmas Trees and the chance of a day without email. Yet more, even more than this is wide berth people offer a family with more than one toddler. I’m looking forward to it already.

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The queues for Axons and Evans Warm up.

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The Mighty Headed Boy awaits a Mince Pie

Bourbon, Black and The Healthy Spirit

In a battle worthy of a Sky Sports Hyperbole-driven alliterative headline I bring you the challenge no one ever thought could happen. In the Quinoa corner…The Healthy Spirit Vegetarian Cafe vs Bourbon & Black, pouring a drink in their corner and Didsbury Village’s newest and most independent bar/restaurant.
GASP as Bourbon wade onto vegan territory with chilli and garlic Edamame Beans (perfect with a Vodka Cranberry when the ankle-biters get uppity).
HOWL as Healthy Spirit put the Free into Gluten-Free and the jack back into a flapjack.
WONDER at whether or not I can spin this tenuous link out to 500 words.

I remember Healthy Spirit when it was Nature’s Grace and Bonnie Prince Charlie, escaping back to Scotland pursued by Prince Rupert stopped at The Albert even before it was a dairy pub and Fletcher Moss was hanging out with Jabez Clegg (these are pretty much Mancunian-only references so apologies to non 0161 readers, it’s back to sleep deprivation next time.) Didsbury was fields mainly, run on a feudal system. Only Evans, Axons and Kansas Fried Chicken survive from that era.
Bourbon & Black fills the space vacated by Casa Tapas, which spent 20 years as Didsbury’s 2nd best tapas bar – even when it was the only one. It is bare walls, big bar, steak led and very promising. The service was great, the chipolatas sublime, the vodka affordable and even though it has everything necessary to be toddler dangerous… They loved it, were made welcome, tired themselves out racing up and down the mini corridor next to the kitchen and didn’t fall down the exposed stairs. The guys who have sunk all their energy into opening the doors deserve success and the Roast Dinner looked so good I am salivating at the memory of it wafting past to another table. It has a good feel to it, looking forward to going back.

The Healthy Spirit cafe offers a little (responsibly sourced) slice of The Unicorn Grocery effect without leaving Didsbury. No chance of getting a double buggy in and it is a laid back and relaxed oasis. I had a gluten-free flapjack (I know, hold the front page) that was not only edible, but didn’t leave me wanting a “proper cake” and the coffee is good enough to hold its not tested on animals head high. I also like the rustle of wind-chime and waft of incense as a side order and the lack of Wi-Fi. I actually came out relaxed and raring to go. Ok, I did still have the B&B chipolatas warming memory – but they’re only small.

With Appleby’s, Art of Tea, Didsbury Lounge and the soon to be re-opening Sweaty Betty’s complimenting a rather fine William Hill, Spray Tan Salon and 4-5 hairdressers – Barlow Moor Road is on the up. Bourbon & Black nestles between the warm embrace of The Cheese Hamlet and the the slightly worrying uniforms of The Santander Abbey National, both have welcomed the whole family, which makes my job a little easier. Chicken or Chi? That is the question.

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Children’s Play Area at Bourbon & Black

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Not a Neil Rowlands photo

Teenage Kicks, So Hard to Beat

I am perched on the end of a single bed. Only one put-upon hip and a curled toe are keeping me from falling, whilst The Mighty-Headed boy, spread out across the sheets like a spatchcock hen drifts into a post-milk, post-park afternoon nap to dream of life-sized Frozen jigsaws made of chocolate. I digress.

I have been working away recently. Time in a plush, fully-catered hotel and spa with a bed three pillows wide turned down at 7pm and laced with a chocolate mint; just for me. Whilst the ability to concentrate and give my knees and elbows recuperation time between kamikaze leaps from stairs and cars is welcomed. Whilst going to the bathroom without an audience shouting “bye bye wee” helps one focus and whilst time to gain perspective is always positive, I am now ruined.
Not only did I still wake at 3, 4 and 5 anyway, I found not having my eyelids prized open by little fingers, whilst being slapped by Olaf from Frozen made the start to the day a little dull. Not having to heat milk and make tea with circling cats and caterwauling rugrats felt like the challenge was gone. But, weirdly – what I missed most was the mood roulette of the now teenage, but still lovely Didsbury Son.

Face Time is a good substitute. In half a dozen chats across the ether we moved from Surly, to happy and through the whole seven dwarves and back to thumper via Bambi.

What struck me was that however cool, laid back, media savvy or in-touch we think we are, no one over the age of 25 (Doh, just missed it by a couple of decades ish) remembers the stress-led, hormone-fuelled, peer-panicked immediacy of being a teenager.

When Didsbury Son played up or got riled previously I would patronisingly tell Didsbury Wife how I understood it, as I had lived it. Teenage is different. He is no Kevin, no trouble and primarily easygoing and helpful; but a 7.30 FaceTime explaining that there was no point going to school, no point eating, no point speaking (weirdly not no point spending hours online watching super geeks play Minecraft) was followed, one pensive flight home later – by a chirpy greeting after a great day at school. No point? I was SO hours ago.

I forgot how crushing the merest hint of rebuttal can be to the evolving teenage psyche, the constant life ruination by parents who just “don’t understand” and the unpredictability of voice breaking, spot count and face colour when speaking to girls.

It cheered me up. Watching the joy and torment from the outside reminds me that creaky joints and indigestion after late night snacks are not only easier to deal with – the best bit about being 39 and a lot is not really caring that much about anything beyond your family bubble… And football.

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

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This is what a teenage brain looks like whilst thinking.

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I missed being kicked all night when this was mine only.

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