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 “September, 2015”

LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRY FLAVOURED PLATITUDES

“Love me when I deserve it least, that’s when I need it most”, a Swedish proverb that sums up what’s needed in terms of bringing up teenagers. “I love thee like pie, if thou were’t pudding I would eat thee”. Old English proverb I quoted to Didsbury Wife in 3rd date. It went down less well than I expected. “I have a dream.” Best in its original form.

Slogans, logos, mantras, chantras – the world is awash with upliftingness and each time it’s crap imitation, hallmarked to shoehorn into an occasion, the power of the good ones is slightly diminished.

The first time I saw a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster I was blown away – simple, self aware, pithy and spot on. By the time I saw my fiftieth plush cushion with “Keep Calm and Carry on Accountancy Training” I realised it was lost. Like a 3 year old girl with “Porn Star” on their T-Shirt, it is the dumbing down of the power of inspiration. “And on the 7th Day God Created Manchester” is the only slogan a child needs on a T-Shirt.

Facebook and Twitter are awash with platitudes. Mantras are personal. I have mine “Go to sleep, go to sleep, shut your eyes and go to sleep” but it’s not for all. Now schools have got in on the act and the results are predictably, unintentionally… Meaningless.

Broad Oak Primary School is apparently “Didsbury’s Hidden Gem” – without any sense of irony.  Didsbury C of E is outstanding (well it’s after school club is if you look closely) and Barlow is “Now 43% more religious” (I have made this up). It gets lamer. There is a school on my occasional commute. Not to name names but it’s Whalley Range High School on the corner of Princess Parkway. Whilst waiting in a traffic jam created parents ignoring the huge “if you park here children will suffer” banner I am assaulted by two huge banners – PRIDE and BELIEF. 

Now John Arden knew how to write a slogan

Now John Arden knew how to write a slogan

They don’t mean anything. They are as pointless as a bolognese without garlic. That is meat sauce, not bolognese and PRIDE has many meanings and intonations. These are random words, not coordinated inspiration. They may as well say TEA and HERRING.

I like a practical banner, one with details of starting times, cost or special offers. I like an inspirational quote that combines cleverness with pithiness. “Keep Calm and Carry On Parking your 4×4 on the double yellow lines next to the school you lazy &@”#” is at least honest.

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Life on the Farm Day 2

Life on the Farm – Day 2:

We will get to the 3 year olds party later – it’s breach of liberal South Manchester gender politics being stunning but…  Everyone in the country has posh China 
Once I had got over my disappointment that none of The Archers were dropping in for scrumpy and Marry Your Cousin night I relaxed and began to enjoy country life. The 7 year old son of the farmer took me and The Mighty Headed Boy on a tour of tractors, Combine Harvesters (bigger than an average Didsbury New Build) and grain stores. His rugged nimbleness – part goat, part boy made me guess that he had never sipped a Babyccino, but he could deliver a calf and strip an engine. My urbane toddler hoofed his way into the cockpit of a tractor and gurned appreciatively. 

The party was interesting – nearly 3 somethings are the same everywhere. The mums all know each other, communicate hourly on Social Media and had spent weeks of planning and days of craftwork creating a brilliant party. The men turned up and were then re-routed to the pub where we spent three hours. I even drank a pint of Stella quickly to prove my manliness before queasily sipping soda and lime and slipping an Oemeprozole into my peanuts. For the mothers this was another 3 hours solo toddler entertaining, for Didsbury Wife, outnumbered. No talking , just a frenzy of E numbers, accidents and rinsing trousers. We returned triumphantly having bonded and avoided politics (there were southerners) and I did my parental duty feeling lovely middle-class guilt. I also saw a new life – one called the 1970s where men could avoid engaging with their children or making a contribution – it looked a bit beige. To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of Pampers first thing in the morning.”
The guest house in the country was stunning. Run by the non-Jewish, 40 something version of My Didsbury Mum, we were fed home made biscuits and fresh coffee, pampered and generally treated like aristocracy for a wonderful 18 hours.  

   
 But in every life there are battles. There are challenges that must be faced, parapets that must be stood upon. In my life I have eaten a full English or two. I have had porridge, with and without jam to start my day and I have gone to work on an egg. Toast – brown or white? Fruit? Bring it on. Coffee is a great breakfast and on occasion, a hot croissant sets you up for the day. Never have I been faced with them all on one table, in one go. Didsbury Wife and I worked and worked. I cried for trousers with an active comfort waist and eventually, as the last mushroom was chewed – silence. A Pyrrhic victory. We are definitely coming back in a couple of months once we can breathe normally again. The scene is one of carnage –  the local population are in shock.  

The Farmers Boys – In The Country

Just a simple country tale

Whilst Didsbury Son sloped off to … Chorlton (like Didsbury but with skinnier hips and less acceptable facial hair) where he could sit in the dark watching Anime with a similarly aged friend who understands his tortured genius, the rest of us headed for the country.  When Aspecto trainers meet the countryside. 
I am a huge fan of the countryside and firmly believe that all it needs is a roof, decent flooring, transport, Caffe Nero, Virgin Active, decent tapas, 4G and less cow poo to make it inhabitable. Oh and supermarkets would be a bonus.
The countryside is all about stress relief for city folk like me. There’s no chance of Wi-Fi, reception or Sky Sports so there’s no point worrying about football or the less vital news until you get near enough to a settlement to pick up 5Live. Then, after sometimes up to almost an hour with poor AM, the insistent, persistent minutiae is like a balm you love, but to which you are slightly allergic.  

 Country hens remain protective of their eggs after boiling. Many employ soldiers to help

Anyway – with only 4 bags, 2 nap sacks, a food suitcase, an armful of plastic toys and a Didsbury Dad Car Moose filled to the brim we set off for 24 hours out of M20. The event was a big party for children who are 3 in the next month. The twins have been asking if it was their birthday for weeks so this was a day without context, but with cake and a bouncy castle – somewhere in Warwickshire. 

I set the SatNav for “Middle of Nowhere” and off we set; to Caffe Nero. When he was small I drummed into Didsbury Son that a journey of 1000 Miles (or anything involving the M6) begins with a single coffee. This is when I realised that my babies are Didsbury through and through. As I returned to the car the wailing began. Two toddlers united in one grief. 

“Daddy, daddy. Where’s My Babyccino?”

To Be Continued: in the next episode we find a traffic jam on the M6, snacks run short, the toddlers fall asleep, we reach the party; night follows day. 

Westfest15, Bradley Folds and David Beckham 

The Didsburyest  – #Westfest15, Bradley Folds and David Beckham. 

 even the yellow lines look effortlessly cool. 

Westfest seemed a great success. From Former City star Michael Johnson’s new bar on the corner of Nell Lane (I must admit that this is on my route home and for months during renovation I thought that the portaloo by the front door was a bold new design feature) to Eve’s Retreat it rocked nonchalantly, coolly and was family and hipster friendly.
Last time I saw that many tureens and tables and chairs outside was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. We Mooched down on Saturday afternoon. The programme had not made it clear that essentials included beards, babies and specific dog breeds (French or English Bulldog, Daschund, anything under 12 inches high). Luckily, we came with two strollers and stubble but at one point there were so many ironic beards around a table I thought I was in Chorlton.
It hit the spot. Volta’s food, drink and bonhomie were faultless and Folk’s flags flew brightly. Chocolate Martinis, Kangaroo Burgers, a BBQ party to match an unforgettable family bash outside The Epicurean and a constant queue outside “And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon” that should see them gold plated. The whole place smelled fantastic as Namaste, Wendy and Mary & Archie blended and the perfect warm-up for The Bradley Folds Allotment Open Day. It felt independent, Didsbury and a great combination. Well done. It was the perfect warm up for the Bradley Folds Allotments’ Vegetable Sale.
Which I didn’t make. Instead Didsbury Wife and I teamed up with two other sets of toddler parents for a trip to… Lancashire / near Liverpool. More foreign travel. This time we went to Windmill Farm. I had forgotten how great a trip to the petting zoo is. As with all successful days out this started with good food. We arrived. We ate. 
I engaged. I took the Mighty Headed Boy down a zipwire and after I fell off (7-8 inches) he has already sworn off going with me again but I had a ball. Whilst all the under 6s were too scared to feed the goats and sheep, the barn was full of dads reducing their blood press to double figures with an hour stroking animals under the guise of childcare.
My Pearly Princess thought the Alpaca was a Giraffe and this has made her week. She didn’t want her ice cream, which Foghorn Leghorn ate and that made his. I cannot recommend this enough and it set me thinking that this would be the perfect use for Cafe Rouge or Inman’s. Never mind the usual calls for a Waitrose, a niche Sauna or Didsbury’s first day spa (sic). What we need in M20 is something missing since the last goat in Fog Lane was poisoned some time in the 80s – a Petting Zoo. 

Postcards from Murcia 5/4 – The Epitaph, Didsbury 1 0 Murcia

Postcards from Murcia 5/4 – 

Didsbury 1 Murcia 0We landed easily, fought our way through Passport Control and Baggage reclaim – a broken stroller souring the mood.  

 Savaged by Baggage Handlers
I find that however keen I am to stay on holiday that the first flat-vowelled Passport Officer and the first nasal “Yor-ite” remind me of how much I love this sceptred chunk of the North West: but not this time.
We arrived home slightly low, a great holiday shaded by its proximity to work, school, nursery and cold mornings. Except the Pearly Princess whose paleness had found the constant Spanish heat difficult and had made her quieter than usual. As we stepped into the damp mulch of British summertime she grew, her voice returned and as pulling into Didsbury she whooped and clapped – which perked us up. 

 ready for some Mancunian cool

Four hours later Didsbury Son fell quickly into a pain that needed a speedy drive (still in shorts and sunglasses) to Children’s A&E. He is fine now, but needed an operation and is a bit sore.

My trepidation at coming home and the feeling of general malaise dispelled by the ease of getting from Didsbury to A&E in 15 minutes, the care he received from everyone and the quality of the drugs. Three of Manchester’s longstanding cornerstones.
Drains the tan a bit too quickly, but did feel like another rite of passage all around. 

Postcards from Murcia 4/4 – This Much I Know.

This much I have learned about family holidays as 39 years and 39 months sail into the distant past and the dread of another 6 years primary school edutainment looms into view:
1. The only advantage to flying with small children is priority loading. This does not compensate for knowing that your only chance of getting someone’s kit off in the plane toilet on board is if they’ve had an accident.
2. That the villa comes complete with Sky Sports and Movies only adds to your frustration that the only channels you’ll be surfing are CBeeBies, Pop and Didsbury Son’s Russell Howardathon on Comedy Central. 
3. Going through security is now one of the best bits. Watching stern security guards trying to deal with The Mighty Headed Boy’s button pressing and Foghorn Leghornesque questions and being hugged by the Pearly Princess can be a joy to behold.  

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4. You would not think you had enough water in you to sweat as much as you do for the first 50 miles in your hire car. Your mantra “stick to the right, priority to the left” will haunt your dreams. 
5. Looking around the baby pool at the other parents I realised I was the only one who remembered the peseta and Laurie Cunningham playing for Real Madrid. 
6. My twins were the only boddlers not weeing in the swimming pool. They both insisted on getting out, standing next to the pool and weeing on the ground for an audience.
7. My holiday extravagances are more likely to lead to gout than a night of excess and a slight feeling of guilt.
8. I don’t judge anyone by their tattoos unless they are British and their tattoos are Sanskrit, Japanese, Chinese or Latin (football club mottos excluded), then I do judge them. 
9. Crisps taste better in the sun.
10. Wherever I go in the world, however deflated I am to return to Britain, the first flat voweled voice I hear at Passport Control reminds me this is home.
Home now and ready for the damp descent to autumn and those lovely winter nights when the ground shines and your breath leads you home. Good luck everyone. 

Postcard from Murcia 3/4 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be school buses running and no crappy punning or Russell Howard… It’s the most wonderful week OF THE YEEEEAAAAR. 
Eight weeks. Eight weeks with a 14 year old Didsbury Son. Eight Weeks with toddlers who lack volume control and tag sleep to keep us on our toes. And on September 2, school, nursery, routine and occasional quiet.  

 My mood board of ideas for downtime

I love being Didsbury Dad. I love all three of them equally and completely but the similarities between two year olds and fourteen year olds are many.
Both are great fun and their myopic take on laugh can be insightful and entertaining.
For both, life – completely self-focused at all times centres on “I want” and on pushing boundaries, flouncing around and over-reacting. Both are driven (and on holiday) riven by sugar but…
One has seemingly forgotten basic sharing life etiquette and two of them are cute enough to still get away with it.
Last year Didsbury Son reached teendom on holiday and the event itself was such a good day we slid into teenland as though at a water park. We toasted it, watched Kevin the Teenager and all laughed at its ludicrousness. This year Kevin has a room of his own in our lovely Villa and it’s all my fault. 
He is still our lovely Didsbury Son but the vagueness, often charmless, over reactive, hormone-fuelled moodiness of young teenage boys who are ultimate Inbetweeners is joyful and excruciating in equal measure.
At times he is so vague I feel I need to draw a line around him to make sure he is there and many conversations resemble a chat with someone who has been drinking all day and is now three to four seconds behind themselves. 
My years of parenthood, meditation, actualisation and a degree in Psychology make no difference. There is one aspect more awful than the rest. In lucid and calm moments I look at the awkwardness of Didsbury Son and remember being exactly the same.
Eight weeks to half-term. 

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