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 “March, 2016”

Call Centre Hell

I have always been an early adopter. In the 70s at junior school I dressed in hats that Elton John would bring to the stage later that decade. In the 80s I pioneered wearing full New Romantic make-up to football games without getting battered and co-promoted 808 State in a Discoteque. I helped bring poetry into the digital age and had a beard when your average Chorlton Hipster still thought McFly were… Fly.

Anyway it’s happened again. I am Victor Meldrew a decade and a half early. I hate it, but it’s true. The disappointment of my first genuinely middle-aged tantrum could see me dig out the Henry Root letters for inspiration. 

 A rant

People love to tell you how moving into a house is just the start of the hard work. They are right. It’s not the unpacking, the boxes, the door handles that have broken at the sight of a toddler or the papier mache wall consistency in the one room you forgot to check. All of these make chatting with an Estate Agent seem easy compared to my new hell. 

The most difficult aspect of moving is dealing with the underpaid, badly-informed, uneducated, uncaring, script driven donkeys whose lack of customer service skills, knowledge of their own companies and ability to have an unscripted conversation is so frustrating I found myself shouting “I don’t believe it” just to remind myself I shouldn’t be taking it so seriously. 

 not a picture of a manager at a call centre for a major broadcaster

In a week when events in Brussels have once again shown an awful disdain for life, born from too much conviction channelled down a negative path, perhaps I should welcome the indifference of Generation Y. 

 Talking to one particularly annoying operative in Virgin “Media’s” Glasgow outpost I had two thoughts. 1) I bet Usain Bolt doesn’t get put on hold for 14 minutes. 2) only by threatening to turn off the Wi-Fi could I get a response. Then I remembered – that is why I had called. 

 After days and days of fruitless, pointless calls with Virgin, BT and other less labyrinthine organisations I actually love Axa. At least they are polite and coherent as they tell you they can’t help. 
My denouement was the almost delivery of toddler beds. I’m off work with my version of a war wound. I received a text so specific it said to be available from 12.34 to 3.34pm. At Midday precisely I set off on the 7 minute trek to the village; sated by the Face-to-Face 4 minute experience of Mailboxes I returned. So Mildrew-like have I become I even checked the time as I approached Didsbury Dad Haven; 12.18 cushty.
At 2.26 I went for a mooch and saw a card by the front door from XPD with a “Called at 12.18”. Genuinely, over the next half hour of arguing with ever senior staff (I think my final palm off was almost 22) I thought I might explode with a rage I cannot ever recall having against another living being. (I’ve just remembered someone beginning with R from 1987). 
The best I managed was some slightly patronising takedowns of his argument. I felt like Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You retreating to fustiness when realising he was beaten. The leap to instant defensive aggression, followed by scripted repetition was too much to bear.  
So I await tomorrow’s timeslot armed with the information that I need to give it 30 minutes, not 16 either side of the timeslot as apparently I don’t know how logistics work. He was right, but I know it’s not spelled with a J in the middle.  

 Calm place, calm place. Any parent coordinating breakfast on a school/nursery day could have a go at the flight pattern over Heathrow let alone getting a van to a house in a 3-hour window. 

The Open University and Trout vs Salmon

I am once again surrounded. To my left, one hand on my earlobe- coughing up a pre-Calpol storm is The Mighty Headed Boy. His pre-sleep tantrum included a sequence that from the couch looked like Michael Jackson moonwalking and had me cursing the fact my phone was charging. It made Charlie Bit My Finger look like a 70s Open University lecture. 
To my right the Pearly-Topped Princess is wrapped around me like the ivy on our new home, only welcome.
Their breathing has not yet slipped down into that unwakeable deepness. I love this period. It filters into all the things men like most about parenting small children (adoration, feeling needed, adoration, quiet time to watch Sky Sports News HQ).
I would love to drop off with them but I am flat on my back and the gentle snoring of a 40-something Didsbury Dad with a chest cold may shake the plaster, let alone interrupt an afternoon nap.
These moments give me time to think through the important things in life. Should I re-install Football Manager Handheld? Is a trout a lo-fi Salmon? What should I have for brunch? Brunch is Didsbury for my lovely wife let me have a lie-in today. So I think I’ll just count a few blessings before I proceed. 

Sunday Morning, just me and The Twins

It’s the morning after the night before and I am currently remembering why a) I never have a drink unless the toddlers are in another city and b) at 4am, 3 hours after you were expansively telling everyone how much you love them, you love no one, least of all yourself.   Within minutes the plate this came in resembled post war Dresden. 
I have been blessed in many ways from football to knowing how to debone a chicken. But these gifts pale into the shadows next to the pain of The Mighty Headed Boy rotating his three favourite questions. “Is it morning?”, “Can we go downstairs?” “Daddy, I’ve got you a …. (Insert pretend item from one of many games now scattered across the floor) from 3am. All delivered at a volume that pays homage to Motorhead and at a distance that shows the same respect for personal space that makes going to the toilet a spectator sport. Bless them. I’m counting down to 11am when their early start catches up and they crash for an hour’s peace whilst Didsbury Wife and I do something constructive. Constructive being either a little competitive tiredness bragging or picking things from the floor for round 2, the afternoon. 
 my mind – empty
So right now I am doing parenting by the manual. Not Gina Ford or any of the well meaning stuff, but pragmatic – time to sit down for a brew parenting guide. 

The Mighty Headed boy and the Pearly Princess are sitting on the couch being babysat by Postman Pat and Duggee. They have cake for breakfast and probably need to be reminded to go to the toilet before one or other is sitting in the shallow end. I am having a cup of tea and thinking about the flow of life. 

 not last night’s menu

When you have twin babies you are a tourist attraction. Friends, families and unwelcome strangers cannot keep away from you, your home or your buggy in the street.
When you have twin toddlers you are as welcome as an Estate Agent in a room full of people with social skills. People who want you and eight, uncoordinated limbs that will break everything in their sticky grasp, sitting underneath a voice box whose volume is close to piercing most of the time are strangely hard to find. 
We are lucky to have a babysitter whose young age belies a manner and heart that makes boddler care look easy. However, whereas the sight of gurgling, inert, easy to manage babies has throngs getting broody and planning an early night, it ends there. People see us in the park and book vasectomies. 
But then it changes. The paracetamol kicks in, the tea rehydrates and we have a game of balloons. This is followed by two happy campers hanging from my head as we watch Blaze (Dora the Explorer with Cars and very popular). I inhale the lovely scent of little ones, ignore the scent of nighttime pull-up and bask in this adoration that I know will eventually be replaced by self-awareness and teenage angst. 

The Darkside of Destiny and Didsbury

It’s 20 years this June since the Manchester bomb. 15th June, a date imprinted on personal, professional and collective psyche for many reasons. England beat Scotland 2-0 – I never saw it. One of my closest friends got married – I had to miss it. A live event I had spent nearly a year planning was due in Castlefield Arena that night – it never happened. In my media-luvvy, Mr Manchester days it was big and memorable for none of the reasons I imagined. This blog is not about the bomb, the city or its aftermath. It’s about organisation.
We put the gig on four days later and 8000 people turned up. In my pre-Daddy days when it was only viewers, listeners or punters who interested me I loved to organise. On grass, in squares, basements, on screen or via audio I produced, promoted, presented and am proud to have negotiated and organised Babel-Esque crews. Yet no series, festival or Hitman & Her Under 18s Disco could prepare me for moving house and dealing with a certain Estate Agent (not purple) 

 insert name here

We are now “in”. We finally have a garden, a little bit more space and anxious cats locked in an unfamiliar kitchen. It still feels as though we are in a holiday let. It feels big but is currently cluttered with boxes. We don’t quite know how anything works, we’ve broken several things and the new bathroom seems exotic.  

 Cats love change

Didsbury Son is happy and the twins chase and play, relishing the space and the den/hide and seek opportunities of two floors crammed with boxes. 

I’m now not sure about leaving or staying in Europe, it seems a lot of hassle. Moving half a mile and staying in Didsbury has been so traumatic that I doubt myself in ways a teenager at a house party would find impressive.

When we actually met the lovely people whose house we were buying they weren’t the snarling, hate-filled and impatient harpies we had been led to expect by the estate agent and the process; they were reasonable and seemed equally relieved that we weren’t looking for £10 discount because the forecast was for snow in March. We shook hands, swapped keys, exchanged pleasantries and we both had Good Luck cards to give. 

There were moments during the move when I felt I was in an 80s Estate Agents’ sitcom. When I say moments I mean October to End of February inclusive. They vied for least professional, most aggressive contact. If I wasn’t sure about whether or not it was libellous I might use terms such as “pointlessly aggressive”, “unhelpful to the point of obstructive” and “undermining, know-it-all unable to grasp the basics of customer service. “; but I won’t as I am sure they have families who they love and love them. 

So we are here. Didsbury Dad Towers was emptied and Didsbury Son skipped out happily, building the boddlers a great snowman in our… Garden. 
We already miss our old neighbours, but have met some new fellow Didsbury Dads, Wives, Sons, Daughters and others. The house still smells strange, the scent of other lives receding as the overpowering smell of Lynx and used Cat Litter takes over.

My saviour was the process of moving. I was finally able to organise, coordinate and back time. This cathartic day in February expunged the previous four months and we arrived on time and on budget. 

I realise that talk of apprenticeships and psychometric testing are overrated in preparation compared to the attritional, money-leaching, strength-sapping process of house buying in Didsbury.  
 Classy times never fade. 

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