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 category “boxing day”

Lego, Trump and Guantanamo.

The Mighty Headed boy and I have spent the last hour or two making lego. We’ve built a thingy, a few seats and something that would look good in Guantanamo Bay High Security wing. Small hands, big plans

My job has been to lie on the floor and do what I’m told. (How many first dates have ended that way?) I am the lego separator and the audience for his commentary that has continued with the persistent pragmatism usually reserved for a land invasion with air support. 

Your average sports commentator would have had to refer to pundit, co-commentator and catering by now. Not here. All that has been needed is an occasional Starburst. 90 minutes of commentary, songs about the continents, occasionally Jesus and infrequent random shouting have accompanied the building of a tower as improbably conceived as the new president’s golden erection in New York. (Incidentally the boy also reflects the president in blaming others when questioned. The Hula Hoop investigation continues. The Mighty-Headed Boy. The lego is actually four feet high. 

This has been soothing in ways expensive therapies can only get near. It takes me back to being Didsbury Son’s sounding board as he 

Created worlds I could not imagine and found entertainment where I saw a cul de sac. 
I think I am lucky. I was happy with 0, 1 and 3 heirs to the Didsbury Eczema. To have a second run at the golden years when you are essentially an heroic Climbing Frame that produces Kinder Eggs on demand is usually worth the sleep depravation, joint damage, worry, money consuming, intimacy disabling Years that are behind and ahead of me. Tourists

A New Dawn. Not always a good morning

What a week. It has been huge whatever your politics, the changes have been seismic. As an avowed liberal, with lefty intentions and a distaste for dogma – my “Live and let live” philosophy has been tested. My pacifist facade was dented by breaking out into cheering when a masked protestor punched a smug far-rightist live on TV. I found the Women’s March uplifting and Grayson Perry’s comment that “you won’t find a babysitter left in North London” the kind of self-aware reasoning I love. Let’s hear it for the Metropolitan, Metrosexuals, the liberals. We may park badly and have too many kitchen implements but whatever your religion, ethos or kink; it’s your business. (*obviously if any of the children came home and seriously wanted to follow Man United or give up Houmous I may need a rethink). We scatter these Basil Leaves over organic Mozarella as a symbol of freedom. 



The great thing about family life is that it levels any great stance you take and it’s constant rhythm cannot be ignored. Your priorities are not always your children’s. 
Didsbury Wife and I were about to try and digest Didsbury Son’s confession that he hadn’t watched the inauguration but had seen some memes on Snapchat (is it just Snap now? Or Chat? Or hell for parents of teenagers?) when the toddler’s clarion call for bottom wiping came from the bathroom. Prioriities are clear. Noddy and Big Ears symbolise the kind of accepting partnership we need going forward. 

Our outraged viewing of Trumpy and Melon and cooing over Barrack and Michelle was interrupted as it was boring and we’d promised they could watch Numberjacks. As it turned out this was a good move. Zero the Hero resonated. 

I have tried to think of reasons to celebrate beyond feeling smugly educated and not that fat as I watched this dangerous man take power and his supporters being interviewed. They may be in power now, the blight of Nationalism is rearing its putrid head. But. This is what I came up with. 
1. It has given me a chance to get out my Redskins collection and play “Neither Washington Nor Moscow” a lot. 
2. Late on Friday night after everyone had gone to bed I sat up and had a contemplative cup of tea. As the tea brewed I remembered a Twirl at the bottom of my work bag. There are few solo pleasures that beat hot tea and a Twirl with The Archers on in the background on iPlayer. Rob Tichener sacked, next step Washington. 
3. Every time I doubt my own sanity I just think of the mammoth I saw on TV from “Ohio Against Satanists” and feel better.
4. We are probably having the same conversations we had when George W Bush came in. It just seems more gung-ho, more nasty and less to do with anything noble. 
5. Didsbury Son has it covered and if he needs a balaclava to go out protesting I have one ready for him. 
The Redskins – Bring It Down https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RgaAKP3Pd8o

The Life Domestique and Things I Will Never Do.

  Inspiration comes in many forms

This morning I am all about altruism. Knowing that in the game of competitive tiredness it’s the space above your eyebrows that gives you away, I took one for the team.

The Pearly Princess was in my bed before I was. An hour broken by kicking (her) and snoring (me) later I ushered Didsbury Wife to the spare room. In our house this is an act of supreme sacrifice. It currently has the best bed and is the quietest room in the house. 

What followed was being shifted around the mattress by a 4 year old girl with the moving capability of a JCB. That was before The Mighty Headed Boy made a 4am entrance reminiscent of Chris Eubank in his prime. He jumped in, head-butted me and fell asleep at an angle that left me with one foot on the floor and no hope of duvet. 

We danced, argued, watched Chloe’s Closet on my phone allowing me 8 minute bursts of sleep before I gave up and got up.

There was a tip to get to, an “our washing machine’s broken this week” worth of laundretting and in my head I wanted to keep them out long enough for Didsbury Wife to catch that rarest of parental dreams, waking naturally. 

We had a lovely two hours, broken only by intermittent rushes due to toilet calls wrong time, wrong place. 

This much I know I’ll never do…

1. Driving past the tip 10 minutes before it opens there was already a road-blocking queue. Why? Do you want to be the first bin bag in the skip? Is your family so abysmal that waiting in line as though there was rationing is ok? Never.  No no no

2. Buy The Daily Mail or The Sun. No laundrette stay is long enough to justify giving money or time to these divisive, hypocritical, dangerous rags. (However good the sports section seems). 

3. Clean the car in the drive at a weekend. I may not be Mr Rock’n’Roll any more but neither am I “Terry & June”.

4. Start a conversation in a laundrette… again. I prefer Supernanny for tips on raising children, immigration and well, everything.
5. Interrupt a small child watching Blaze & The Monster Machines. You’d get a better reaction tagging a teenager on Facebook with their primary school pictures.
Everything else is negotiable. 

A Brief History of Time (With Snacks)

Is it autumn already. Everyone went back to school and brought home brand new infections. Last week we had summer, winter and storms so vicious Facebook asked me to confirm I was safe. Safe? This is The North. I sent the children out to chase the lightning and see if there were reductions on any rain-damaged produce around the city. Staff at Fletcher Moss dress up for “Bring Your Kids to Work” day. 

The nights have drawn in. I don’t know what “drawn in” means. Certainly not coloured in. The boddlers are back to waking up in the dark. Didsbury Son’s teenage retreat to his room now has the cover of darkness and Didsbury Wife is eyeing up the central heating and (breathes out) Match of the Day is back. 

Didsbury continues to evolve quickly and sometimes surprisingly. Those old enough to remember 2014 (we were part of Europe, Scotland was part of the UK and BBC owned Great British Bake-Off) will recall the shock as Co-Op rebranded, toyed with the idea of being called Copo and even had tables outside for a couple of weeks. These primarily provided easy dog lead tying and Big Issue displaying opportunities. 

Now Greggs are following suit. On Saturday 8 October it bursts out from the shadow of 3 Little Pigs and Toni & Guy as a new “Artisan” Greggs. With Bisou Bisou’s bespoke Gallic beauty and Casa Italia’s specialist nosh this could be a disaster waiting to happen (Or a “Nido” as we call it). Is the Gregg’s Sausage Roll about to become a herb-infused Wild Boar Empanadas? Are the staff getting polo necks? Time will tell. 

Picture courtesy of @craftwords

There’s more. The MMU site has developed from desolate to building site via a short stint as a Caravan Park. This is going to bring an awful lot of middle-class professionals and relocating aspirational suburbanites to Didsbury. How will they ever fit in? 
Elders foretell of the great Manchester Storm of 2016.

The roads into the centre of the village become ever more blocked. Nero and Costa’s Red and Blue bookending of the village now makes them seem like old, established family businesses. 

The beard epidemic which spread (it’s an apparently chin-borne virus) has now infected the majority of Didsbury’s under 30 males. This is how they look to me. 

but I still think a mullet looks good. 

But this is M20. Autumn is arguably our most beautiful time of year. Fletcher Moss and the leafy streets lend themselves to the change in light. The shops may change, the make of car parked across your road at school time may change but… there will always be Axons, Evans and The Cheese Hamlet and someone smoking a ciggie outside The Nelson. 

Summer Holidays – A quick recap

Didsbury Son is unbelievably a fully-fledged Kevin the Teenager, and still my lovely boy. The Mighty Headed Boy is unbelievably enthusiastic. The occasional time she gets a word in, my beautiful Pearly-topped princess is funny, feisty and they’re three. A baby owl gets quality time with my Pearly princess. Good maths. £2, 7 minutes quiet, no sugar rush. 

Summer Holidays and annual leave make going to work in November’s dark rush hour seem like a morning in bed listening to 5Live and sipping tea. 

Holidays are a great time to embrace new cultures.

There are lots of stories, great memories and every spat will be forgotten but here’s a quick guide to summer holidays…

“Mummy! Daddy! Muuuuuuum! Daaaaad! She/he hit, pushed, took my, won’t let me have a go, I want.”

The Mighty-Headed boy went on a careers day taster. 
(SILENCE) said slowly… “Ok. Sorry, Please, Thank You”.
He / she is in my room, broke my (insert here), 
ICE CREAM. 
I love you, I love you back, yes you can have a pony. 
“Can you take them? I’ve been up since 5.”
“5! – luxury”
Mmm Beer. 
The weather’s broken and September’s in view. Yaaaay.

Summer is all about creating great memories for the winter. 

Getting Over the Brexit Blues

Apologies for going quiet. I have written eight or nine blogs in the last two weeks. Topics have included the disappearance of the magnificent AiryFairyCupcake on School Lane – why? Was it something we didn’t say? Its replacement by a Babyscanner is genius. The nearest is in Old Trafford and if we know one accessory always popular in M20 it’s a baby. We were offered one so early in the Twins’ development they would have still liked like dust under the carpet and my advice is be careful, at 20 weeks they still look like an outtake from Alien. 

I also wrote about the Viz gonad sign coming down in the village, the replacement of summer with a repeating week from Autumn and the trials of coordinating family, work, health and the European Championships. Boris Johnson’s post Brexit strategy document was less than impressive.

None has made it past notes. Each has turned into a self-pitying rant and call to arms for the soul of the nation split by the ridiculous Etonian argument. Since we voted to leave Europe (when I say “we” I mean the whole herd, not our bit grazing happily on focaccia obviously) I have moped, railed, cried, feared and read a lot of clever articles that would have been brilliant a week earlier. Had these tremendous minds talked in advance rather than pointing and saying “Told you so” afterwards it may have been different. They remind me of the Donald Trump & Nigel F*rage memes that have filled social media over the last year. Whilst we’ve chuckled and “liked” their crassness and the ease of satirising them, they have both hoovered up votes and influence. They talked to people too easily dismissed.

I’m sure some people voted “no” with positive intentions and I hope I’m wrong. I’m fairly used to being in the minority. BUT for those thinking this will re-invigorate the job market and bring wages, standards and vitality up – you must be too young to remember 79-97 and why New Labour and their domestic policies were met with such gusto. I’m digging out my Redskins records and preparing to find happiness in different ways. 

Revised post-vote integrated transport system for Manchester

Have a look at his Jonathan Pye video – says it better than I ever could. 

So as a Didsbury Dad so far past 39 that when I first heard about “Thatcher the milk snatcher” I thought it was a new character on Scooby Doo, this much I know.

1. Democracy is vital and I believe in it and will know longer use terms like bellend or mispronounce Jeremy Hunt when talking to people who voted “Brexit”, even those who thought it was “Brisket” and they were voting for a decent meat sandwich.

2. Over a decade as a Didsbury Dad has taught me that 90% of what I say is ignored, 5% is misunderstood and 5% is disputed. But at least I can add up. 

3. I feel personally responsible for the demise of TheAiryFairy Cupcake shop. When we moved house I gave up cupcakes – but sadly took up the pistachio biscuits and pain au raisins from Bisou Bisou

 4. I miss Cafe Rouge. It was originally a pre-work tryst location when I first met Didsbury Wife and we evolved with it into toddler-haven in its latter days. Bring it back.

Britishcakes

5. The bar menu at Chalk is so much better than you think it will be. 
6. Falling out over politics is a waste of time, we have to work together. However, if there’s someone you’ve been trying to ditch them this is the perfect moment to take offence at their “I’m not racist but…” Comment.
7. When I found out that the Tories had won in 92 I marched, angsted and made false promises. In 2015 when we found out it was over at 10.01pm I had an early night. On 24th June I swore loudly, was genuinely shocked and had to go and get milk. The world may be falling apart but my little enclave still has to have its routine. 

 Didsbury Son walks M20’s green and pleasant land – it is only that green because the weather’s been crap. 

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. 

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. 

View from the Car Park

I am sitting in a rapidly cooling car, backed by a couple of rapidly snoring toddlers. I am watching a sun so weak the Spartans would have given it a comfy bed dissolve into its December malaise. I am staring at B&Q in Stanley Green and Costa is too far away to leave the twins and snaffle a Gluten-free Mince Pie. I spend a sizeable number of weekends here. 

The combination of TK Maxx and Next virtually within sight of John Lewis is a siren call to South Manchester and North Cheshire. The car park houses a considerable number of men trying not to wake sleeping babies, boddlers and toddlers whilst cranking up BBC 5Live just loud enough to hear the minutiae of what is happening at Orient and St. Johnstone. 

 1970s Mobile DAB Unit 

There is a strange synergy for me. I have always loved radio and the Saturday afternoon football commentary dirge. From being small, in pre instant media, pre digital, pre Channel 4 and Orangina in the shops days I would spend Saturday afternoons away from the other Didsbury grandchildren. The melee of Saturday afternoon visiting and free sweets dismissed to clamber into our tank. I listened to the football, writing every score as it came in from place names that to 70s me seemed the epitome of exotic; aah Hull you romantic fool – beckon me with constant dampness and average football. I would hang on the florid descriptions of Peter Jones, Larry Canning and the now disgraced, then disgraceful Stuart Hall.  

 Peter Jones. A genius. 

As an early adopter of OCD fan support, sitting in cars and learning how to wait patiently, these 70s Saturdays parked outside my Grandparents were a great training for fatherhood.

The lack of stranger danger and freedom to spend 3 hours in a car on my own aged 6 seem as alien now as my bonfire night memory of entertaining uncle using a lit cigarette to light the fireworks.  

 We are inside waiting for TK Maxx to open 

But I do have good handwriting and can spell Molyneux. 

Coming Up: From Sew-In to Body Bar, From Gold Beach Holidays to closed and is there a non purple Estate Agent? It’s December in Didsbury

That Friday Feeling

Things I have learned but not acted upon.  Teamwork is the key
I’ve shaved (face) and I’m sitting on Chorlton’s rather wonderful Barbakan Deli Terrace with a coffee and a peppery potato cake. It’s Friday, I’m knackered and this morning I remembered the twins but forgot work bag, gym bag, lunch bag, Pappa’s got a brand new pig bag, Bagpuss and the words to Baggy Trousers. It’s been a long week. 

 me thanks morning

The sun is making me squint and I don’t have to move for 20 minutes; bliss. It’s been so frantic recently I haven’t had time to share my usual paternal sense of slight disbelief, confusion and pride. With an age range of nappy rash to spot cream, my parenting is a giant improv trying to look like a rehearsed show. 
How do mothers get that instinct for parameters? This week, all 3 children have had my attempts at specifics end in their tantrums, calmed by the good Mothership through a little rephrasing (note to self “Look mate, just do it. Daddy’s bollocksed” does not work for the post-boddler or pre-GCSE generation). 
I have complete non-judgemental respect for any family set-up of any number, gender or age. I look at families with single mums or two mums and think it must be great when everyone knows what they’re doing. I eye up single parent dads and think that life must be like being in Tiswas or being a character in The Dice Man (Luke Reinhardt, if you haven’t … Read it).
It’s a chromosomal anomaly. I can plan a multi-stop, catered journey to the second. My books, CDs and Football Programmes are regimented and always ready for inspection. However, when the day comes that I can’t interrupt my ham fisted dressing of the Mighty-Headed boy by pretending he has flying trousers and stopping his wailing by lifting him over my head I am out of ammunition for the next decade.
Thankfully – there will always be Haribo.  

 Essential parenting skills inside

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