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 “brirish holidays”

More of the same please

 On the wall is a picture of the twins at 1-day old with my hands around their tiny heads. My pearly princess looks angry. Eyes screwed up, she is bemoaning the need for oxygen and probably hoping The Mighty Headed Boy will shut up; he hasn’t. You may not see much of old friends but you do get to pet a lot of goats.

His huge round head – like an animated bowling ball reflects a sense of anxious confusion which lasted a few weeks before settling into a bullish, balletic enthusiasm that never drops below flat out. And Alpacas

This, a picture of a hairless, toothless and smiling Didsbury Son aged 4 months and a tear stained screenshot of the winning goal in an improbable cup final are my gallery of inspiration. Mighty

This week the twins are 5. I know this without checking any calendars. I know this because I look 10 years older, have not seen any of my friends voluntarily since 2013 and my hips, elbows and knees creak like a Caribbean gazebo in a hurricane. Pearly
I’ve been through this before, but the prospect of them being 5 is terrifying and baffling. 5, that’s half a decade, add a decade to them and they’re surly strangers who no longer think I’m wonderful.
The 5 years seem like seconds and an eternity. My life pre-twins seems as distant as a Sunday afternoon black and white war film. I remember it, but it could just be a film.
It also seems like seconds ago I was showing off walking downstairs with one in each arm and they were inert smiley blobs that were 90% head. 
5. I can’t call them boddlers or toddlers at 5. I can’t pretend that they’re babies anymore – although I still think I’m slightly in shock. I can empathise with the 50 items in a big transformer type bag that new parents have, but our commonality is drifting. All I need are the occasional pair of extra pants and the ability to produce Kinder Eggs on demand. 
In every way they are a joy to me and the very busy centre of my world. Their little successes are ones I am openly a big softy about and their trials fill my thoughts. It is the most wonderful curse and one that removes you from many of the arenas and people you used to crave.
I’m a dull doting dad and I love it. In Emma Jane Unsworth’s brilliant book (soon to be film) “Animals” the response to a pregnancy announcement is “Another one lost for a decade.”

I’m halfway there and happily lost. 

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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

Hard hats, small beds and blowing bubbles

This started out as a light-hearted muse. Lapwing Lane has been turned into the Hi-Viz capital of the north. As the need for electrical upgrades takes the Chilli Banana’s road digging west of the city, more men in hard hats begin to take over.She’s starting to look old. That’s the elite for you. 

The pub formerly known as The Greenfinch, formerly known as The Bird in the Hand and now the unfathomable Generous George has had its bi-annual refit. It now has an enormous armchair outside it, Sky Sports inside and a lack of focus that really needs Learning Support. It sits in the suburban centre of M20, on the edge of Bohemia and thinks it’s a Travelodge off the M1. I’m going to petition whichever brewery is haemorrhaging a fortune to keep the playground open to turn it into a Dutch Pancake House. If we are going to throw money at dead concepts let’s go old school.

My concept for the new Generous George refit, wall to wall Lieutenant Pigeon.

Montrose Properties are having a major refit at Didsbury’s premier non-purple property centre and the skiptastic look to Lapwing Lane doesn’t end there.

Post Brexit only UK snacks will be allowed in lunch boxes. 

Pizza Express – where in the 80s I cashed my first giro (it was a post office) is having an overhaul. As it’s still always busy and every dad in Didsbury keeps an eye out for the 25% off mains offer in their inbox this is a bold move. I’m hoping to bring a review of the new doughball experience next week. 

Sneak preview of the new government housing strategy. 

The parade on Lapwing Lane is starting to resemble an al fresco Ikea. The tables and chairs outside Wine & Wallop extend to the Post Office, the furniture outside Didsbury Cafe ends at the hoardings bordering Sterling Chemists. I’m not sure if Jason’s operating a Latte and a prescription service but they’ll need softer cushions to bring in the Ultraproct crowd. 
I like Didsbury Food & Wine. Whilst Pete, Tom and Claire have Fusion buzzing and busy from early in the morning and continue to build their place as a community cafe for the proud to be liberal metropolitan dwellers (hooray for us in the middle), Didsbury Food & Wine takes a different path. The guys who run it are great. They saunter in after 10, too cool to Vape or chase the Metro commuters. They mooch, they’re laconic, they’re as not Didsbury as it gets – top place. Even when closed they have more customers than Didsbury Noodles and seem as relaxed as the punters walking out of Eve’s Retreat into the non table and chair end of Lapwing Lane’s shops. 
I was going to make light of this and the sad closure of Salon M20, once the fish foot nibbling centre of the village. It leaves three empty shops in a row and we are screaming for a firework shop and a few pop ups. (Although Waitrose would work).
I was. But it’s 2.30am and I’ve been awake for a long time worrying. The Oemeprozole and Camomile didn’t work. I’ve segued seamlessly between the usual triumvate of work, money, health. Trudged through the ever-depressing Brexit fallout, Theresa Thatcher (or is it Maggie May) and the general air of nastiness around. I’ve navel-gazed so deeply I thought I heard an echo. 
I used to lie awake worrying about football, girls and whether I could find girls who like football.
During the recession before last a friend of mine came up with a board game based on the idea of building your own bubble. The idea dissolved into a vodka in The Old Grey Horse but the intention works. 
I am now squeezed into a child’s bed with the mighty headed boy inching me over the edge. I’m breathing in his innocence and general joy at being alive. His hand is on my chest and he’s snorting gently and rhythmically down my ear, reminding me that this is my bubble and no one gets in here unless I let them. Family

Home is not just a cinema or the church cafe

. When Felicini’s became the Mudflap cafe I nearly cried. It’s glossy black sign and euphemistic name was a part of my history and stood proudly in the same giggling pointlessness of changing The Cheese Hamlet to Helmet. Now, with the stripped back wood still settling in to Gregg’s and an eviscerated Inman’s being re-imagined as Thai favourite The Chilli Banana I am almost out of my depth.
felicinsmud-crabfutureistic-pic evolution
At least it’s only 8 months until Didsbury Festival returns in its usual format – unchanged since Bonnie Prince Charlie led the procession, which featured the 88th Scouts.
This is Didsbury. A wheel turning and creating new identities – including cash converting, laser surgery, fifteen diet clubs and an ever growing coterie of Pet Grooming services. Only 86% of trading premises in Didsbury serve coffee, 71% cut hair (human or canine). Didsbury Library is a portal to 1973. I go there when I only have tuppence ha’penny and need a cup of tea (coffee not being invented until The Premier League started in 1992).
The other big news is that Didsbury Dad Towers is no longer in Didsbury. We are now a castle, a Didsbury Diaspora outpost.
In a year that has seen us cough up more in Stamp Duty than the national debt we have moved twice. First out of the village to near the river and now, out of town.
We have moved so far away that we are the cultural diversity. It’s a city, it’s semi-rural and it’s not Didsbury.
So I am part-time Didsbury Dad. I am still working in my capacity as Meeja Luvvie doing something non-specific in MediaCity – but only weekdays.
It is strange. All Didsbury Son has known is Didsbury. My life with Didsbury Wife has been played out to the backdrop of Piccolino and Barlowmoor Road. The Mighty Headed Boy and the Pearly Princess are Harriet & Dee. But. We have begun to sever the link for a period of time.
It’s only been a few weeks and it’s still a bit like being on holiday. It does make you realise how easy it can be living somewhere that is the edge of the metropolis, has travel options to envy and it’s all in walking distance.
It’s early days yet. I have had to develop a whole new rhythm to each day. I am a little lost without my morning fix of Pete, Tom and Claire at Fusion Deli after a cheery wave from Darren at Delia’s Florist. There is no Piccolino, Bisous Bisous, St. James & Emmanuel and I don’t know everyone.
This has great advantages. When I get my Fusion fix the coffee tastes great and I have stories to share. I now know just how good New Peking House is and sometimes the anonymity is liberating.
I think I will always be a Didsbury Dad wherever we live. My Gamma Male, liberal approach to life on the Focaccia line is settled. We may be away for a short time or for good, not decided yet. But Didsbury Wife, Son and I are M20 raised and made and know the difference between a good idea and some of the money pit no chances that we’ve seen trying to cash in on the perceived wealth in Didsbury.
The boddlers are still confused. On Saturday, as we perused the rolling hills and unfamiliar accents that surround us, they clamoured for the sweet shop on Dene Road. As we walked through the Metrolinkless roads they wondered where all the Magic Buses were.
Starting from scratch after a life in the subsidised suburban bliss of M20 is exciting. But I think we’ll be coming regularly. It’s not just home, a river runs through it.

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

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. 

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