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 “Cameron v Benitez, who is more unpopular”

Back in the bosom of Didsbury

The Final Week.

It is done. This endless summer break is finally finished. We can pour our progeny into shoes they will hate after months of flip flops and trainers. Parents everywhere are counting the grey hairs, plastic tat and branded/chocolate bribes that litter these last sunny days before the descent into autumn.Our new French Bulldog Max relaxing in Didsbury Park

If I ever see Boss Baby, Barbie or Hotel Transylvania again I will cry.

When my pearly headed princess scrolls through Netflix (or as we call it, Auntie Netta the babysitter) I realise I know all the words to each episode of Boss Baby. I can could even smile empathetically at Templeton’s anxieties. I am beaten.My Bosu Body Bar themed date night didn’t work out.

Moving back to Didsbury with a post GCSE Didsbury Boy and 5 year old twins fuelled by sunlight and sugar has been only slightly less tiresome than trying to keep up with the retail changes to M20. A carpet shop, two craft cafes, a clothes shop, FFS and only 16 new restaurants and hairdressers.These will soon enunciate only the flattest of vowels.

Didsbury Boy is now at an age and stage where he does not want to feature in these stories. What I have learned from 4 years of parenting a teen is sobering. It focuses on self-perception. The rise of digital communication means that current teens are more different to us, than us to our grandparents. The other lesson learned is that however cool you think you are, however vivid your memory, a decade and a half of being a Didsbury Dad drains all direct memory of teen intention; good.

My children have returned to this sceptred village with non Mancunian accents. A month back has already started to thankfully flatten their vowels. But there are still consonants at the beginning of many words that need to be lost.The View from the new playground in Didsbury Park is stunning.

Didsbury Village is much changed, but is still the same. Here are the top 5 things that have caught my eye so far.

1 Caffè Nero has complimentary copies of The Daily M*il. Nobody has brought this paper in Didsbury since 1976 unless they were being ironic. What is going on?

2 I miss the students. The shutting of the Poly (or MuMu) as it’s now known, has robbed the village of some of its liveliness. The cost of the housing replacing it means it’s new residents won’t be able to afford a meal out until 2022 at the earliest.

3 It’s the rise of the small. The Mudflap Felicini has finally and sadly lots its battle and shut down, following Cantina and probably just ahead of Tinto (I hope not). But a reinvented Bosu, The corner kitchen that was RBS and B.lend et al look busy and happy.

4 Saints & Scholars has had a rebrand. Thankfully it looks the same and is still there. It has a similar influence in Didsbury to the ravens in the tower. S&S and Kansas Fried Chicken buck every trend, have seen off every concept and have become iconic. The pictures of the “food” at Kansas are 20th Century. It was there when vinyl didn’t need a revival.

5 The Mosaic gifted to Didsbury by Made from Manchester and Cal is a present of which we can be proud. It is well designed, sassy and a fitting and permanent reminder of a lovely boy. I first saw it late on my first night back and that… made me happy to be home in M20.

Next time – How Love Island and Brexit brought down The Happy Garden.

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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. 

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

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. 

Snoring, sneezing and big big love

Didsbury Dad Mansions is Snot Central right now. The house resounds to the sound of coughing and of
noses being blown. Tissues are secreted around the house like little cat toys. My pearly-topped princess sniffs as though this terrible scourge will never end. Competitive sleep deprivation has a new friend and has taken a back seat. Yesterday, my catarrhal morning croak and sub Barry White vocal register won a lie-in til 8. Today Didsbury Wife returned early and forlorn from her morning run. A night on the Sinutab and an early morning Heffalump movie meant I had no answer, dressing duties were mine.This general spluttering which began in nursery, came home, went to work, to school, to home, to nursery, to family, to school and back is one of the Manchester-living selling points not often promoted. “Come to Manchester, once Cottonopolis – go home with an Upper Respiratory infection.”

When I got to the platform there was no one to moan with.

lurgy – visual representation 

It also ties in nicely with one of our greatest national celebrations, National Snoring Week (25-29 April – strapline “It’s just the way I’m lying”).

After the confusion of an early Easter and a late Passover, the liberal angst of St. George’s Day is closely followed by the pointlessness of National Snoring Week. Turns out this is not about promoting snoring as a postmodern family pursuit. There are no articles that begin, ” Embrace the sound of your loved ones having a good sleep after their nightcap. Good times, leave your cares behind, just come along and drift into restfulness and prove you could fall sleep in a Steelworks.”The British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association (not to be confused with the Association of British Snorers & Sleep Apnoea Appreciators) are having a field day. There is free postage all week (www.britishsnoring.co.uk) and a range of products that seem to have escaped from either a GCSE Chemistry lab or are a zip short of Ann Summers Gimpware. 

saving Private Kitty

I have a friend. Erm, Withington Dad, who apparently snores (obviously it doesn’t disturb him). We thought a more useful set of products could include Rib protectors for that jab telling you to get off your back, earplugs so you aren’t disturbed by being told to shut up or a long straw so if one wakes up with a dry mouth from a couple of hours catching flies and singing guttural chants you don’t have to try and find the water next to your bed. It’s a common conversation between couples everywhere. But as a great philosopher once said, “Show me a man who does not snore and I will show you a man doing no childcare…
Junior Doctors solidarity poster   

(or drinking coffee, alcohol, being overweight, eating too late, staying up watching TV, sleeping badly, finding out there are consequences to years of partying or generally being a man.)

Chic – Good Times: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8g6bUe5MDRo

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. 

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

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. 

Postcard from Murcia 2/4: Feeling Philosophical 

The two/teen summer holiday is sadly almost at an end. It has been wonderful and uplifting, occasionally restful, very hot, over-budget, funny and much-needed.
  The hire car – a Mercedes in name only, whose scratches gave it character and acceleration reminded one of an Austin Maestro

I have read a book, which already puts it ahead of last year with 20 month old twins and next year my goal is a night’s sleep in only one bed at least once (I can dream). 

  
There have been cine memory moments of utter bliss in the baby and big pool as the twins have taken their first goes at swimming. These and moments when Didsbury Son has been Captain of the mini Manc Armada are those snapshot moments that make the overdraft, sciatica and Mr. Tumble worthwhile. 
These moments are more noticeable on holiday but are the backbone of any relationship – the moments that cement relationships, lift you in low moments and can be an inspiration. I have in my bank a look and leaping hug from a blonde and squeaky Didsbury Son, a message on a Big Wheel from Didsbury Wife and my team lining up for a Cup Final I had waited twenty years to see – they are irrelevant to most people but are the seeds that have grown my passion and each of us has our own. 
I began writing Didsbury Dad on a holiday five years ago when I looked around the other dads and realised that we mainly did what we were told, relied on our other halves for guidance and had to feign interest and understanding in many many things. 
I am very lucky that in these five years I have now got two more Didsburylings to stress about, have been to several cup finals and learned things I never even imagined. Last time I was really clear I had made the right decision about a little one in my care she was a dog and I was solo. I spend parents’ evenings and most family discussions guessing what I should think and say and have a feeling most other dads do too. 

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