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 “Child labour”

Didsbury: I Have a Dream

I have a dream. I have many dreams. Beyond a harmonious world and an easy to assemble Kinder Egg Toy, I have dreams.          I remember when all of this was train track. 
I dream of reading a newspaper article (analogue or digital) whose research is not a celebrity twitter feed and in which fact checking does not mean a retweet. 

I dream of the time when the Pearly Princess can put on her own tights. Truly, as a man with the dexterity of the average baby this is a daily bind. Fifteen minutes spent struggling with a wriggly toddler to find they are on back to front and the heel is over one knee is soul destroying in a way that working out next to someone who keeps asking if you’re okay “…as you don’t get many people in your age” can only peck at gently.Burns, La Tasca, Cibo, Solita. Inhabitants and the back four of FC Nido in the 2004 Champions League qualifier. 

I dream of a time when each incarnation of the restaurant known as Y Fabrica (me neither, no idea) join forces. Whether it’s The Mud Crab Cafe, Felicinis or Didsbury Wine Bar, between them there is a decent menu lying in wait. 

I dream of people caring about each other. Of pushy mothers in 4x4s not double parking or taking residents’ spaces when dropping their Freyas and Archies at Primary School. Of the staff at Evans being knighted for services to middle class dinner parties in South Manchester. Of Unicorns singing Stone Roses tunes as you pass the “Welcome to Greater Manchester” sign on the M56 and of a time when my first action of the day is not deciding what to do with a pull-up. The names on the mug are in reverse order.

Alongside every act of lazy and institutionalised xenophobia we have witnessed over the last year I believe there is goodness. There are people who realise the contribution of all people whether British born or not. I thought about this as I sipped the most exquisite Sardinian-made Bloody Mary at Piccolino’s on Saturday. I remember it when it when I bump into people who remember me going for sweets on Lapwing Lane with my own Didsbury grandad. Rare picture of Fog Lane Park’s Pets’ Corner

I dream of a world where Coronation Street does not move so quickly that I miss a month and have no idea who Steve MacDonald has married/impregnated/saved.Kiwi, a rare Didsbury delicacy from when Evans first opened. 

I dream of a world where the city abruptly ends and the country takes over in seconds. Then I remember Stenner Lane, the perfect cut through between almost Gastropub The Didsbury and the haven of Fletcher Moss.

Ten minutes looking at the river and I don’t care who’s blocked my drive, which continent Felicini’s is pretending to be from or which toddler’s knee wakes me with a morning kidney jab. I just tap my heels together 3 times and I’m walking back from Flannagan’s with a smart haircut and a Fosters’ chippie tea in my hand. 

* thanks to @craftwords for keeping me up to date with developments and great one-liners whilst I’ve been too busy navel-gazing to write a regular blog. 

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. 

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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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