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 “Christmas”

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.

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. 

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. 

Ironing out that kink in your shoulder

When 20 years of Didsbury’s finest fly posting site was removed from the space that had once been Sweaty Betty’s Chippy on Barlowmoor Road it was a happy day. Since giving up my brush and bucket in the 90s I’ve always been a little envious of good fly posting.    Global News – likely to re-open soon? The adverts in the window for 2010 World Cup say not.
Didsbury’s First Day Spa was the promise. A promise as likely as Global News’ “refit” working well with the same staff. Finally, somewhere other than all the other places already pampering, pummelling and powdering the tired joints, cellulite-riven hips and Yucon oil powered calves of M20.  

  Didsbury’s First Day Spa

But No. The external refit and many rolls of insulation were all we got. As soon as the timeshare offer went in the window, the smell of desperation, masked the potential snort of Lavender and Sandalwood. 

Beauty Parlours often suffer from similar name issues to hairdressers. I love Evie’s Retreat on Lapwing Lane, but often wondered if it was a euphemism. No one has brought my self-employed January offer, “Wax, relax, don’t worry about your tax”, but in secret, Didsbury is becoming a beacon for treatments where a happy ending means you’ve had good therapy and the treatment has done its job. 

Our G4 and Billie’s fabulous Didsbury Village Physio are warriors in the fight against creaking and having kept my clicking knees straightened. 

From My Wellbeing Place’s Indonesian-trained treatments at The Waterside Hotel (still The Galleon if you’re over 39 and a lot) to Blade’s post wet shave shoulder rub via a Healthy Spirit holistic hoedown thee is plenty to go at. I’m going to take one for the team, and try out some Didsbury Treatments so you know where to go. 

I may set up a JustGiving page to help me. Didsburydadneedsaliedownwithwarmstones.com/just give. Although the failure of Couldsomeonegetmilkfortbetwins-Icantbearsed/JustGiving to pull in anything doesn’t bode well.

I’ll let you know next week. Right now I’m going to positively envisage Cafe Rouge re-opening and Waitrose taking over Global News.  

  If Waitrose don’t respond to this plea from the boddlers I’m stumped.

A Christmas Navel Gaze

As the elves begin their final checks, the reindeer carb up for the journey and Jose Mourinho ponders the failure of his own messianic second coming I have been thinking about Didsbury Dad Towers as we prep for the latest sugar rush and present heist.

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Dinner for four or magnificent carriage – you decide

The Mighty Headed Boy is already beside himself with excitement; he’s only beside himself as the weight of expectation he carries needs two little boys. The birthday was great. Halloween’s premise of wearing a costume for sweets from strangers magnificent but this? Christmas, off the back of Chanucah and its chocolate coins is almost too good to be true.
Every night the Advent chocolate fairy leaves him a pre-breakfast treat. One night he tried a chocolate under his pillow to see if the tooth fairy would leave him a tooth. Then, some fat bloke and his deer pop in with presents. He is a convert and a zealot and already has his eyes on the Christingle orange that the St. James & Emmanuel elves are currently making.

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No particular reason – just love this photo

Whilst he promenades his joy and sings carols with gusto, the Pearly Princess is more measured – not quite sure why this is happening but savvy enough to know that lights in the house, late nights out with kisses and presents is a good gig not to be messed with.

We are the inbetweeners. The twins are not sure what’s going on but have essentially worked out that Eid and Chanucah are the warm up act in their lives for Santa Claus telling Father Christmas that his baby reindeer needs a stable to watch Cinderella on UK Gold; simple.

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Sadly for The Archers, The Grundy’s turkeys had not thought through their escape plan properly.

Didsbury Son is inbetween childhood excitement and grown up enjoyment. Anxious about the presents being right, practising indifference but keen to be key to the party. Fourteen is the awkward age. My little blondini squeaking his excitement at the wonderland of Christmas Day is still in there, suppressed by Lynx and Hormones. The teenage fight for independence is also keen for a bigger part and the magic of the season is going to have to put in a good shift.

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The poultry and fowl against Christmas scout keeps an eye out for trouble

Next year will see raised consciousness all around so this is probably the last year for a decade we can get away with kiddie fob offs and a lie in until 5.45 when The Mighty Headed Boy, like Chris Eubank in his prime, announces his presence to the world; every day is like Christmas.

A Piccolino Pepped Pre-Christmas

aa4 happy pizza

How to make a three year old eat their dinner; happy pizza.

After working out which were my current Didsbury Dining Dozen I decided to put my money where my keyboard finger was, a family trip to Piccolino Didsbury for a pre-Christmas treat. Didsbury Son grunted his unavailability early in the weekend and then there were four. Our midday booking got pushed back to 1 as I fell asleep, 2 as the twins fell asleep and we arrived promptly about twenty past; followed by a twin charge around the restaurant looking for chocolate coins.

aa1 head with menu

If only I had studied school books with the same intensity…

Piccolino’s Didsbury incarnation was always a potential winner, fitting into the refurbished site of The Nose. The late 80s, early 90s Nose, opened by Liz, featuring the wonderful Henry, Sonia and the cast of Didsbury was way ahead of its time as a freelance meeting place for the Madchester cognoscenti keen to notwork with each other. We’re all 20ish years older and Piccolino is a catch-all for the city now and for M20 especially. It brings a little touch of Sardinia to West Didsbury, I always get to talk food and football. The bar is stocked and loud enough for a night out’s start or finish and for family purposes – they have cushions, staff who will dance with your toddler between courses and know how to balance the equally pressing needs for a kids’ bowl of pasta, a Pinot Grigio and an accessible changing table for emergencies.

I think what I like is the general upbeat, welcoming and engaging atmosphere. Beautiful  20 somethings impress each other on dates or in groups, cheek by the jowls of couples re-invigorating their domesticity, parents connecting with returning offspring and the young families hoping it’s someone else’s child who runs into a waiter delivering a full tray of glasses. It is a snapshot of South Manchester putting on a clean shirt for a warm welcome. Whenever we go I feel like its an occasion. Being a dad I like being able to tally that with Pizza and Pasta for a tenner a plate if I am feeling a little strapped but need to get out.

aa5 christmas diner

Just a little number I knocked up – in a different lifetime with a different set of hands

For our Christmas lunch Didsbury Wife and I went for the set menu, three courses for £21.50, which turned out to be a bargain worthy of Poundstretcher. The food was and is always spot on. There is a little I wouldn’t recommend. We had Bresaola with Pear and Walnuts and The Calamari followed by Tacchini Arrosti (Roast Turkey) and Merluzzo (a crunchy, melty, tangy Cod with something sausagey and gorgeous). We decided our Aldi frozen bird for 25th needs a rethink.

This turkey came to the table on a plinth of butternut squash with mini mushrooms of size and taste I have rarely seen. Its nonchalant ease made sweating in a cold kitchen with a Jamie book, guessing which end to stuff, seem a little sad. The cod tasted of…  what cod should and The Pearly Princess’ Pizza was a spaceship with smiley face; calmness descended. We slurped wine as though we didn’t have to look after toddlers and they were quiet, munching and playing with the decorations.

Ice cream, Tiramisu, dancing with the staff and watching them greet each new child as a VIP with natural ease took  us through until the sun went down and we had to brace the air and talk to the moon.

This was really our first successful dinner out with the toddlers since, ever. The quality of the food sits on a plate next to a team who genuinely made all of us feel a little bit special. Piccolino heralds itself as an ” Upscale chain restaurant with a contemporary interior and a menu of classic Italian specialities.” I’d go for top nosh and family friendly. In true Mighty Headed Boy style, he wants to go back today to play with the lights and eat ice cream. In true Didsbury Dad style, I saved a biscotti to have with a brew for after bedtime.

Piccolino Didsbury, 6 Lapwing Lane, Manchester M20 2WS. Phone:0161 434 7524

 

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

The Lion King, Parkin and Steven Spielberg

How you celebrate festivals as a child is crucial as to how you deliver them to your own friends and family. My Didsbury mum, auntie and extended entourage celebrated everything. Bonfire night was all tomato soup outside with treacle toffee, Parkin and anxiety amid the awe that a Catherine Wheel would take my eye out. 70s safety adverts lacked nuance but were packed with graphics to scar the psyche permanently. Once I found out the reasons behind Bonfire Night I loved it more, immediately taking the side of the conspirators; a normal Northern reaction. Jewish New year meant apples and honey; Eid brought pistachio sweets from Syrian friends of the original Didsbury Dad. 

  This is apparently cutting edge Anime. I thought it was from Pink Floyd. 

This was too exotic for words. Remember this was the when the Queen was in her 40s. If you had pineapple people thought you had won the pools* (Note 1). 

We also loved Christmas. Our house was decoration free and no pigs had blankets. Non-participation at home gave me the best out to see everyone else’s. To me, a decorated Christmas tree was the epitome of cool and I am still a sucker for a string of lights and a chocolate bauble. I also get giddy on FA Cup 3rd Round Day (Bovril), Winter Solstice (Cake and Wine) and anything celebrated with fried chicken.  

 High-tech Halloween.

The next generation are already starting to shape their own future. My pearly princess is a happy soul and easy going spirit who skips lightly through whatever is infront of her. Didsbury Son likes the detail and the art of a festival and The Mighty Headed Boy found Nirvana on Saturday in Didsbury.

He has been through the excitement of Christmas and greeted it with an enthusiasm that could be lifelong. He has sampled the best Friday night Dinner chicken soup and given it a toddlers’ thumbs up but… Nothing will ever match the logic and sheer joy of Halloween.  

 The

 

Dressed up as a monster with hands free and mouth available he knocked on strangers’ doors, shouted Trick before mumbling incoherently and they gave him sweets and chocolates. 
The generosity of Didsbury was quite stunning. Across M20 the pumpkins were out and the kids from 0-teenage were welcomed with open bowls and quirky sweets. It was uplifting in all the best ways. 

In terms of training children to anticipate danger this would seem as appropriate as the 1970s BBC giving Jimmy Saville a show making children’s dreams come true; but he loved it. 

Mind blown, plastic bucket filled and several blocks shaken down for Haribo, he sat on the couch like Mufasa showing off Simba to the animal kingdom. 

Had he not been surfing the wave of a sugar rush I am sure he would have turned to me and told me, Jawsesque, “Daddy, We’re going to need a bigger bucket”
* Pre Lottery, pre scratch cards, pre Big Brother and Sky this was your best way to upgrade to a Vauxhall Firenza. 

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. 

Everything you need to know about holidaying in Spain with small children a

I know three things about Chris De Burgh.
1) he brought his wife a dress and made back the cost several times over with a song still played at every incontinent tea dance.
2) he had a monobrow before the Gallagher brothers made them fashionable in the 90s.
3) He is a liar and this lie has impacted directly on my summer holiday plans.
In his song Spanish Train (from the album “Does not include Lady in Red” recorded during his pre Lady in Red phase) De Burgh sings about a train transporting the souls to heaven that the devil tries to nab, there is no mention of a Lady in Red. It’s a “Devil Went Down to Georgia” without fiddle playing, charisma or specifically a tune. Within its cool for 11 year olds, naff by 12 conceit, a railwayman lay dying (with his family by his side) and for his soul they are crying for the train he has to drive. Anyway there is a lot of hand-wringing and in the end God wins by gambling at cards and the train (with the souls of the dead 10000 deep) goes up and everyone’s happy. Lovely. Obviously this is from memory as its a bit hot to Google the lyrics.
Except it isn’t true. I was planning on a trip to Spain with Didsbury Wife, Didsbury Son and The Toddler Collective. Didsbury Wife and I planned a trip to El Corte Iglesias (Juan Lewis), I promised the twins a Paella Ice Cream and Didsbury Son I promised to top any theme park by taking him on to see The Spanish Train as it transports souls between worlds. At least I thought we could get a t-shirt. It doesn’t exit and the name I was called by the Galician Tourist Society translates as something not only illegal, but difficult with my knees. 

So Chris De Burgh, the Irish crooner that is not Daniel O’Donnell I call you out as a two-bit toddler-trashing tenor. Now to go and get some olive oil as sunscreen and countdown to the new football season – still almost 6 weeks and Wimbledon to get through. 

  

 Fresh Jamon 
http://youtu.be/VXkhiIFCgAo.                  If the children have been naughty play them this. 

If they won’t practice their musical instruments play them this – The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

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