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 “Costa Coffee”

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.  



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. 

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

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. 

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. 

A Zizzi Update, it’s going to get Messi

 “Thank you @craftwords for taking the time to have a look at the building no longer known as Zizzi. No longer shall we largely ignore the hand-torn basil and other limb-related offerings. If only they’d offered something toe-torn it could have been so different.  
 My tribute to Zizzi

There is no Inmans mystery, no Cafe Rouge emptiness. It’s meat time again and vying for your grilled love action with Solita, Bourbon & Black and the double-fronted unfathomable popularity of Urban Grille will be Cau.
  An artist’s impression of Buenos Airies High Street.

Born with Buenos Aires in mind, already established in Wilmslow, Amsterdam and Guildford – welcome to Didsbury, you are very handy for Axons.

In a rare fit of research I read the website http://www.caurestaurants.com/. Although “our story” was reminiscent of an epitaph from someone who had heard of, but never met the original, it looks promising.
You need to embrace chipotle and see chicken as a vegetable but Solita seems to thrive and Fosters don’t do badly without veg so good luck; invite Pablo Zabaleta to the opening, don’t mention Angel di Maria and as the Argentinians always say, ” Hacer also de cayetano”, especially on 7 August. 

Charles Darwin, Giddy Goats and The Bisou Conspiracy

The fashion for hipster beards and the move towards e-cigarettes has given the Metrolink station a specific retro look. The gauche style of inhaling the e-cig as though it were a pipe has given the ramp to the ticket machine the look of a WG Grace / Charles Darwin look-a-like competition.   
Victorian favourites the peacocks plan to ride in on the wave of the summer retro look. 

I don’t understand e-cigs. I used to smoke many years ago, pre-Didsbury Dad days when a) I could afford it and b) you didn’t have to stand outside like a plane spotter at the airport. There seems no pleasure to e-cigs. With nicotine patches you could forget you were wearing them and “accidentally” have a smoke to get a genuinely scary hit. Nicotine gum gives you something to do with your teeth other than bite your nails and going cold turkey makes you look dangerous, which can be useful in a crowd.

I never take being an “ex” for granted; but know that there is more chance of Cibo and Nido returning to Didsbury and becoming successful chains than there is of me buying flavoured vapours to inhale.

Anyway, whilst I’ve been off there have been many changes in Didsbury’s retail look that need attention.

1. Zizzi, gone? This faux Pizza Express and its signage have disappeared from the building that sits in a prime location on the corner of Wilmslow and Barlow Moor Road, but has floundered since it was the Old Grey Horse in the 80s/90s and shows no sign of gaining popularity. Would make a great 3-floor Bisou Bisou Bisou. Sneaking around Didsbury with a turquoise box full of French patisserie has become our naughty little habit. 

2. Didsbury’s first day spa has ground to a halt. On the site of the legendary (to the 40 and overs) Sweaty Betty’s Chippy, the insulation sits in the window like lost bales of hay and the window display has changed from advertising for staff to offering time shares. 

Didsbury’s next charity shop?

3. The Dog Grooming shop, In The Dog House on Barlow Moor Road is still open, defying the “How Long will it last” sweepstake kit in the South Manchester Reporter. Not sure if it’s the drop-off proximity to Albert’s Shed or the sudden influx of Pugs and Daschunds to Didsbury’s parks but well done – it’s cool as fox merchandise and breezy demeanour are superb and I’ll be in for a wet shave on Blade’s day off. 

4. The laser clinics are here, Cafe Rouge still stands like a ghost ship and we still haven’t got a Waitrose. There’s a great new clothes shop on School Lane and the Fish Masala at Sangam 2 is worth the view into the Karma Sutra. 
I had the perfect Didsbury conversation in Giddy Goat Toys a couple of weeks ago. I was having a natter with Mrs Goat when Jed the Windowcleaner, complete with Manchester City sweatshirt breezed in. Our three-way conversation moved seamlessly from childcare, the weather and Bisou Bisou, to children and the angst and stress caused by them being led astray in their choice of football team. Mid myopic drone all three of us turned to the patient and brave mother at the till buying her 4 children presents with a hearty “Eid Mubarak” before settling back to judgemental football chat. Anyone who takes more than one non-sleeping child into a toy shop deserves respect. 

  Rumour has it that Zizzi shut after failing to win planning permission for this extension.

Next week – the perils of poverty discussed through the prism of the Bloke selling Sticky Toffee Pudding in too pushy a manner outside The Cheese Hamlet last Saturday. 

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.

How I learned the way of the Gorilla.

Fathers Day I was woken by the sound of muffled voices, shuffling feet and a click as the door closed. Then, silence. I tried to come around to the day. My throat was dry and the detritus of a night that had extended way too far into the morning surrounded me. Beakers, a pull-up, a chewed through dummy and the crumbs of a rusk. Man I felt rough.

  For dads who have lost the will to live – this is for you.

Then I noticed something else. It was still quiet. The smell of freshly brewed coffee snaked its way upstairs alongside the unmissable note that belonged to three words that are so personal in their interpretation; Full English Breakfast.
   The breakfast of champions

I pinched myself to check I was awake. The house was quiet and on the table were a coffee pot and mug, cutlery and two notes. I poured a coffee, luxuriating in a first drink of the day that came hot and without the aroma of potty training.

The note read “Happy Fathers Day. Didsbury Son is out all day and I’ve taken The Mighty Headed Boy and Pearly Princess to a three hour crèche sesh. Your breakfast is in the oven. Read note 2 afterwards. Didsbury Wife x”

If music be the food of love then good food is music to my love and after a fabulous Full English I risked note 2. This guided me to the living room, some cards and a three-hour video of 80s football.

I padded to the couch. I flicked on the TV and drifted off to the sound of The Smiths and a procession of manly mullets and Ellesse trainers.
The pressure in my chest increased, there seemed to be something on top of me. I felt the density of the air change and then came the noise. I was still in bed. The Mighty Headed boy was sitting on me. I opened my eyes, pinched myself and realised that now I was actually awake and my mind had a played a cruel trick as three more words snapped across the room, “Daddy. Wee. Now.”

The Joy of Potty Training Twins

As a liberal lefty-leaning metropolitan kind of dad with a clear handle on the difference between ristretto and macchiato, but without a tool belt I know a thing or two about the theory of things. I am an expert on what you should do, but like most my theory is stronger than my practical. (That’s an exam time reference. Remember if you are doing GCSE English that LOL and GR8 are not titles and do not need capitalisation).

Anyway, I digress. I live in a house with self-help books a plenty, although my pitch for a book titled “How to give the impression you’re more organised than you are and NOT lie awake at night worrying about getting found out.” didn’t quite make it. On various shelves, in other people’s houses over various years I have seen “The Gift of Dyslexia”, “Embrace Your Inner Awkward”, “Failure is the new Success” and the ludicrous “There are more important things than football” but amongst the slew of gurus from Gina Ford to Juicing Jason, the life coaches and the charlatans no one has ever written,
“The Joy of Potty Training Twins” (or what can you do with 20 pairs of pants, a mop, a bucket and a forest of kitchen roll.)
Your world shrinks to a room and two plastic potties (or is it pottii). We played tag going out for an hour. Any errand was embraced as a much loved friend. There is something Big Brother vs Waterworld about the whole experience.
duggee pic
(Hey Duggee is 6 minutes and 55 seconds long which allows perfect on and off potty timing when you get so bored you could count milk stains)

Halfway through Day One the jigsaw and floor were both wet and the laundry basket was full of Peppa Pig and Roary the Racing Car embossed pants gurning wet grins up at us; the potty was dry. The bribe barrel was empty and we were knackered.
The original title was Men Are From Mars because they wouldn’t stop to ask directions, Women are from Venus because they were talking and took the wrong turn.)

Didsbury Wife’s preparation was so thorough there were no glitches and when… after many wet wolf cries we got a result the joy all around was genuine. We broke out the Dora the Explorer “We did it.” dance, the stickers, chocolate buttons and the boddlers spent the rest of the day trying to remember which bit of jumping, sitting and weeing won them the prizes and the praise.

This joy made me think about the pleasure this brings to all. This morning the Mighty Headed boy fairly ran downstairs desperate to ditch the diaper and dance on the potty and I realised the true “joy of potty training twins” is that I’m writing this on the way to work and don’t have to do it today…

The original front cover shot for “Use Your Body to heal your Mind” was subtitled “Sod it a cocktail in the sun solves most things.”

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