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 “Ewan the Sheep”

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. 

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

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.

Didsbury Festival – My tuppence worth

There is something wonderfully timeless about Didsbury Festival. The parade, the mix of charities, scouts and local causes peddling goodies and the eye-watering prices at the funfair. It has a community spirit that is genuinely uplifting and a lack of threat that is one of South Manchester’s greatest strengths.

However, I must admit I felt a slight sense of tiredness and staleness . It might be me. Didsbury Son volunteers, keeps his profile as low as possible and slopes off. The Mighty Headed Boy and his Pearly-Princess sister are a year too young to be part of it and a year too old too need a sleep so we can hang out and speak to friends.
I had the feeling that it needs a bit of an upgrade. The festival is/has been a great call to congregate for the whole of M20. The 21st Century vibe that emanate from WestFest, Makers Market and Didsbury Arts Festival have upped the ante. No longer is there a Cibo, Nido or suchlike to lower the expectation. 
The. Field felt a little sparsely used this year and the compère  was barely annoying; something not quite as Didsbury as usual.
We have a Metrolink station and are a media savvy/luvvy crowd. Without losing the essential feel – a few new tweaks and a decent marketing campaign are needed to come back in 2015 and draw the crowd away from the European Championships. 
Thinking caps on…

New Beginnings, Old Goodbyes and The Northern Quarter

It’s been a time for new starts and changes in Didsbury Dad Towers. The end of the football season always marks that period when Didsbury Brother phones me and we wonder how we will get through the 8/9 weekends coming up with no constant football interference to fill the space and act as punctuation.
  

Headlining this week is Dora the Explorer…

The Mighty Headed Boy and Pearly Princess are saying goodbye to nappies. It’s been a week measured in gaps between potty visits and frequent visits to Co-Op for more kitchen towel. Like all these rites of passage, the reality positively outwits the dread and it’s been constant but weirdly satisfying. The realisation that intent, action and vocalisation have a fluid running order you need to shape carefully is an uplifting thought.
  
The new all you can eat buffet. These are the new currency.

Didsbury Wife has been a blur of action this week – without realising it, the boddlers have been changed forever with only stickers and Cadbury Chocolate Buttons as props and the floor has been cleaned so often we also realised we could never be bothered being OCD. 

  
Oasis at Maine Road, The Roses at The Hacienda, Catatonia at The Roadhouse, Chris Blackwood in Didsbury Park.

Didsbury Son waved goodbye to being sized by age to width/height. We went to town to cruise the Northern Quarter for clothes and art. He is a big fan of Manga so we visited Forbidden Planet. If you ever want to feel better about yourself, understand your peccadillos are fine go here. Watching hipsters and geeks salivate over Jabba the Hut and argue about fonts made me realise that I’m okay. I peaked at Carrie Fisher in the 2nd Star Wars several decades ago. I was looking for the sign behind the till that reads “you don’t have to speak Klingon to work here but it helps.”
I love mooching about the Northern Quarter. In pre Didsbury Dad says it was my domain. I worked and played here for a decade and enjoyed being part of the city’s fabric as we moved from Madchester to post-bomb tourist attraction and cultural hub. As the new Home theatre/gallery/cinema sits in the shadow of the Hacienda’s descendants so this weekend a venue I shaped a generation ago says goodbye and another piece of my personal history becomes memory and memorabilia. 
Measuring the development of my family in their milestones and this latest part of my life just adds another layer of experience – one that moves the day from the nighttime economy and being out to being home more with people for whom each day is a new world and a big idea is building a space ship out of cushions. 

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.
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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…

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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.”

Fitbit, focus groups and the best coffee this side of Mars,

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. The men had been meaning to move to Venus for ages but y’know what it’s like. They got friendly with a couple of Martians, the deli on the corner just knew how they liked the coffee and although the roof leaked, the plumbing was teenage in its temperamentally challenging behaviour, the car got robbed and the carpet was pre-war it was home and they quite liked the landlord. Why move when it could be worse.

It was only when the women told them about the new sports bars opening up across Venus and refused to even drive through Mars, let alone stay over that the men moved. (Excerpt from “Why most men don’t move, they can’t be bothered”). This is one more reason why I don’t like Focus Groups. You can’t get a decent coffee and bagel in Venus.

Henry Ford (car genius, moral leper) once said (approximately). “If I’d asked the public what they wanted they would have said “faster horses” when asked how he came up with that monstrous micro mess the Ford Ka. I was recently asked to be on a focus group for a new “family friendly” museum and gallery. Family friendly to most dads means no gift shop, free couches and nothing on sale in the cafe over £2.50. This session followed a night when, according to my Fitbit. I slept for 4 hours, 20 mins and was awake 7 times and restless many more between 11.06pm ( Peppa Pig’s Holiday App finally sees off Mighty Headed Boy) and 6.08pm (Sago Mini Pet Cafe buys me 17 minutes of zzzzzzz) when Princess Blondini jabs me in the eye shouting “wake up daddy, moon up.”.
We were asked to consider the facilities a 21st century museum should provide the modern family. My tips were:
1. A car park whose distance is far enough away to make the walk back for whatever vital toy that was left there long enough to speak to friends, check football scores and clear head.

2. No wifi. I love Didsbury Son and long to see the front of his face, not just the top of his hood.

3. A slouching post near the baby change table.

4. A prayer room. I make use of these wherever I can. They are the one place you can be sure no one will bother you.

5. Less interactivity. It sets the bar too high for your own domestic masterclass in multi-tasking ( playing with children whilst watching Sky Sports News).

If they take these ideas on board, don’t thank me – just take the kids out for a couple of hours one weekend morning.

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£2.49

Love, Hate and The Festive Season

The Festive Season is nearly upon us. Nearly as in the nauseating adverts have been launched and there is a slight sense of panic surrounding everyone I know. I don’t even have to worry about accessorising my little black dress; but from the taint of the wrong toy to a misunderstanding about the origins, ethos and expectations it can be stressful. There are certain aspects of Daddom that make even the most benign aspects of the season something to dread.
Here are my top ten…

1. Jools Holland’s Hootenanny: In my murky media lifetime I spent many New Years’ Eves throwing the party. There are late September, early October teens and early twenty somethings whose existence is down to these parties. They leave a legacy of slightly crumpled thirty plus ten somethings. However eclectic and enthralling the musicians are – watching a bunch of Z listers pretend it’s New Years’ Eve just doesn’t cut it.

2. The 5am pain of Christmas Day: Didsbury Son was a beautiful bouncing Blondini bed banger at 5am on 25th December. Finally, the Christmas before the twins were born he ambled in at 8 ish and then made a cup of tea. We lolled and had the most laid back and groovy day. I now have another decade of door slamming and early early footsteps to manage. My head, back and knees have lodged a formal complaint.

3. Mince Pies: these sweet and juicy, sticky, crumbly heralds of baby Jesus and a Christmas Market. These hand-sized waist tormentors and palate coverers. I love you, but in the cause of waistline not wasteland I must ignore you and treat you like someone who not only thrived on Movember, but decided to keep it because it “suits me”.

4. False Bonhomie: Hey, how are you. We’ve had no contact but you’re Jewish, I’m an Atheist let’s have a Christmas drink? The human equivalent of a casual Facebook like.

5. The 7am Xmas Eve queue at Evans and Axons. It looks as though civil war has broken out, middle-aged, middle class men from across the southern suburbs have been forced to get from their beds to queue for supplies and hand over wads of cash for a Copper Bronze Turkey. It’s when men know their place and the taste can be worth it.

6. 28th December – knockdown.
You spend £15.99 on some plastic tat. You cut two fingers on the unwrapping, spend £8 for a battery that lasts 6 minutes at the only shop open Christmas Day afternoon and three days later – having stubbed your toe tripping over its unused, unloved cadaver on the stairs, it’s 2.99 in Tesco.
This venting is working, I already feel more festive.

7. The Queen’s Speech
I am sure she’s a lovely woman. Bringing up four kids in the spotlight must be difficult, although Victoria and David are doing okay so far. BUT. If I want to hear old people talk about their lives, whilst talking on behalf of the nation I can listen to a phone in on BBC Local Radio.

8. The Stove Room.
Lovely shop. Great to have it in West Didsbury. The cost of a bag of wood. It’s enough to make you go Aga.

9. Wine at £6.50 a glass
My time on the other side of the bar learning the rudiments of wet sales and profit margins on them has ruined me as a date. Didsbury Wife has to put up with a cost breakdown to ruin each round. Only out hated by paying for sparkling water. No need, no point.

10. Christmas Specials
I love watching TV. Couch slouching whilst watching aimlessly with Didsbury Son, hands on snacks is one of life’s pleasures. But (with the exception of Porridge, Dad’s Army and On The Buses) I am struggling to find a Christmas Special less sour than a lime. It’s the screen equivalent of bonhomie.

With that out of the way there is much to enjoy – The Snowman is slowly edging out Frozen, Atuls is always open and time off work means a quick stroll to Bisou Bisou and The AiryFairyCupCake Boutique. There’s the Xmas Light Switch on (and talk of it being plural this year), there are Blagg’s Christmas Trees and the chance of a day without email. Yet more, even more than this is wide berth people offer a family with more than one toddler. I’m looking forward to it already.

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The queues for Axons and Evans Warm up.

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The Mighty Headed Boy awaits a Mince Pie

Birthdays and the Autumn Breeze

Wine & Wallop is open. It’s a lovely space and the fact they are finishing it around you as you drink just adds to the ambience. Chalk Bar & Grill is now settled in the village at one end, whilst Croma flaps its big white awning like swans’ wings over the clock tower end of the village, near the newly opened and yet to be investigated Solita. Gregg’s new gift shop neighbour has an opening in site, wooden boards shade it as though huddling around praying it will last longer than all of its predecessors back to the then innovative Cloud 9. Didsbury has its winter line-up ready for the Christmas spend and with the festival season over, the traffic jams getting earlier on Barlowmoor Road and boards up on the old Casa Tapas ranch, it’s show time.

This is a great time of year. The mornings aren’t dark enough to be depressing and Didsbury Son’s school experience is lightened by the the last rays of summer sun.

At Didsbury Dad Mansions its a big weekend. The Mighty-Headed boy and the Pearly Princess are 2 this weekend – a milestone as full of shock and awe as that moment earlier this year when Didsbury Son’s clock ticked into teendom.

Two; we still have buggy, pram, nappies and strings of sounds that evoke, but are not sentences. Are they babies? They are to me, so is Didsbury Son – they are my babies to the point that I could almost use an emoticon.

They have all the boddler attributes to enthral parents and bore the Bodens off friends. Last week they said “Blah blah more pie etc.”, “Ooh, look at that picture – they look like Spandau Ballet when they were cool.” Every point of movement still entrances me, even at Stupid AM after hours perched on a rapidly disintegrating knee.

Above all they are 100% Didsbury. I realised this thinking about the following routines. How to tell if your baby is Didsbury.

1. On Sunday mornings, after an early park jaunt, stop at Caffe Nero for Babyccino and Loacker Wafers.

2. They are on gurgling terms with the pastoral team at St. James’ AND Emmanuel, knowing Dimitri’s has it over The Old Cock every day of the week.

3. I have to wipe the seat before and their hands after a go on the swings in Didsbury Park.

4. They think a People Carrier is a normal car.

5. The only time they have seen a Fish Finger it was homemade at Folk.

So this weekend, with the moving elbow and the working knee I will raise a baby or two, toast Didsbury Wife and try and wangle a celebratory visit to Piccolino and a bit of Sky Sports amid the festivities.

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