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 “Fatherhood and its political connotations”

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. 

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. 

This Much I Know… Didsbury Confessions

This much I know. 39 years and 11 months is now so far behind me, there have been so many moons that they have their own fable. I went to confession (obviously not Catholic, but bear with me). I began. Forgive me father for I have sinned. It is over three years since my last full night’s sleep and I have been having dark thoughts about the presenters on CBeeBies being eaten by Milkshake’s chirpier, brighter, less educationally motivated, primary-coloured team. I know longer remember which of Didsbury’s Estate Agents is more purple and last time I blinked, Didsbury Son had become a broken-voiced brunette, not my squeaky little blondini. 

  Parenthood. Despite the occasional case splashed over the tabloids, you can’t stop them growing and changing. Sadly, the more independent and indifferent they become – the more you are probably doing your job well.

As Global News’ “refit” stretches into a fourth month and we pass a unique milestone of 6 months since a new hairdresser opened in M20, this much I know.

1. After the huge success of Bisou Bisou, the promising start by Bosu Body Bar has left me hoping that the new Italian Deli on Wilmslow Road is called “Bologna Bad Boys” in this year of the alliterative B.

1a). Private Hire Cabs must get paid extra for doing u-turns in Didsbury village. The only other explanation I thought of was unprintable. 

2. Hipster Beards show no sign of being shaved or trimmed and the American Hick look is now soooo fashionable that is not just my lack of caring about reality television, understanding of Periscope or my Mullet that give my age away.

3. When potty training be careful what you wish for. Using Chocolate buttons as an early reward is a habit harder to undo in a toddler, than smoking in an adult. 

4. We may not be able to solve religious disharmony on a global scale, but surely if we all send positive thoughts then Waitrose will open in Didsbury. ( I have identified several locations East, West and Centre should they bite.)

5. The difference between defining Didsbury varies greatly between Estate Agents (20 square miles) and School Authorities (200 yards).

6. With morning mist, clear nighttime skies and a choice of Bookies – this is still a great place to live.

7. When you start mixing up the names of My Little Pony and Paw Patrol in a discussion about horse racing you know you have changed, not your friends. 

8. I met someone with triplets last week. They looked at me with the same look I save for when I see someone with one boddler moaning about being tired. 

 
9. I may complain about teenagers, but in two weeks it’s Winter Camp. Didsbury Son and I will wave goodbye with an equal sense of imminent freedom. A day later I will be slightly twitchy and looking forward to his smile coming back – whichever mood and scent accompanies it. 

A Quick Didsbury Recap

 Something old, new, almost festive and blue.To some it is a wasteland of their dreams – a Nido. The tumbleweed that passes for jewellery in the shell of Victoria Highfield, the cruise that never sailed from the ludicrously short-lived Gold Beach Holidays and the third “refit” this year at the pointless Global News (how many times can you move a sweet rack?)

 The lack of Citron Pressé in Didsbury is very worrying. 
To some a mausoleum. Cafe Rouge’s colours still make us yearn for its return to M20 and if it’s late morning I just assume Carringtons hasn’t opened yet – rather than moved to World of Hipster Beard ( Chorlton). 

But Didsbury is a land of opportunity. Not just for the people employed on the least user-friendly, most car driver enraging cycle lane ever thought up, but in retail through our still burgeoning love of food and drink. 

  Picture from chrispirillo.com depicting the strategy meeting for Didsbury’s new cycle lane. Heads of Strategy and Planning arrange share their vision
Bosu Body Bar looks nearly ready. Situated in the same environment as Karma Sutra and two down from MudCrab it gives an exotic feel to the village centre. I have no idea if I’m going to be going for a Quinoa Scrub or a Goji Berry wrap, but I’m excited.

Burton Road continues to morph into the most interesting urban walk in the North. The George Charles is strangely alluring, the Independent gift shops make the recession seem a myth and the Canadian Charcoal Pit , now 40 years old stands proud amidst beardy 20 somethings, Chocolatiers and the world on a plate that is West Didsbury.With all this, a £7 wet shave still the best at Blade on School Lane and Stretford hosting its own burgeoning bar culture, these are heady days in South Manchester. I’ve not even started on the expanding number of Dog Grooming Parlours or the Home, the cafe in Emmanuel Church. You 

On Small Business Saturday The Giddy Goat stood on its hind legs and bleated it’s siren call. If they have any Hey Duggee merchandise it’s coming back to ours. But all this gusto makes choosing the best places to eat, drink and be merry a difficult top ten to compile.

  

   

I’ll save it for next time. 

 

View from the Car Park

I am sitting in a rapidly cooling car, backed by a couple of rapidly snoring toddlers. I am watching a sun so weak the Spartans would have given it a comfy bed dissolve into its December malaise. I am staring at B&Q in Stanley Green and Costa is too far away to leave the twins and snaffle a Gluten-free Mince Pie. I spend a sizeable number of weekends here. 

The combination of TK Maxx and Next virtually within sight of John Lewis is a siren call to South Manchester and North Cheshire. The car park houses a considerable number of men trying not to wake sleeping babies, boddlers and toddlers whilst cranking up BBC 5Live just loud enough to hear the minutiae of what is happening at Orient and St. Johnstone. 

 1970s Mobile DAB Unit 

There is a strange synergy for me. I have always loved radio and the Saturday afternoon football commentary dirge. From being small, in pre instant media, pre digital, pre Channel 4 and Orangina in the shops days I would spend Saturday afternoons away from the other Didsbury grandchildren. The melee of Saturday afternoon visiting and free sweets dismissed to clamber into our tank. I listened to the football, writing every score as it came in from place names that to 70s me seemed the epitome of exotic; aah Hull you romantic fool – beckon me with constant dampness and average football. I would hang on the florid descriptions of Peter Jones, Larry Canning and the now disgraced, then disgraceful Stuart Hall.  

 Peter Jones. A genius. 

As an early adopter of OCD fan support, sitting in cars and learning how to wait patiently, these 70s Saturdays parked outside my Grandparents were a great training for fatherhood.

The lack of stranger danger and freedom to spend 3 hours in a car on my own aged 6 seem as alien now as my bonfire night memory of entertaining uncle using a lit cigarette to light the fireworks.  

 We are inside waiting for TK Maxx to open 

But I do have good handwriting and can spell Molyneux. 

Coming Up: From Sew-In to Body Bar, From Gold Beach Holidays to closed and is there a non purple Estate Agent? It’s December in Didsbury

That Friday Feeling

Things I have learned but not acted upon.  Teamwork is the key
I’ve shaved (face) and I’m sitting on Chorlton’s rather wonderful Barbakan Deli Terrace with a coffee and a peppery potato cake. It’s Friday, I’m knackered and this morning I remembered the twins but forgot work bag, gym bag, lunch bag, Pappa’s got a brand new pig bag, Bagpuss and the words to Baggy Trousers. It’s been a long week. 

 me thanks morning

The sun is making me squint and I don’t have to move for 20 minutes; bliss. It’s been so frantic recently I haven’t had time to share my usual paternal sense of slight disbelief, confusion and pride. With an age range of nappy rash to spot cream, my parenting is a giant improv trying to look like a rehearsed show. 
How do mothers get that instinct for parameters? This week, all 3 children have had my attempts at specifics end in their tantrums, calmed by the good Mothership through a little rephrasing (note to self “Look mate, just do it. Daddy’s bollocksed” does not work for the post-boddler or pre-GCSE generation). 
I have complete non-judgemental respect for any family set-up of any number, gender or age. I look at families with single mums or two mums and think it must be great when everyone knows what they’re doing. I eye up single parent dads and think that life must be like being in Tiswas or being a character in The Dice Man (Luke Reinhardt, if you haven’t … Read it).
It’s a chromosomal anomaly. I can plan a multi-stop, catered journey to the second. My books, CDs and Football Programmes are regimented and always ready for inspection. However, when the day comes that I can’t interrupt my ham fisted dressing of the Mighty-Headed boy by pretending he has flying trousers and stopping his wailing by lifting him over my head I am out of ammunition for the next decade.
Thankfully – there will always be Haribo.  

 Essential parenting skills inside

Postcard from Murcia 3/4 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be school buses running and no crappy punning or Russell Howard… It’s the most wonderful week OF THE YEEEEAAAAR. 
Eight weeks. Eight weeks with a 14 year old Didsbury Son. Eight Weeks with toddlers who lack volume control and tag sleep to keep us on our toes. And on September 2, school, nursery, routine and occasional quiet.  

 My mood board of ideas for downtime

I love being Didsbury Dad. I love all three of them equally and completely but the similarities between two year olds and fourteen year olds are many.
Both are great fun and their myopic take on laugh can be insightful and entertaining.
For both, life – completely self-focused at all times centres on “I want” and on pushing boundaries, flouncing around and over-reacting. Both are driven (and on holiday) riven by sugar but…
One has seemingly forgotten basic sharing life etiquette and two of them are cute enough to still get away with it.
Last year Didsbury Son reached teendom on holiday and the event itself was such a good day we slid into teenland as though at a water park. We toasted it, watched Kevin the Teenager and all laughed at its ludicrousness. This year Kevin has a room of his own in our lovely Villa and it’s all my fault. 
He is still our lovely Didsbury Son but the vagueness, often charmless, over reactive, hormone-fuelled moodiness of young teenage boys who are ultimate Inbetweeners is joyful and excruciating in equal measure.
At times he is so vague I feel I need to draw a line around him to make sure he is there and many conversations resemble a chat with someone who has been drinking all day and is now three to four seconds behind themselves. 
My years of parenthood, meditation, actualisation and a degree in Psychology make no difference. There is one aspect more awful than the rest. In lucid and calm moments I look at the awkwardness of Didsbury Son and remember being exactly the same.
Eight weeks to half-term. 

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. 

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. 

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