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 “INternet safety”

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.

Didsbury – Waitrose or Home Bargains? You Decide. 

Just a quick recap… Didsbury Wife and I took a stroll through the village last week and were shocked. There is much to discuss, from the empty space in the shop Formerly known as Evans to Tinto, Brimelow, Delia, Global resurrection and Elite Vapes. Elite Vapes. NIMBY. Genius idea from The Art of Tea. 

The only people I have ever seen vaping in Didsbury are schoolchildren, disgruntled people still brave and rich enough to smoke,  at parties where they’ve been told not to – and hipsters who think it’s a nouveau pipe and Retro Chic. 

The shop that through the 70s/80s was Hurst’s Chemists and then the Co-Op travel where you could book a holiday free from the expectation of decent or polite service is jinxed. I don’t think Golden Beach holidays ever really existed. It was a front for something and Elite Vapes is it’s cursed offspring.The exhibition of Chalk’s waiting outfits looks good. 

Next door there are signs of life, chirpy shopfitters and 60s wallpaper. The sign in the window regarding Global News’ refit (there since 2014) has finally called in action. No idea what it will be.  Who else could sell this 1-Bed in M20 for 300K,

The Purple Overlord has gone (almost). The sign in the window announcing Nick Brimelow’s decision to put himself out to purple pastures is suitably bold and must leave Julian Wadden’s Whiter Shade of Pale ready to mop up. If you’ve ever sold a house through Brimelow they are great. You feel that no-one will get the better of you; if you have been at the other end of the deal you can fill it in yourself. But it is a lion gone from our pride, along with the mighty Darren from Delia’s.  My suggestion for how to use the spare space at Evans. 

Y Fabrica changed names to Muddy Felicini’s as we walked out but by the time we came out of The Botanist it had changed back. Saints and Scholars has a new roof, Evans currently looks a bit like a fish car boot sale and you wait years for a Tapas bar and then three come st once.

Tinto is the new Chalk / Nido / Turkish Delight… Tinto Shminto. It’s not 2012 and names ending in Os have not thrived in M20 central. It looks promising, but so did the kitten-hipped waiters at Chalk – good luck. 
Bisous Bisous is now shut Monday and Tuesday. I hope this is not a gradual decline. 

But amid this turmoil Kansas Fried Chicken sails like a huge iceberg, untouched. There are lessons to be learned.

Ps: I love The Botanist. What’s not to love about Salt ‘n’ Pepper Onion Petals with a Carafe of Gin but it still feels a bit like The Pitcher & Piano – or is that just me? 

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. 

A Brief History of Time (With Snacks)

Is it autumn already. Everyone went back to school and brought home brand new infections. Last week we had summer, winter and storms so vicious Facebook asked me to confirm I was safe. Safe? This is The North. I sent the children out to chase the lightning and see if there were reductions on any rain-damaged produce around the city. Staff at Fletcher Moss dress up for “Bring Your Kids to Work” day. 

The nights have drawn in. I don’t know what “drawn in” means. Certainly not coloured in. The boddlers are back to waking up in the dark. Didsbury Son’s teenage retreat to his room now has the cover of darkness and Didsbury Wife is eyeing up the central heating and (breathes out) Match of the Day is back. 

Didsbury continues to evolve quickly and sometimes surprisingly. Those old enough to remember 2014 (we were part of Europe, Scotland was part of the UK and BBC owned Great British Bake-Off) will recall the shock as Co-Op rebranded, toyed with the idea of being called Copo and even had tables outside for a couple of weeks. These primarily provided easy dog lead tying and Big Issue displaying opportunities. 

Now Greggs are following suit. On Saturday 8 October it bursts out from the shadow of 3 Little Pigs and Toni & Guy as a new “Artisan” Greggs. With Bisou Bisou’s bespoke Gallic beauty and Casa Italia’s specialist nosh this could be a disaster waiting to happen (Or a “Nido” as we call it). Is the Gregg’s Sausage Roll about to become a herb-infused Wild Boar Empanadas? Are the staff getting polo necks? Time will tell. 

Picture courtesy of @craftwords

There’s more. The MMU site has developed from desolate to building site via a short stint as a Caravan Park. This is going to bring an awful lot of middle-class professionals and relocating aspirational suburbanites to Didsbury. How will they ever fit in? 
Elders foretell of the great Manchester Storm of 2016.

The roads into the centre of the village become ever more blocked. Nero and Costa’s Red and Blue bookending of the village now makes them seem like old, established family businesses. 

The beard epidemic which spread (it’s an apparently chin-borne virus) has now infected the majority of Didsbury’s under 30 males. This is how they look to me. 

but I still think a mullet looks good. 

But this is M20. Autumn is arguably our most beautiful time of year. Fletcher Moss and the leafy streets lend themselves to the change in light. The shops may change, the make of car parked across your road at school time may change but… there will always be Axons, Evans and The Cheese Hamlet and someone smoking a ciggie outside The Nelson. 

Getting Over the Brexit Blues

Apologies for going quiet. I have written eight or nine blogs in the last two weeks. Topics have included the disappearance of the magnificent AiryFairyCupcake on School Lane – why? Was it something we didn’t say? Its replacement by a Babyscanner is genius. The nearest is in Old Trafford and if we know one accessory always popular in M20 it’s a baby. We were offered one so early in the Twins’ development they would have still liked like dust under the carpet and my advice is be careful, at 20 weeks they still look like an outtake from Alien. 

I also wrote about the Viz gonad sign coming down in the village, the replacement of summer with a repeating week from Autumn and the trials of coordinating family, work, health and the European Championships. Boris Johnson’s post Brexit strategy document was less than impressive.

None has made it past notes. Each has turned into a self-pitying rant and call to arms for the soul of the nation split by the ridiculous Etonian argument. Since we voted to leave Europe (when I say “we” I mean the whole herd, not our bit grazing happily on focaccia obviously) I have moped, railed, cried, feared and read a lot of clever articles that would have been brilliant a week earlier. Had these tremendous minds talked in advance rather than pointing and saying “Told you so” afterwards it may have been different. They remind me of the Donald Trump & Nigel F*rage memes that have filled social media over the last year. Whilst we’ve chuckled and “liked” their crassness and the ease of satirising them, they have both hoovered up votes and influence. They talked to people too easily dismissed.

I’m sure some people voted “no” with positive intentions and I hope I’m wrong. I’m fairly used to being in the minority. BUT for those thinking this will re-invigorate the job market and bring wages, standards and vitality up – you must be too young to remember 79-97 and why New Labour and their domestic policies were met with such gusto. I’m digging out my Redskins records and preparing to find happiness in different ways. 

Revised post-vote integrated transport system for Manchester

Have a look at his Jonathan Pye video – says it better than I ever could. 

So as a Didsbury Dad so far past 39 that when I first heard about “Thatcher the milk snatcher” I thought it was a new character on Scooby Doo, this much I know.

1. Democracy is vital and I believe in it and will know longer use terms like bellend or mispronounce Jeremy Hunt when talking to people who voted “Brexit”, even those who thought it was “Brisket” and they were voting for a decent meat sandwich.

2. Over a decade as a Didsbury Dad has taught me that 90% of what I say is ignored, 5% is misunderstood and 5% is disputed. But at least I can add up. 

3. I feel personally responsible for the demise of TheAiryFairy Cupcake shop. When we moved house I gave up cupcakes – but sadly took up the pistachio biscuits and pain au raisins from Bisou Bisou

 4. I miss Cafe Rouge. It was originally a pre-work tryst location when I first met Didsbury Wife and we evolved with it into toddler-haven in its latter days. Bring it back.

Britishcakes

5. The bar menu at Chalk is so much better than you think it will be. 
6. Falling out over politics is a waste of time, we have to work together. However, if there’s someone you’ve been trying to ditch them this is the perfect moment to take offence at their “I’m not racist but…” Comment.
7. When I found out that the Tories had won in 92 I marched, angsted and made false promises. In 2015 when we found out it was over at 10.01pm I had an early night. On 24th June I swore loudly, was genuinely shocked and had to go and get milk. The world may be falling apart but my little enclave still has to have its routine. 

 Didsbury Son walks M20’s green and pleasant land – it is only that green because the weather’s been crap. 

Berocca, pecking orders and life in the slow lane

It’s been a media, Manchester and family logistics whirlwind recently. The beauty of a smartphone calendar is that you can be panicked into action with just long enough to get somewhere (if the traffic agrees with Apple) . The bad thing is looking at your diary for the day and seeing 28 arrangements,10 of which concern the time-sensitive movement of toddlers. There is absolutely no reason for this picture
In notes is all the vital information – remember changing bag. We are still subject to guesswork as to whether it will be a rainforest or Sahara day. Scope emergency Kinder Egg buying opportunities in the area, don’t forget Berocca. 
Berocca – like you but on a day somewhere circa 1995 when you could sit on your haunches and then get up without help. 

Nor this one 

Yesterday’s notes included finding the right bottle of Mountain Dew for Didsbury Son’s weekend camp out, making sure I had the right lights for filming in a Morgue and remembering that you can’t get the tram at St Peters Square (I didn’t, I was then late for everything). 
In the morning Didsbury Wife had been waxing lyrical about our ability to cope without the Volkswagen YouWouldNeverDriveThisIfYouDidntHaveKids since its inner city diet saw it wheel less and written off. After a day of tram, train, bus and taxi I dreamed of the ease of being a two-car family and gasped at the price of cabs. I don’t know if Uber have skewed the market but last time I paid that much to spend half an hour with a stranger so certain of their own thoughts they had Dr. before and capital letters after their name.
Oh it is the fate of the dad to know the price of everything and, that should be a full stop.
In a media life this week I got to play with cameras and body bags, sit in an edit suite and make decisions. At home I reverted to my position in the pecking order just below the cats. My main choice here being Paw Patrol or Blaze, Petit Filous or Yoghurt.

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. 

The Open University and Trout vs Salmon

I am once again surrounded. To my left, one hand on my earlobe- coughing up a pre-Calpol storm is The Mighty Headed Boy. His pre-sleep tantrum included a sequence that from the couch looked like Michael Jackson moonwalking and had me cursing the fact my phone was charging. It made Charlie Bit My Finger look like a 70s Open University lecture. 
To my right the Pearly-Topped Princess is wrapped around me like the ivy on our new home, only welcome.
Their breathing has not yet slipped down into that unwakeable deepness. I love this period. It filters into all the things men like most about parenting small children (adoration, feeling needed, adoration, quiet time to watch Sky Sports News HQ).
I would love to drop off with them but I am flat on my back and the gentle snoring of a 40-something Didsbury Dad with a chest cold may shake the plaster, let alone interrupt an afternoon nap.
These moments give me time to think through the important things in life. Should I re-install Football Manager Handheld? Is a trout a lo-fi Salmon? What should I have for brunch? Brunch is Didsbury for my lovely wife let me have a lie-in today. So I think I’ll just count a few blessings before I proceed. 

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. 

 

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. 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: