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 “losing loved ones”

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.

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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. 

My WellBeing and Happy Place

The 7 O’Clock tram is a place of truth. Although easier, smoother and infinitely less hassle than driving or the bus – it still exposes all those physical scars and joint weaknesses that accrue.

Life, children, football and the wrongly held belief 20 somethings have about physical invincibility come back to you with each bend and stop/start. If I ever need to fill in one of those forms with an outline of a body on to mark where it hurts, I get the 7am tram. After having children after the age of anything, this is the most accurate and medically proven method of analysing weak spots.

In my more Media-luvvy, work work work days I would always end each production with a short health spa visit, have a regular massage and generally try and keep my wheels oiled and moving.

Nursery fees, school costs, the price of nappies and lack of time have all put paid to this. BUT. I promised to take one for the team and am always true to my word.

Didsbury’s First Day Spa still languishes like a half-built, post 2008 Spanish holiday complex. The rolls of insulation in the window promise nothing, but the windows look good quality. I decided to try MyWellBeingPlace at The Waterside Hotel. Free parking and a river running by it are powerful attractors when one hopes to leave jellied and at one with nature.

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Didsbury’s First Day Spa – not quite got the visual look to work

To anyone raised on the pampas grass and wide horizons of M20, The Waterside Hotel is still The Galleon. A Lido in South Manchester in the middle of the River Mersey’s flood plain. It has always been a tribute to optimism and an example of early adopting. With Global Warming starting to head our way – an open air pool could finally be back on the agenda.

I liked the promise in the name of MyWellBeingPlace and its website called me to Bali trained, Stockport raised mindfulness and treatment of boss and head masseuse Amanda.

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Early artist view of the Waterside Hotel refit

It worked. Amanda put me at such ease it reminded me of going to one of those hotels that is so posh, they don’t make you feel like a Northern Monkey. After a chat about my infirmities and allergies I had half an hour that reminded me why I used to save my pennies and expectation for a bit of me time.

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Post massage selfie

A good masseuse can be as important as a good dentist. You have to go in trusting that you can handover the reins of your life, whilst you lie face down and let your mind go. It’s the same reason I like swimming. You are under water in your pants – there are only so many things you can control or worry about so you may as well relax. I did.

One benefit of working on productions was the ability to blag a massage if you have a masseur coming for talent or crew. I have had good, bad and indifferent pummels across the globe. Finally I’m coming home.

This was lovely. Amanda put me at ease, did a fantastic job and then brought me gently back to reality before sending me back into the world fully conscious and lissom. I am usually wary of recommending anything inedible but I can endorse a visit to MyWellBeingPlace (which only opened in September) before getting a booking involves bribery and involves a waiting list.

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I stepped limber, spent that evening in Teletubby land and the next 2-3 days ache free and uplifted; no chemicals.

This would be my happy ending but I’ve booked in Didsbury Wife for a pre half-term treat and I’m wondering which of the children’s birthdays can be sacrificed for a more regular trip.

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. 

 

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

Life on the Farm Day 2

Life on the Farm – Day 2:

We will get to the 3 year olds party later – it’s breach of liberal South Manchester gender politics being stunning but…  Everyone in the country has posh China 
Once I had got over my disappointment that none of The Archers were dropping in for scrumpy and Marry Your Cousin night I relaxed and began to enjoy country life. The 7 year old son of the farmer took me and The Mighty Headed Boy on a tour of tractors, Combine Harvesters (bigger than an average Didsbury New Build) and grain stores. His rugged nimbleness – part goat, part boy made me guess that he had never sipped a Babyccino, but he could deliver a calf and strip an engine. My urbane toddler hoofed his way into the cockpit of a tractor and gurned appreciatively. 

The party was interesting – nearly 3 somethings are the same everywhere. The mums all know each other, communicate hourly on Social Media and had spent weeks of planning and days of craftwork creating a brilliant party. The men turned up and were then re-routed to the pub where we spent three hours. I even drank a pint of Stella quickly to prove my manliness before queasily sipping soda and lime and slipping an Oemeprozole into my peanuts. For the mothers this was another 3 hours solo toddler entertaining, for Didsbury Wife, outnumbered. No talking , just a frenzy of E numbers, accidents and rinsing trousers. We returned triumphantly having bonded and avoided politics (there were southerners) and I did my parental duty feeling lovely middle-class guilt. I also saw a new life – one called the 1970s where men could avoid engaging with their children or making a contribution – it looked a bit beige. To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of Pampers first thing in the morning.”
The guest house in the country was stunning. Run by the non-Jewish, 40 something version of My Didsbury Mum, we were fed home made biscuits and fresh coffee, pampered and generally treated like aristocracy for a wonderful 18 hours.  

   
 But in every life there are battles. There are challenges that must be faced, parapets that must be stood upon. In my life I have eaten a full English or two. I have had porridge, with and without jam to start my day and I have gone to work on an egg. Toast – brown or white? Fruit? Bring it on. Coffee is a great breakfast and on occasion, a hot croissant sets you up for the day. Never have I been faced with them all on one table, in one go. Didsbury Wife and I worked and worked. I cried for trousers with an active comfort waist and eventually, as the last mushroom was chewed – silence. A Pyrrhic victory. We are definitely coming back in a couple of months once we can breathe normally again. The scene is one of carnage –  the local population are in shock.  

The Farmers Boys – In The Country

Postcards from Murcia 4/4 – This Much I Know.

This much I have learned about family holidays as 39 years and 39 months sail into the distant past and the dread of another 6 years primary school edutainment looms into view:
1. The only advantage to flying with small children is priority loading. This does not compensate for knowing that your only chance of getting someone’s kit off in the plane toilet on board is if they’ve had an accident.
2. That the villa comes complete with Sky Sports and Movies only adds to your frustration that the only channels you’ll be surfing are CBeeBies, Pop and Didsbury Son’s Russell Howardathon on Comedy Central. 
3. Going through security is now one of the best bits. Watching stern security guards trying to deal with The Mighty Headed Boy’s button pressing and Foghorn Leghornesque questions and being hugged by the Pearly Princess can be a joy to behold.  

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4. You would not think you had enough water in you to sweat as much as you do for the first 50 miles in your hire car. Your mantra “stick to the right, priority to the left” will haunt your dreams. 
5. Looking around the baby pool at the other parents I realised I was the only one who remembered the peseta and Laurie Cunningham playing for Real Madrid. 
6. My twins were the only boddlers not weeing in the swimming pool. They both insisted on getting out, standing next to the pool and weeing on the ground for an audience.
7. My holiday extravagances are more likely to lead to gout than a night of excess and a slight feeling of guilt.
8. I don’t judge anyone by their tattoos unless they are British and their tattoos are Sanskrit, Japanese, Chinese or Latin (football club mottos excluded), then I do judge them. 
9. Crisps taste better in the sun.
10. Wherever I go in the world, however deflated I am to return to Britain, the first flat voweled voice I hear at Passport Control reminds me this is home.
Home now and ready for the damp descent to autumn and those lovely winter nights when the ground shines and your breath leads you home. Good luck everyone. 

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. 

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…

Didsbury’s Christmas Tree shines brighter than McBusted

Wednesday night saw Didsbury Village at its best for the Christmas tree switch-on. Stewards in Santa Man. City outfits telling us Santa’s not a red, it was a coca cola conspiracy. A host with a microphone full of enthusiasm and a unique lyrical skill, led us through free mulled wine and pizza, bags of satsumas and women handing out sweets. It was magical. The mulled wine was provided by The Stokers Arms and delivered by Bisou Bisou’s lovely Front of House – a kind of McBusted for the village. Santa arrived on a fire engine with a sound system playing Chris Rea and The Mighty Headed Boy, gently crushing my shoulders from the top down, cried as though Chris Rea himself were coming to sing.
The tree lit up, the sweets were snaffled and a good time was had by all. Only the darkness where once was Cafe Rouge reminded us that not everyone has there own French Patisserie – but we do, happy holidays.

N.B. I have no idea who McBusted are. I even watched I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to see if they were there.

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Ready for the big night out

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The stars came out

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The Mighty Headed Boy v Santa

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