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 “Love Life, Hate UKIP”

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. 

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.

aa4 happy pizza

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. 

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, I have a confession

I want to make a full confession. I’ve been unfaithful, several times. It didn’t mean anything, I’ve done it with friends and Didsbury Wife has been there with me. Once or twice Didsbury Son, Pearly Princess and The Mighty-Headed Foghorn Leghorn were there. They didn’t know what was going on. It’s been exciting, it’s been refreshing. So I want to come clean. Over the last month I’ve been going out in… Chorlton.
I’m sorry Didsbury. I know my heart lies with Fusion Deli and Bisou Bisou. I can practice all I learn watching Dora the Explorer at Pinchjos and that Steranko, Aldi and Didsbury Library fulfil all my needs but, but.
I was weak, I hadn’t shaved for a bit and I’d seen a feature on hemp clothing and it happened. First I went to Coriander (don’t tell The Third Eye, I think I should do it myself). They served goat. I was powerless. On the way home we went to the Co-Op next door. It was so old school, so poorly laid out, the staff were hopeless and I got nostalgic. 
Then it escalated. For a birthday treat Didsbury Wife and I went to Laundrette (achingly upbeat, average food, love drinks and staff who look like they eat once a month). They served Strawberry Mojitos and despite the lowness of the seats my knees barely creaked.
Everyone there was 20 years younger than us and I felt so proud to be able to hold a conversation without the use of a mobile device we stayed.
Then last week it happened. Afternoon Delight. I was in the area with Didsbury Wife. We had an hour until we had to pick up any children. I needed a chemist and we went to San Juan on Beech Road for tapas. It was 4.15 and there was not only a free table, but there was no man in there with a beard and they had Scallops and Rioja. I am only human. 
I can barely look at the new dog grooming shops in the village for shame. It’s so obvious. We have a hundred hairdressers, now let’s cut animal hair. 
Didsbury Wife and I have decided that this illicit little sidestep is just the start. In a different pre Didsbury Dad life I lived in Chorlton. And we have much in common. Whilst this is not a political blog it is nice to be sure that both sides of The Parkway the attitude is unashamedly, Metropolitan minded and open. Tomorrow we are going to Cheadle, sshhhh. 

Elvis Presley, Bisou Bisou, Muhammed Ali and Sweaty Betty’s

“There are contenders, there are pretenders, but there is only one king. Bruce Springsteen said this about Elvis Presley and Muhammed Ali gave life to a version of this pre-fights.
This came into my head as I walked past the shell that was once Wilkinsons and wondered who will mend the toasters of the Didsbury cognoscenti, too pre-occupied with memorising the words to Frozen whilst wondering if Marc Warner is now passé. There are rumblings in the venue formerly known as “Sweaty Betty’s” but more of that next time.

Wilkinson’s was so last century it passed beyond retro and in its retirement has achieved eulogising status.

So have the pistachio biscuits in Bisou Bisou. The Bisou twins are a civilising force in the village. The layout is so neat, the staff so friendly (ruining French stereotypes in an instant) that even the schoolchildren queuing pre-school regardé et ecouté as though they had found something relevant in a lesson. They will never replace Cafe Rouge in our hearts – for at least another week..
So as the first snowdrops poke their little purple and white heads above the parapet and the eight tulips that have survived the winter fight with plastic toys in our back “garden” to survive through to have the twins rip off their petals here are five clear clues that spring will be coming to Didsbury soon.i

1. Every shop’s cold storage area is stuffed with single roses they hope will last until Mothers Day.

2. The pram and trolley stop outside the Co-Op in the village is being swept ready for the two tables to be displayed, but only used by people waiting for s bus.

3. A quick look at the menu in Costa or Nero reveals some bizarre non-Coffee fruit shoot that will be priced at more than a meal for four in Marks & Spencers

4. There is a schizophrenia on the shelves around the village as Creme Eggs fight for space with bizarre Lego cars in the Shell garage, Easter Eggs and chocolate hearts being scraped of their Love Hearts messages and being prepped for maternal adoration.

5. The week is all Shrove this, Ash that, Simnel the other. I have no idea what a shrove is, but if Bisou Bisou start making them I’m in.

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The New Ikea Family Car does not look promising.

2015/02/img_0520.jpg Didsbury looks great in summer

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