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 “Modern conundrums”

Part Two – A Time of Darkness

I have only been a part-time Didsbury boy for the last year. My knowledge of the emergence of such misspellings as B.lend are gained from occasional forays, texts from Craftwords and missives from my own Didsbury Mum.

A Hipster

We briefly had a Tapas Mile thing going on but the demise (let’s be honest, it wasn’t very good) of Cantina set me thinking about the fallen. Not the brave soldiers but the crap ideas and donkeys that have failed to launch on our sceptred streets.

the original MOod board for Cau’s development.

There are urbane myths about Didsbury. But look closely at what has survived. The two places that have seen off all the others (since The Happy Garden realised that 6 months without a customer meant it was probably time to close) are Kansas Fried Chicken and Saints & Scholars. They have seen off Japanese Fusion, noncy Med-Fed and everyone else. Saints & Scholars reminds me of Bez. I have no idea why or how, but still good value.

Controversial plans for the new development on the site of Didsbury Police Station.

What of those who have tried and failed since The Didsbury Village Wine Bar closed its walled garden to become Felicini’s,The Mudflap Cafe and finally a symbol representing Daoist Philosophy and Buttermilk soaked Fried Chicken?

A shot southwards down Wilmslow Road from the 70s

Cau sits on an ancient Burial Ground. Here was briefly parked Zinc, some gangster-inspired Japanese disaster with bling that died a death, The Clocktower and a growing Orange Tree.

I couldn’t go in the Orange Tree. It’s townie focused glitz replaced The Old Grey Horse, a legendary hangout full of edge, promise and most of my friends. Legend has it that it’s predecessor, The Cavalcade (whose signage I can still picture) was more avant than an Edemame Milshake.

Trees don’t do that well here, as The Pear Tree folk will tell you. Bourbon & Black was no Didsbury Tapas. In fact it was no Kansas Fried Chicken. But who else remembers when Didsbury had its own KFC? Before that became the Ho Wah and now The Laughing Buddha.

On the block with KFC was Sykes’ Records, where Terry introduced a generation of Didsbury kids to Top of the Pops, Namaste Village and round the corner, Razma Reads.

Razma was a lovely concept. Think of Dot’s cafe in the park with a bookshop. The rise of Amazon killed it.

And no troll through the dead diners of Didsbury Village could forget Pizza Hut, so hip when it opened in the mid 80s, Chalk – whose staff were kitten hipped but whose speciality was… was… no idea and finally.

The greatest tax right-off/failure of them all, Nido – where each customer had their own waiter.

** no actual books, websites, people or anything else was researched during the writing of this blog.

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. 

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.

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. 

Wordy Rappinghood – why it matters

Words I love and hate.

I was in a queue at a supermarket last week. Let’s not name names, let’s call it Smooths at MediaCityYouK. There was a nice woman standing behind me with two small children. The little one, who looked about thee was getting fractious so I did a little gooning about and we all made friends. The man behind the checkout joined in, uninvited. Apparently he too had a “Threenager”. I stopped. The woman looked slightly embarrassed as we wondered whether to
A) ignore the naffness and move on
B) stab him with the kabanos I held in my hand.
C) go to Morissons across the road.
Threenager? Threenager! Threef#^*ingnager. Threenager is right down there with Terrible Twos, 4 year old girls wearing t-shirts that proclaim “Porn Star” on the front, Keep Calm and Carry on Zumba and shops proclaiming themselves “Krazee” or offering “Kutz”.
This is dangerous territory. Not only is our language too beautiful to throw away like this (you repeat Red Lorry Yellow Lorry after a night on the Calpol and tell me I’m wrong), but we continue to create this theme park expectation.
Didsbury Son is 13. He is still the lovely boy he has always been, but he has chemical surges that are part of the often awkward growing trajectory. We all had/have days as teenagers when the world is against all goes wrong. There are times when we both glare, glower and wonder at each other’s stupidity. The moments may be difficult but they are natural and it is the expectation to behave like a grown toddler that is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I know some lovely teenagers. I know some for whom my best intentions fall well below humanity. They are not like that just because they are teens. 
What are the terrible twos? At 2 the world is a huge playground/fridge that revolves only around you. You are the stars, the moon, the sun and heir (the temptation to go into Smiths lyrics here is almost unbearable) to a oneness that is overwhelming. Between the daily dose of kisses, hugs and moments of joy is/are your child(ren)’s introduction to negotiation. If you have not had to witness UKIP’s abysmal rise, never chewed your nails through the last month of a Premier League season, lost a person close to you or been dumped then of course whether or not you get a biscuit is worthy of tears. 
So the twos are not terrible. They stretch your joints, your patience and your ability to watch the same programme over and over BUT… They only last 52 weeks and I have a feeling that I will miss the babbling, utter adoration and openness that typify this year. 
So there is my ten pence worth. Cliches and Platitudes are not described that way as a compliment; however tiring or frustrating a teenage/toddler tantrum is they are part of the furniture and once they are through this the opportunities to eat fish fingers and buy plastic tat are gone forever and that is testing. 

Is it Spring Forward, Fall Back or Fall forward, spring back?

This is it. The final, official, scratching the bottom of the pan, stretching it as far as it will go, hope over reality, these jeans still fit honestly, end of summer 2014. Later this week the clocks go back or is it forward? Spring forward, fall back or the other way around? Either way, it gets dark at lunchtime and the sun only comes up Wednesday half-day closing.
This is TV on the couch, jumpers, endless talk of “incubating something” weather. Time to be pressured into creating a perfect Christmas that encompasses the beauty of innocence and the financial clout I have only occasionally achieved in Monopoly.
As my children continue to defy my indifferent parenting skills to be lovely, I look around me and know that before its time to gather at the Cenotaph next month and look at the empty terrace where Cafe Rouge once ruled, The squish of leaves underfoot and the fear of gas bill in my inbox will take hold. There is only one thing to do – plan your treats.

1. For a little male grooming, the wetshave at Blade on School Lane takes some beating, although the military-trained deep massage at G4 Physio I once had was so deep my hamstrings are still undercover.

2. For your take-out morning commute there is now real choice. The coffee and pastries at Bisou Bisou are so good they can’t possibly be every day occurrences. In the village The AiryFairyCupCakeBoutique still know how to dress a sponge for the City Centre tram, whilst West Didsbury has Fusion Deli, consistently great coffee with a welcome to kickstart the day. My jar of Nescafe is now three years old and a sad, unloved, never-to-be-used clump.

3. Notworking: should you be meeting “colleagues” or “freelancing from home” there are many warm welcomes once the decent TV finishes. Café Nero is so child-friendly I can’t go through the door without a Rugrat, but if the free top-ups ’til 11 hold then a Chalk Bar & Grill Flat White can keep itself in adult company. Healthy Spirit (I just had to ask Didsbury Wife what Nature’s Grace is called now) is sooo nice, so boho, so right-on its virtually Chorlton. Art of Tea blends indifferent service into an art and Albert’s is the place for a posh meeting. I go there and pretend its 1989 all over again – well if it’s good enough for the decor its good enough for me.

4. Lunch: The Japan Deli in Withington, opposite The Red Lion. How it survives is a mystery, but the Sushi is stunning and there is never a queue. I find it difficult to take anywhere seriously for lunch that promotes a Scotch Egg as haute cuisine – but sitting alone in The Jade Garden for their business lunch, playing “Name that Tune” is an experience sidestepped by too many.

5. The newbies. Bourbon & Black looks exciting; Croma has queues not seen since the last Gregg’s pastie sale. Solita seems lively and we await news of Sweaty Betty’s. Wine & Wallop looks a goer and Burton Road bulges with indie pride.

These possibilities keep me focused on a 7am park trip with the boddlers; but there is one place where I am beyond the smash of a dropped babychino, the demand for wi-Fi and Hot Chocolate or the call to prayer at John Lewis. It has no windows, no atmosphere and the service is average – but in the cafe at the gym my phone has no signal. There’s a couch where I can slouch and drift off… perfect for a winter’s morning.

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The sushi at Japan Deli is the nearest Didsbury Son is getting to a fish tank this Christmas.

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If you close your eyes it’s like Cibo never existed.

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Looking forward to those beautiful November mornings.

Birthdays and the Autumn Breeze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Didsbury Kisses, hits, misses, diners and delis

Bisons Bisous so good they named it twice. Bisous Bisous, it won’t sell chocolate mice. Bisous Bisous, it could be Shangri-la. Bisous Bisous, just two doors down from Croma.

Summer in the City and somehow Saints & Scholars, Kansas Fried Chicken and The Stop Inn Kebab Shop defy the March of time, taste and technology to thrive in a strip that has shed more tears for failed businesses than Brazilians at the World Cup. So, this is your cut out and keep guide to what’s going on in Didsbury as we ignore England leaving no shadow at The World Cup, Andy Murray’s failure returning him from British to Scottish and Tour de Losers in the War of the Roses fever lasting as long as it took Cav and Froomey to crash out. ** I have no idea who Cav and Froomey are but I think he’s something to do with Mrs Fruman who catered my brothers’ barmitzvahs in the 70s.

Coming Soon: Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane promises meat and cheese – what’s not to like? It offers good times for beardy and non-beardy hipsters alike just a quail’s scotch egg munch from Metrolink. The demise of Cibo ( Nido with a carpet ). means more hipsters. Northern Quarter maple bacon gurus Sol-I-Ta are coming our way and there are rumours that Casa Tapas is going to be a mini Waitrose. (There aren’t, but there have been rumours of Waitrose coming since 1846 – the year The Cheese Hamlet opened). The idea of somewhere you could get a reasonable and free coffee every morning could decimate the local economy in less time than it takes to work out what Global News (Percival’s) and it’s three-year re-fit is for.
Bisous Bisous, a French Patisserie at the Slug & Lettuce end of the village offers Wasteland, not waistline in the most delicious way and… It wasn’t a zombie. The apparition I saw in Gourmet Burger King was the advanced party for Croma. Welcome, may you be as brilliant as Piccolino.

My campaign for a weekend pram lane gathers pace – the idea popped into my head again at half-time in the Pikachu vs Hedgehog World Cup Quarter Final Last Week.

New and hopeful: I like Chalk Bar & Grill. It’s open front is optimistic, it’s lively and the food is good and getting very good and it’s kitten-hipped Staff look as though they have sashayed out of Didsbury Theatre School in their improbably narrow-waisted skinny jeans just to please us.

Burton Road is blossoming right now. Didsbury Wife and I were out there last week for an earlyish evening drink and pram crawl and it felt exciting, friendly and confidently creative; I still wish Pete at Steranko opened late. The Lapwing Lane arcade (Inmans and Friends) still has Fusion Pete’s best coffee on the go in Manchester and a former chippy turned gentrified empty space that looks like like a chippy with no customers.

With the rate of hairdressers opening dwindling to three a week, Wadden v Brimelow taking the summer off before the purple battle re commences and Holland & Barrett maintaining its 1:1 staff:customer ratio these are heady days. And it’s only a month until the football season.

Coming next – Didsbury’s top tenish hangouts for summer 2014

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Not Hershey’s, but French Kisses opening soon.

Man vs Mucous vs Chalk Bar & Grill

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Queues wearing Sky Blue scarves swarmed in Didsbury to see a babysitter happy to get twins down.

Man vs Mucous
“The best things in life are free.” Love, comps and invites to launches are the three cornerstones of life. Really good fried chicken is the fourth should it be needed. With this In mind you can only shine a weak light on the dark thoughts in my head as I drove past the opening of Chalk Bar Grill with the prescription for my pearly princess gripped in my hand.

Not once did I feel cheated to see Didsbury’s finest sipping chilled drinks and chattering at the opening night party. My only thought was with the little angel lying listless in her mother’s arms waiting for a little Calpol Extra to put her back upright.

My invite, with Didsbury Wife as my plus 1 lies untouched; as does the Mojito I have been visualising all day. But none of this crossed my mind as I prayed that the nursery day ending virus would heal quickly; before we have to decide who can sidle out of work to look after her easiest tomorrow.

Parents of boddlers will know that social engagements lessen as people realise what poor company you have become. Babysitters happy to have twin boddlers are rarer than invites to openings in Didsbury so when they align… Luckily none of this mattered in the slightest as I texted the babysitter to stand down whilst queuing at the pharmacy.

I’ll have to buy my own Mojito

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Opening night invite ship has sailed

Goodbye Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Hello Summer

Childhood is so fleeting. It feels like a finger snap since I walked a blondini Didsbury Son up the disused railway line; poking trees, reading graffiti and talking rubbish together. Then we would savour a trip to Gourmet Burger Kitchen whose wide open spaces always a had a slightly anxious and over-zealous welcome. Didsbury Son loved GBK Olympics – running unfettered from table to table and the burgers were Mmm, ok. But it had to end. Our nature trail is now the Metrolink and GBK is gone, joining Nido, Cibo and the other Os as a footnote rather than a memory. All of which makes Sol-I-To’s (no idea) bid to replace Cibo, back on to new Ashley Brown and be the flagship of Warburton Street even braver (my money was on a Nandos).

It’s a unique enclave. The grumpiest bookshop in Britain still enthrals, the physio makes you limp over cobbles to arrive and No. 4 is one of the best independent restaurants in the city.

Thankfully the old guard of AiryFairyCupCake, Alpine Cafe, The Now Wholly Croatian staffed Didsbury Deli and The Art of Tea survive. Cafe Crema has gone. It’s combination of poor service and average fare not grabbing the attention, but our teenage protege in Applebey’s fights on for a 2nd summer. It is not easy.

In pre pre DD days I spent a spell of my “portfolio” career running live music venues. I know about dry and wet sales, have a recollection of Health and Safety (it was the 90s) and learned how to spot the sad notes that signal the end – the staff take up less space, the saleable furniture dwindles – the doors shut.

So good luck Solito, The Stokers Arms, Chalk Bar Grill, Wine & Whallop on Lapwing Lane and Urban Grille 2. If Kansas Fried Chicken is a symbol of hope in the village as well as a sweaty eyesore then grasp it and go large.

* There will be a candlelit vigil for all the businesses that were not properly thought through at this year’s Didsbury Festival – possibly.

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Kabuki comes to Burton Road

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Sol-I-To; the new Cibo or the new La Tasca?

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