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 “previous lives”

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. 

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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. 

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.  

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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. 

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. 

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. 

Stoptober, The War on Drugs and Groupon

Stoptober; lovely idea. 260000 people still daring and rich enough to smoke have signed up. Good on them. Of all the habits I have started and stopped it was by far the most difficult to end (seconded closely by visits to the Kool Runnings Caribbean Food Van on Upper Chorlton Road). However, something in me feels we should be allowed the freedom to choose. The ALS Ice-bucket challenge, another wonderful money raising, cause-highlighting affair that also made me feel uncomfortable. (The peanuts have been removed from Revels, ruining my favourite joke about Revels being Russian Roulette for but allergists, one gag probably not worth the risk but it’s put me off Revels). It’s not the cold water in the ice-bucket challenge – just the feeling of generic naffness, the idea of being told what to do makes me feel like posting a cynical retort – which I know is probably wrong.
Stoptober has me thinking of 10 Silk Cut for £1, Movember has me up early to shave and I now get so many Just Giving requests that they proliferate my inbox like Groupon and their worthiness undoes my innate Northern outsiderness.
A friend once set-up a Justgiving page to announce that they were doing nothing. I donated immediately. I like my causes and donate, I am a FOLLA (a Friend of Lapwing Lane Arcade), I can be coerced during the later, more receptive stages of most telethons and of course am now an easy touch for anything with children, but…
It must be a generational thing. I am old enough to have met all my friends. I overshare sometimes on Social Media. This week is National Champagne Week ( c’mon Primary Schools – that’s a theme day parents would buy into), it’s National Hug Day and Tuesday marks 32 years since Ronald Reagan declared the first U.S. War on Drugs – how did that work out?

We have Silly Hat Day at home and that can lead to controversy if the twins go for the same beanie cap. I think as profile raising, marketing exercises these nannying call to arms are wonderful. As ways to coerce people into contributing to things in which they may not believe – even better; they remind me of Halloween. I am all Parkin and Bonfire night

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A double rainbow. Donate now for a third

In The Night Garden v The Football Factory

Introducing children to culture early on in their development is important for them to attain the kind of middle-class snobbery that make X-Factor, Jeremy Kyle and popcorn such guilty pleasures. Didsbury Son was scared by a number of clowns and bored by theatre early on; the scars should open nicely later in life.

Thus today, the Mighty-Headed boy and The Pearly Princess made their theatrical debut; In The Night Garden Live at The Trafford Centre’s Showdome. It was a combination of Shakespeare, Siegfried and Roy and Cirque du Soleil and as we cheered, laughed and cried… Iggle Piggle found his blanket before the smell of filled nappy and Aptamil overwhelmed the space.

The lead-up had been tricky. I am a keen supporter of Arts and Culture (it’s paid the mortgage occasionally) and this week my diverse cultural tastes collided. The week had begun with the start of the football season. I engaged the frame of mind needed to cope with dodgy backstreets , testosterone rushes and the need to swear whilst singing in sync with the other 4000 former thirty-somethings pretending they hadn’t pleaded to get a pass-out.

This successful night out bled into plans for the big In The Night Garden day. I sat the twins down to remind them that even if the whole presenting team from Milkshake, riding Thomas the Tank Engine and led by Peppa Pig fronted us up – we never run (my knee is way past that), for today we are CBeebies.

When I received a text telling me I could meet Iggle Piggle and Macca Pacca afterwards I got all Danny Dyer and had halfway filled a sock with plastic building bricks when Didsbury Wife stopped me.

I came to my senses. The Tombliboos won 2-0 (although all that scratching noses and sitting on the floor saw them cautioned for time-wasting) and we got a police escort back to the car.

The play was brilliantly conceived. It was big and friendly and it’s audience was enchanted. This was a lovely escape back to gentleness for an hour. My pearly girl stared open-mouthed at the gigantic figures. She believed this world in a way that removed all adult cynicism and restored a little magic bubble to a week when the real world has sometimes seemed so harsh, the news so bleak – that even the 6am charge across the landing shouting “Daddy Mummy” seemed in danger.

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The urge to shout “Behind You” was overwhelming.

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Thankfully this was a fiercely partisan crowd, although several infants were ejected for starting anti-Balamory chants

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.

Didsbury Dad, Agony Uncle

I never realised how easy it was raising just Didsbury Son until the Mighty-Headed Boy and The Pearl-Topped Princess turned up. Becoming a new father well over the age of 39 and 364 days exposes the physical scars of a misspent youth very quickly and from elbow to knee I have been in agony most of the time. My sciatic nerve is so pinched it looks like Ann Robinson and 20 months of this qualifies me as an agony uncle.
This week my imaginary inbox has been bulging with questions from soon-to-be, new and confused dads. Remember always do as I say, not as I do – one of the few genuinely useful pieces of advice I have given Didsbury Son.

Dear Didsbury Dad
I am considering a change of career from something mediaish and successful to loafing about as a freelancer once my partner gives birth to twins early next year. What do you think?

Dear I.M Mad
Are you joking? Ideally look for a full-time job which requires you to be away once a week, cancel all social arrangements until 2019 and before Boots relieve you of any spare cash, buy a shed.

Yo DD
As a former something media and occasionally successful something thingy what do you think?

Good Question. Cafe Nero until they are about 14 months for the baby change, the free babychino and the lovely staff; then Cafe Rouge so they can run around.

Mr Dad.
I have three children – 1, 3 and 4 strange names I know, the wife chose them ( courtesy of Ted Robbins). Will the numbness in my left leg and shoulder ever go?

No, but you’ll stop caring.

Dear Mr Dad
Having children of quite different ages and needs how do you make sure that they all know they are equally loved?

How or why? Soon as Didsbury Son finishes the ironing and the car I’ll ask him.

That’s all for this time. If you need more pearls of wisdom leave a comment or contact me through Twitter @DidsburyDadBlog.

The best advice I can give is apologise most days and don’t hold a grudge. That and a hot Pain Au Raisin and Americano from Nero solves most things.

Next week – live blogging from Didsbury Festival.

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The view from my shed

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My parenting video – a taster clip

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