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 “Raising twins”

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.

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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. 

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. 

Inman’s, The Doomesday Book and Regeneration

According to The Times, Didsbury is in Britain’s Top 25 suburbs. We are apparently more “real”, “less expensive” than the twin delights of Hale and Bowden (Red House Farm and the M56). They may have the footballers, but we have the real wives of Didsbury; they go to the match. 

When City first won the Premier League the street party featured reds, blues, inbetweeners and those that don’t care. Likewise, when the other teams from the region do well we are occasionally roused.

Didsbury regenerates. Cibo and Nido are now just fading memories, like a bad date where you came out of the toilet unzipped with tissue paper on your shoe. But other places leave a mark. 
It is lovely to see Broadbents taking on the mantle, but Wilkinsons will not be forgotten and now, the sad but inevitable news that Inmans on Lapwing Lane is going to close.
Josie, straight here from La Coruna, has welcomed four generations of families. My Didsbury Grandpa took me for Shoot comic when I was a toddler (the sweet shop, selling halfpenny chews is now Didsbury Noodle) and The Mighty Headed Boy/Princess Pearly Alliance have had their first Peppa Pig comics brought there. It is a rite of passage for Didsbury children.
Josie is now a grandmother and still the welcoming face of Inmans and after over 900 years in the same location it closes in April. Rumour has it that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his men, escaping back to Scotland, sneaked past Prince Rupert’s troops camped by the library and brought Werthers, a funny Birthday Card and something to read for the journey north at “Inemannes, a most favourable, but pricey stop”.
Rumours are rife of it becoming a Costa but the Whitbreadification of Lapwing Lane is unlikely.
The three inside tips bidding I have heard of are… A Cage Fighting and Mixed Martial Arts Centre, a Waitrose (pretty please) or a Petting Zoo. However this is Didsbury and my money is on a hairdresser or an Estate Agent. 
So my Didsbury Children will not be able to harangue me for novelty pens and expensive stationary here. Pete at Fusion will need a new paper supplier and I will have to find another trigger to remind when I need to buy cards for Jewish Festivals. Worst of all, I can’t swap baby pictures with Josie on the way to work.
I’ve only just got over Woolworths.  

 

inman’s first book display

   

 Pictures of the first uniforms worn by Inman’s staff are rare – but in this an early manageress celebrates the signing of the Magna Carta (copies were available at 1 groat).

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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Into every rain a little sun may fall

The thing about family life as the parent is that you are hero, villain, unpaid slave and feted emperor(ess), often in the same day, sometimes in the same conversation.
For every matrimonial slight magnifying exponentially as sleep depravation crescendoes, there is that complicit nod, a shared joke with Didsbury Son or a boddler leap and hug.
The scattering of re-imagined objects on the floors, at times a joyful motif for the imagination unspoiled by Cartoon Network – on another day when the Middle C note has been hollered before 5.30, the planets unaligned and the day has gone downhill, it is a sinister coupling of the results of a conspiracy against you to negate all you have done. It is neither. It is just the detritus of a lively house and you are in a trough; with a peak hiding the other side of the Nightgarden.
I have been keeping a list of the little things that have made me happy and sad/angry/paranoid this week. The list, a mundane arrangement of MIS-interpretations, imagined slights and the odd moment of clarity.
If I had read it in a magazine I would have nodded in recognition, distancing myself from the pettier, ignoble side.
However – seeing ideas and behaviours laid out so bluntly is like a plooking back at a teenage diary and suddenly realising that it wasn’t that no one understood your genius, just that most people try to avoid you when you behave like Kevin the Teenager and pout like a trout.

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.

Urban Legend, Political Campaigns and an Apology

Didsbury Son is on a scout camp in the middle of nowhere. There will be lots of gung-Ho camping, climbing and sharing small spaces with other people. Thank The Lord for CRB checks and the lovely Scout Leaders who pass them and give their free time to teach him skills for living and learning. The Remembrance Day parade is always moving and their scouting means I don’t have to expose myself to any camping experiences or weekend slumming it in the name of bonding. If I can wriggle out of going fishing, the summer is looking good.

Urban Legend 1: Didsbury is full of focaccia-eating, self-obsessed yummy mummies and daddies. That’s Alderley Edge, we’re only half full.

There are some serious issues that need addressing:
The Stokers Arms’ free lunch offer booked up before I could get my date confirmed. It’s gone from being O’Neills which you wouldn’t want to go near to The Stokers which you can’t get near.

Urban Legend 2: Gourmet Burger Kitchen once had a queue of almost 6 people that stretched to the door before the financial crash of 2008.

2. I owe a big apology to the owners of The MudFlap Cafe in the centre of Didsbury. Their quick Felicini’s demolition and ludicrous early publicity put me off. On the recommendation of several people we braved it… And were a bit bowled over. Didsbury Wife is a water sign, I am Vegan Intolerant and The Mighty Headed Boy gets upset by food beginning with W. No bother. The food was good, the coffee spot on the staff treated us with a welcome throughout that normally evaporates when the first missile leaves a high chair bound toddler or the fiifteenth chorus of Incy Wincy Spider shakes the window. Thank you, we are coming back.

Urban Legend 3: in 2008 a man looked the wrong way on Wilmslow Road and didn’t see a 42 bus for over 8 minutes.

Finally, before festival fever takes over ( It’s only 2 weeks to Didsbury Festival – I love Didsbury Festival, I’ve directed dozens of festivals in many different genres and cities but nothing beats Didsbury Festival on a warm day in June). I want to start a campaign for Pram Lanes in Didsbury. I walked to Withington today (always good to go to the edges of M20 to see what gives and hang out with my brothers from a different mother and school). On the way our double buggy met 3 other double buggies, 16 single buggies, two wheelchairs and a tourist from Chorlton. This entailed much wiggling and stopping to share the pavement whilst the cars hogged the road selfishly.
With prams being such an essential accessory it must make sense for the inside lane to be pram only between 8 and 6 on weekends. All right thinking people must join the fight. Let’s be honest, people were stupid enough to vote UKIP so this might have a chance.

This week we are listening to 6Music, watching Episodes and The Little Princess and getting excited about Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane.

10 Ways Becoming a dad changes everything

There are more than 10, most are quite dull but some surprise me. When I first became a Didsbury Dad (well once I’d had coffee, flavoured vodka and some kind of olive oil based poncey bread) a few things clicked into place.

In her just published novel “Animals” (which is superb), Emma Jane Unsworth has a character whose response to a close friend’s pregnancy is “… Another one lost for a decade”. I read this, gulped and nodded in recognition. I have friends who, in my mind are at the end of a phone knowing I’m swamped, happy and knackered. In reality they have scrubbed me off all lists as the ignorant one who dumped them once he had kids. This mirrors my pre-Didsbury Dad thoughts. How busy, tired, obsessed, sappy and dull can you be for a small screaming ankle biter who removes the opportunity for the epicurean nature on which you have thrived? The answer is personal.

1. A big night out: after bath time, I popped out for an early drink at the Fletcher Moss and delayed bedtime until after 7.30 PM.

2. A really big night out: you get a babysitter (double rate for twins) and after the second drink you realise you are exhausted, have little adult conversation and are really wondering if the babysitter would watch the boddlers if you came home and grabbed a couple of hours un-disturbed sleep.

3. An allnighter: the milk, dummy, singing, rocking and Calpol have all failed and you are watching repeats of Columbo whilst reading Incy Wincy Spider on a five minute rotation to a wired boddlers crying and laughing like a prom-night teenager.

4. You go to Boots for creams and lotions, none of them are for pleasure – all of them are medically based.

5. That tune that won’t leave your head. It’s not the one that brought the night to a crescendo – it’s 64 Zoo Lane and you cannot stop humming.

6. You still look lovingly at your partner and think “I hope they are in the mood for an early night” but you mean will you let me go to bed and go in the spare room so I’m not disturbed.

7. You fill up watching One Born Every Minute

8. You suddenly realise how see-through kids are and how much more patient your own Didsbury Dad was.

9. Staying in is the new going out.

10. You start to have opinions about things you have never cared about. Last week there was a seismic shift. The actual topic is irrelevant, it was what it meant. We were watching Master Chef (Big Bang Theory for adults) and Didsbury Wife asked me what I was thinking. All men know that this is normally a cause for concern as you are either thinking about nothing, football, nothing, somebody inappropriate, nothing, whether Eddie Murphy was convincing in “Coming to America” or nothing.
Without pause I was able to share my ideas around a child development issue. Halfway through my speech the enormity of this hit me and I asked for an early night.

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