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 “the Metrolink”

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.

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.

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

Welcome to Miami

So there I was, South Beach, Miami. Weekend, Wedding Anniversary, not too stiff around knee joints and golfer’s elbow receding. I had a double room with A/C (a big fan) and a fridge and a car bigger then my first flat (apartment). Last time I had been on Collins Avenue Clinton was president, I had sipped a jug of Mojito on Ocean Drive and partied until it was time for breakfast burgers on the beach, washed down with another jug of Mojito. Hello Miami. Will Smith ringing in my ears, things the local uniform. Didsbury Daddy is home, then I realised… South Beach with The WotWots (see the clip if the reference means nothing) and the  burgeoning teendom of Didsbury Son is a physical, moral, financial and logistical pit with all the sense of going for a day out on a boat in Florida without sun cream or nappies. I apologise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VujjtKYUEiA

They say you should never go back. I say you should never go back without understanding the difference between single and feckless and six suitcases, two car seats and a buggy.

Our visit to one of Ocean Drive’s most prestigious cafés was instigated by a nappy so full we thought we had triplets, late night shopping on Collins Avenue was superb as were the mosquito bites we took back with us and Our night on the town was a picnic on the bed and hotel room disco followed by extended choruses of “If you’re happy and you know it..”

Actually, this was a highlight. A belly-laughing, life enhancing night that ended with me as a trampoline for all three of the ankle biters. This was off-set by then having my phone lifted whilst I changed the pearly princess at a Mall so huge it made The Trafford Centre seem like a pleasant shopping centre. I had also forgotten that in America if someone stops to let you push the buggy through a door they expect a tip.
When we had cruised into Miami in our rented Toyota Suburbia, an accelerator and clutch free monstrosity more boring than baseball, the mismatch of family and party town dawned. As I lay there at 4am soothing babies to the backdrop of fidgit house, Spanish shouted at full volume and bowel-loosening bass I found myself pining for our toddler unfriendly apartment and easy bedtimes at Key Largo…

I fell in love with Little Havana – but not one of the children would share a cigar. Little Havana was the only place that had great coffee and ice cream and the feel of something culturally vibrant. Miami was things and tattoos. Didsbury Son loved it.

Next time: the essential and ultimate guide to how to travel, holiday and keep your joints oiled with a toddler-teenage collective.

My Miami top tips
1. The apples at The President Hotel on Collins Avenue kept the boddlers busy for hours.
2. The changing facilities at Central Station; worth paying $3 for water.
3. The Walgreens on Collins/5th open until 10pm.
4. The chicken tenders at Publix supermarket, very reasonable.
5. The bus tour, but not for the under 2s

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Didsbury Son and the twins take in Miami

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Miami wasn’t as colourful as I had remembered

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Bedknobs, Broomsticks, Wayne Rooney and stretched concentration

Hell is the consolation for those who turn their backs on forgiveness. Hell and a three-hour training session delivered via PowerPoint by someone who thinks adding an exclamation mark to a sentence is comedy and showing a years old badly-taken pet picture is a way of being endearing.

They aren’t. The exclamation marks merely emphasise the inability to write a funny sentence, the dog is now a four-foot, eight stone, child menace and I am so bored I am re-running this morning’s episodes of Peppa Pig and wondering if Daddy Pig is a loveable, laid-back boar or an idiot.

As we moved on to numbers of emails etc. I imagined the cartoon animals from Bedknobs and Broomsticks beating England 2-1 in the World Cup, whilst the TV Pundits described the Hippo as “too much of a handful for Wayne Rooney and Leighton Baines”.

This is sadly the root of all daddom “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Didsbury Son’s last parents’ evening was a joy. Searching to be critical, the only notes that came back were that he sometimes drifted and was distracted. I zoned out of the rest as there was a great picture behind her but lalala – pay more attention.

I realised that this is not a character flaw, this is in our DNA; like Male patterned Baldness, the magnetic attraction of hand to trousers whilst watching TV and a mistrust of weekends with more than one immovable event.

As I look around the room at my fellow trainees, the male contingent are all doodling, gaming, reading twitter feeds or are asleep.
This debunks the lack of Multi-tasking within men. Each person here can give you a breakdown of the event despite 3 hours spent catching up on emails. It’s the ancient skill, akin to sleeping with one eye open.
At 5.30am, singing “Twinkle Twinkle” for the 5th time, it is the only way to survive.

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Shiny object / calm place / shiny object / calm place

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.

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?

Iggle Piggle Saves A Big Night Out

At a sophisticated soirée we went to last week we covered all the current serious topics. Mandela’s legacy, Syria and Breaking Bad.

As the Co -Op Prosecco flowed, we nodded sagely and spouted Guardian editorials. It could only have been duller had I been forced to feign interest in The Ashes or we had got onto smacking, acceptable or not.

The first time I was dragged into this room splitter I misheard the start and thought we were discussing snacking. It made for an awkward evening.

As Didsbury Wife and I counted the minutes until we could go home, this promised to be more disappointing than the first half of Homeland series 3 until…

Conversation turned towards the power of In the Night Garden. I have long admired Derek Jacobi’s work – apart from the thing with Gandalf but ITNG is sublime. The drama of the reveal, Ninky or Pinky? The utter joy of the Tombliboos, the slight unease about Macca Pacca. Why the trike and is that thing on his back a Haemorrhoid?

This discussion led to a sing song and joy all around. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but one day those Pontipine kids may suffer for sharing a room with their seven siblings and their parents.

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Princess Zelda or a crate of Prosecco? The ultimate parental dilemma. Empty seats, always visually interesting

Didsbury, a desirable residency with room for an extension

Didsbury waves goodbye to the summer and welcomes indoor dining and drinking and hairdressing. There are changes but its back to the future across M20.

The Pound Bakery scam stickers on the site of the old Didsbury village Farm Shop (proof we are not yet ready for a £4 sandwich) is still my favourite trick. Apparently it is still set to be a Toni & Guy, they are just waiting to see if they can adapt the cold store for beauty treatments.

Dimitri’s has changed names but not  pricing strategy, Nido and Applebeys still defy the laws of economics to stay open. Each time I pass I feel a little pang of guilt at their emptiness and a little source of joy they are not mine. A bit like being at school when someone else is being told off.

WestFest was responsible for more weight gain that De Niro for Raging Bull and… It’s a sign of the times- we have TWO new Estate Agents ready to fight of our business.

This is back to the future. Before we were the charity shop Northern HQ. Before every shop sold coffee and flowers, we were a village of banks, off licenses and Estate Agents. The TSB is now Nero, Merrills, a shoe shop and 10 years ago this month Jo Padmore’s beautiful displays replaced Victoria Wine. Now we have a flange, or is it a whoop of Estate Agents coming to Didsbury – and there is previous.

Just as Didsbury Barbers fell out and became two barbers within yards of each other, so we welcome back Julian Wadden from his self-imposed Stockport Sojourn. In a nutshell ( a spacious shell with split level living options and planning permission for a utility room) and with no attempt at specific reality here goes an anecdotal Didsbury memory. Once there was Jordan & Fishwick. A flame-haired young agent joined and they were Jordan, Fishwick and Wadden – Mazeltov.

Local residents welcome a new Estate Agents in Didsbury

Local residents welcome a new Estate Agents in Didsbury

THEN he left. Jordan & Fishwick went back to being a duo and Julian moved to the upwardly mobile end of Stockport where he raised an army of Estate Agents using a simple purple on white board that conquered The Heatons and Reddish and now… He’s Back.
The window display promises evolved estate agentry, no spells, no curses and the window looks just like JP& Brimelow who are already successful, so it’s a winner. I like Estate Agent wars. It’s similar to watching the coalition government debate – you don’t really want either to win but you might get to see sharp suited people getting uppity.

But the Wadden Army has competition in the West. Callaghans Estate Agents are opening on Burton Road at the heart of our BoHo left of centre. Both promise a new kind of estate agent ing – which unless it means they are cutting hair, selling coffee and not selling houses is hard to understand.

Failure in business has a high price

Failure in business has a high price

The excitement never stops. Now if I want to buy flowers and coffee and sell a house my choice is bewildering. I may go and have a massage to ponder. Didsbury Wife reckons The brilliant Village Physio is the most suitable – if not the one most searched for online when people look for a massage in Didsbury.

Babies, Dogs and an endless cycle

Money finds money, fame follows fame and like finds like in so many ways.
I mused on these thoughts as I pushed the Mighty-Headed one and his cheeky-pearl top sister around The Park.

It seemed apt. By 8am this morning I had changed four nappies, each fruitier than the last and demanding a swift handed dexterity that would have satisfied Andy Murray and Paul Newman.

It seemed that every dog on its morning run found a spot directly in my eyeline to crouch and unload. After three circuits I could describe the angle of backleg bend on everything from a giant poodle to a French bulldog.

There are times when, nappy sack opened and wipes at the ready that it is just the wonderful world of pooh without the Winnie.

I can de-nappy, wipe and change with both hands, on any surface with enough space to park a baby’s bottom. I have seen the Y in De-Mystification and worn presents from each orifice from each baby.

There is something therapeutic about a nappy change. It combines trust, grooming and that thought somewhere in your mind that in a few decades you might need the care repaying so you do your best.

So as I dodged a desperate Daschund near the park entrance I did count my blessings, safe in the knowledge that one day they will be toilet trained and I will have breakfast without the smell of baby wipes. But by then they will probably want a dog.

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A Sheepdog this morning looking for somewhere quiet to read the paper

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