Didsburydad's Blog

From the not so mean streets of M20, blog about being a dad, Didsbury and dealing with parental confusion

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Didsbury – Waitrose or Home Bargains? You Decide. 

Just a quick recap… Didsbury Wife and I took a stroll through the village last week and were shocked. There is much to discuss, from the empty space in the shop Formerly known as Evans to Tinto, Brimelow, Delia, Global resurrection and Elite Vapes. Elite Vapes. NIMBY. Genius idea from The Art of Tea. 

The only people I have ever seen vaping in Didsbury are schoolchildren, disgruntled people still brave and rich enough to smoke,  at parties where they’ve been told not to – and hipsters who think it’s a nouveau pipe and Retro Chic. 

The shop that through the 70s/80s was Hurst’s Chemists and then the Co-Op travel where you could book a holiday free from the expectation of decent or polite service is jinxed. I don’t think Golden Beach holidays ever really existed. It was a front for something and Elite Vapes is it’s cursed offspring.The exhibition of Chalk’s waiting outfits looks good. 

Next door there are signs of life, chirpy shopfitters and 60s wallpaper. The sign in the window regarding Global News’ refit (there since 2014) has finally called in action. No idea what it will be.  Who else could sell this 1-Bed in M20 for 300K,

The Purple Overlord has gone (almost). The sign in the window announcing Nick Brimelow’s decision to put himself out to purple pastures is suitably bold and must leave Julian Wadden’s Whiter Shade of Pale ready to mop up. If you’ve ever sold a house through Brimelow they are great. You feel that no-one will get the better of you; if you have been at the other end of the deal you can fill it in yourself. But it is a lion gone from our pride, along with the mighty Darren from Delia’s.  My suggestion for how to use the spare space at Evans. 

Y Fabrica changed names to Muddy Felicini’s as we walked out but by the time we came out of The Botanist it had changed back. Saints and Scholars has a new roof, Evans currently looks a bit like a fish car boot sale and you wait years for a Tapas bar and then three come st once.

Tinto is the new Chalk / Nido / Turkish Delight… Tinto Shminto. It’s not 2012 and names ending in Os have not thrived in M20 central. It looks promising, but so did the kitten-hipped waiters at Chalk – good luck. 
Bisous Bisous is now shut Monday and Tuesday. I hope this is not a gradual decline. 

But amid this turmoil Kansas Fried Chicken sails like a huge iceberg, untouched. There are lessons to be learned.

Ps: I love The Botanist. What’s not to love about Salt ‘n’ Pepper Onion Petals with a Carafe of Gin but it still feels a bit like The Pitcher & Piano – or is that just me? 

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Evans, Delia and There’s No Place Like Home

 Look – not one pointless apostrophe or errant comma.

I am to blame. Me and others like me. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Show a man Eddie at Evans and he will joss half his wages on a Royal Dorade and Samphire.” Until… the cost of twins at Boots, the inability to walk more than 50 yards without a Costa and the come hither ease of M&S fish porn mean that a wallet-emptying, life-enhancing trip to Evans becomes less regular. 

My grandmother first took me to Evans. After my pram was pushed to Inman’s, I held my Didsbury Grandmother’s hand as we went to the “new fish shop” to buy Hake which then became the greatest Gefilte Fish (chopped and boiled or fried) each week.   Exotic seafood

I have wooed on the back of their langoustines but recently, laziness and children have reduced me to roll mops and kippers. As Hamlet said, “oh that this too too sullied flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a Fish Stew (ish). 

If the staff takeover works I’ll be back next week with a Halibut hop and the jauntiness of a cheeky bream. 

And so to Delia’s. It’s not all Hispi Chic and Botanist beauty in M20 (although I have offered to trade a child for their Salt’n’Pepper Onion). Delia’s Gone. I remember original Delia. I was an impressionsble teen, she was a bit vibrant and scary and I think I had a crush on her between Banaramama and Clare Grogan. The flowers were a treat I learned went down well. Delia sadly died but her name has gone on for several decades with brilliant Darren most recently running the shop and the delivery from Holland. The wall full of bath bombs looked like an admission of failure and smelled awful but we need a Delia’s in the village and should hang our heads at the ease with which we slipped into the garage or Tescos. I told him to get a Costa Machine in to bring in the punters.     When Delia’s closure was announce people movingly rushed to put flowers outside as a tribute.

What next? Will Karma Sutra move downstairs? Is there room for a new Waitrose? How can these shut when Bourbon & Black stays open? 

With Felicini’s / Mud Crab / Y Fabrica changing its name every week and Manor Service Station becoming an Off Licence these are strange days. The village centre is starting to feel a bit empty and the rents are proving prohibitive. This is not strong and stable. However it does mean that traditional Didsbury is now probably epitomised by one of our oldest residents, Kansas Fried Chicken.

I’m still working away a lot at the moment but I know now. Whenever I’m homesick I click my red Nike Air Force Ones and say “There’s No Place Like Home, can I have Chicken gravy?”  

 The new official colours of Didsbury – Melchester Rovers. 

Home is not just a cinema or the church cafe

. When Felicini’s became the Mudflap cafe I nearly cried. It’s glossy black sign and euphemistic name was a part of my history and stood proudly in the same giggling pointlessness of changing The Cheese Hamlet to Helmet. Now, with the stripped back wood still settling in to Gregg’s and an eviscerated Inman’s being re-imagined as Thai favourite The Chilli Banana I am almost out of my depth.
felicinsmud-crabfutureistic-pic evolution
At least it’s only 8 months until Didsbury Festival returns in its usual format – unchanged since Bonnie Prince Charlie led the procession, which featured the 88th Scouts.
This is Didsbury. A wheel turning and creating new identities – including cash converting, laser surgery, fifteen diet clubs and an ever growing coterie of Pet Grooming services. Only 86% of trading premises in Didsbury serve coffee, 71% cut hair (human or canine). Didsbury Library is a portal to 1973. I go there when I only have tuppence ha’penny and need a cup of tea (coffee not being invented until The Premier League started in 1992).
The other big news is that Didsbury Dad Towers is no longer in Didsbury. We are now a castle, a Didsbury Diaspora outpost.
In a year that has seen us cough up more in Stamp Duty than the national debt we have moved twice. First out of the village to near the river and now, out of town.
We have moved so far away that we are the cultural diversity. It’s a city, it’s semi-rural and it’s not Didsbury.
So I am part-time Didsbury Dad. I am still working in my capacity as Meeja Luvvie doing something non-specific in MediaCity – but only weekdays.
It is strange. All Didsbury Son has known is Didsbury. My life with Didsbury Wife has been played out to the backdrop of Piccolino and Barlowmoor Road. The Mighty Headed Boy and the Pearly Princess are Harriet & Dee. But. We have begun to sever the link for a period of time.
It’s only been a few weeks and it’s still a bit like being on holiday. It does make you realise how easy it can be living somewhere that is the edge of the metropolis, has travel options to envy and it’s all in walking distance.
It’s early days yet. I have had to develop a whole new rhythm to each day. I am a little lost without my morning fix of Pete, Tom and Claire at Fusion Deli after a cheery wave from Darren at Delia’s Florist. There is no Piccolino, Bisous Bisous, St. James & Emmanuel and I don’t know everyone.
This has great advantages. When I get my Fusion fix the coffee tastes great and I have stories to share. I now know just how good New Peking House is and sometimes the anonymity is liberating.
I think I will always be a Didsbury Dad wherever we live. My Gamma Male, liberal approach to life on the Focaccia line is settled. We may be away for a short time or for good, not decided yet. But Didsbury Wife, Son and I are M20 raised and made and know the difference between a good idea and some of the money pit no chances that we’ve seen trying to cash in on the perceived wealth in Didsbury.
The boddlers are still confused. On Saturday, as we perused the rolling hills and unfamiliar accents that surround us, they clamoured for the sweet shop on Dene Road. As we walked through the Metrolinkless roads they wondered where all the Magic Buses were.
Starting from scratch after a life in the subsidised suburban bliss of M20 is exciting. But I think we’ll be coming regularly. It’s not just home, a river runs through it.

A Piccolino Pepped Pre-Christmas

aa4 happy pizza

How to make a three year old eat their dinner; happy pizza.

After working out which were my current Didsbury Dining Dozen I decided to put my money where my keyboard finger was, a family trip to Piccolino Didsbury for a pre-Christmas treat. Didsbury Son grunted his unavailability early in the weekend and then there were four. Our midday booking got pushed back to 1 as I fell asleep, 2 as the twins fell asleep and we arrived promptly about twenty past; followed by a twin charge around the restaurant looking for chocolate coins.

aa1 head with menu

If only I had studied school books with the same intensity…

Piccolino’s Didsbury incarnation was always a potential winner, fitting into the refurbished site of The Nose. The late 80s, early 90s Nose, opened by Liz, featuring the wonderful Henry, Sonia and the cast of Didsbury was way ahead of its time as a freelance meeting place for the Madchester cognoscenti keen to notwork with each other. We’re all 20ish years older and Piccolino is a catch-all for the city now and for M20 especially. It brings a little touch of Sardinia to West Didsbury, I always get to talk food and football. The bar is stocked and loud enough for a night out’s start or finish and for family purposes – they have cushions, staff who will dance with your toddler between courses and know how to balance the equally pressing needs for a kids’ bowl of pasta, a Pinot Grigio and an accessible changing table for emergencies.

I think what I like is the general upbeat, welcoming and engaging atmosphere. Beautiful  20 somethings impress each other on dates or in groups, cheek by the jowls of couples re-invigorating their domesticity, parents connecting with returning offspring and the young families hoping it’s someone else’s child who runs into a waiter delivering a full tray of glasses. It is a snapshot of South Manchester putting on a clean shirt for a warm welcome. Whenever we go I feel like its an occasion. Being a dad I like being able to tally that with Pizza and Pasta for a tenner a plate if I am feeling a little strapped but need to get out.

aa5 christmas diner

Just a little number I knocked up – in a different lifetime with a different set of hands

For our Christmas lunch Didsbury Wife and I went for the set menu, three courses for £21.50, which turned out to be a bargain worthy of Poundstretcher. The food was and is always spot on. There is a little I wouldn’t recommend. We had Bresaola with Pear and Walnuts and The Calamari followed by Tacchini Arrosti (Roast Turkey) and Merluzzo (a crunchy, melty, tangy Cod with something sausagey and gorgeous). We decided our Aldi frozen bird for 25th needs a rethink.

This turkey came to the table on a plinth of butternut squash with mini mushrooms of size and taste I have rarely seen. Its nonchalant ease made sweating in a cold kitchen with a Jamie book, guessing which end to stuff, seem a little sad. The cod tasted of…  what cod should and The Pearly Princess’ Pizza was a spaceship with smiley face; calmness descended. We slurped wine as though we didn’t have to look after toddlers and they were quiet, munching and playing with the decorations.

Ice cream, Tiramisu, dancing with the staff and watching them greet each new child as a VIP with natural ease took  us through until the sun went down and we had to brace the air and talk to the moon.

This was really our first successful dinner out with the toddlers since, ever. The quality of the food sits on a plate next to a team who genuinely made all of us feel a little bit special. Piccolino heralds itself as an ” Upscale chain restaurant with a contemporary interior and a menu of classic Italian specialities.” I’d go for top nosh and family friendly. In true Mighty Headed Boy style, he wants to go back today to play with the lights and eat ice cream. In true Didsbury Dad style, I saved a biscotti to have with a brew for after bedtime.

Piccolino Didsbury, 6 Lapwing Lane, Manchester M20 2WS. Phone:0161 434 7524

 

LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRY FLAVOURED PLATITUDES

“Love me when I deserve it least, that’s when I need it most”, a Swedish proverb that sums up what’s needed in terms of bringing up teenagers. “I love thee like pie, if thou were’t pudding I would eat thee”. Old English proverb I quoted to Didsbury Wife in 3rd date. It went down less well than I expected. “I have a dream.” Best in its original form.

Slogans, logos, mantras, chantras – the world is awash with upliftingness and each time it’s crap imitation, hallmarked to shoehorn into an occasion, the power of the good ones is slightly diminished.

The first time I saw a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster I was blown away – simple, self aware, pithy and spot on. By the time I saw my fiftieth plush cushion with “Keep Calm and Carry on Accountancy Training” I realised it was lost. Like a 3 year old girl with “Porn Star” on their T-Shirt, it is the dumbing down of the power of inspiration. “And on the 7th Day God Created Manchester” is the only slogan a child needs on a T-Shirt.

Facebook and Twitter are awash with platitudes. Mantras are personal. I have mine “Go to sleep, go to sleep, shut your eyes and go to sleep” but it’s not for all. Now schools have got in on the act and the results are predictably, unintentionally… Meaningless.

Broad Oak Primary School is apparently “Didsbury’s Hidden Gem” – without any sense of irony.  Didsbury C of E is outstanding (well it’s after school club is if you look closely) and Barlow is “Now 43% more religious” (I have made this up). It gets lamer. There is a school on my occasional commute. Not to name names but it’s Whalley Range High School on the corner of Princess Parkway. Whilst waiting in a traffic jam created parents ignoring the huge “if you park here children will suffer” banner I am assaulted by two huge banners – PRIDE and BELIEF. 

Now John Arden knew how to write a slogan

Now John Arden knew how to write a slogan

They don’t mean anything. They are as pointless as a bolognese without garlic. That is meat sauce, not bolognese and PRIDE has many meanings and intonations. These are random words, not coordinated inspiration. They may as well say TEA and HERRING.

I like a practical banner, one with details of starting times, cost or special offers. I like an inspirational quote that combines cleverness with pithiness. “Keep Calm and Carry On Parking your 4×4 on the double yellow lines next to the school you lazy &@”#” is at least honest.

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Postcard from Murcia 1/4 – Sexy Beast

The great thing about family holidays with teenagers, tantrums and a pool are that by the time the tan fades, so does the memory of the arguments, meltdowns over sun cream, mosquito bites and that moment I just had when you squint down through sweat covered eyes and realise that although in your head you are a David Beckham 40, without the tattoos and with body hair, you are not in fact breathing out and it’s all you.   Not David Beckham

This is bliss. Actually in my head I am now Ray Winstone in the Opening scene of Sexy Beast. Didsbury Son has sloped off to his lair, Didsbury Wife and the Pearly Princess sleep coiled like beautiful cat and kitten under a fan in the bedroom and the Mighty Headed Boy has finally conked out on the couch. It is hot. 

  

 Acclaim for my Ray Winstone references 
I am alone. An hour of solitude, but for cicadas and the distant hum of the Mar Menor. My balcony is not overlooked and is split equally between 90 degree sun and cool shade. This is Didsbury Dad bliss. A tummy full of Navajos, a cool drink of water next to me and no Wi-Fi so I can’t stress about anything outside of my sweaty and happy bubble. I am Ray Winstone and I have had the privelige of doing something for the last 30 minutes that I have not done since before I became a Didsbury Dad; nothing.

IMG_0083What is going through my mind right now
I have not thought of anything constructive. I have not made plans, read emails, considered local or global conundrums. I have not tidied, folded the washing or read a book. I have spent the time staring and sweating happily. Now the blog’s written it’s back to the abyss. 

Didsbury Festival – My tuppence worth

There is something wonderfully timeless about Didsbury Festival. The parade, the mix of charities, scouts and local causes peddling goodies and the eye-watering prices at the funfair. It has a community spirit that is genuinely uplifting and a lack of threat that is one of South Manchester’s greatest strengths.

However, I must admit I felt a slight sense of tiredness and staleness . It might be me. Didsbury Son volunteers, keeps his profile as low as possible and slopes off. The Mighty Headed Boy and his Pearly-Princess sister are a year too young to be part of it and a year too old too need a sleep so we can hang out and speak to friends.
I had the feeling that it needs a bit of an upgrade. The festival is/has been a great call to congregate for the whole of M20. The 21st Century vibe that emanate from WestFest, Makers Market and Didsbury Arts Festival have upped the ante. No longer is there a Cibo, Nido or suchlike to lower the expectation. 
The. Field felt a little sparsely used this year and the compère  was barely annoying; something not quite as Didsbury as usual.
We have a Metrolink station and are a media savvy/luvvy crowd. Without losing the essential feel – a few new tweaks and a decent marketing campaign are needed to come back in 2015 and draw the crowd away from the European Championships. 
Thinking caps on…

Didsbury’s Afternoon Delight

Philip Larkin once wrote “They F you up, your mum and dad.” He had never tried to conduct an in-depth, personally verifiable review of the food on offer whilst looking after two toddlers. Toddlers in a slight strip and confused that their park is awash with strange people.
So far I’ve managed a few slurps on a traffic light lolly (second hand). But as the phenomenal cost of twins on rides mounts up – the home cooked Indian foodhas eluded me and I haven’t snaffled so much as a burger as the first twenty has disappeared. 
The Festival is as busy as ever. We had tickets for the VIP area of Pavillion Cafe but the throng is too much and there are Kardashian rumours. 

  VIP area at Pavillion Cafe.

There seems to be a more laid back feel to this year than usual. There is lots going on, plenty of old friends to nod to and there is still a Syrian Chicken Kebab with my name on it whist the Zumba goes on in the main arena.

  
I’ve been on VIP watch. Winston Churchill spotted in Didsbury

   Dog Show – the bloodshed goes on
 

Gladiator

i am outraged. As the sun spills it’s glassy rays over a field where once were muddy puddles of Peppa A grade standard, there is insurrection in Didsbury Park.

I had the family sitting together watching Gladiator this morning. I told them about  the beautiful savagery of the dog show and how the losers would meet in some Elyssian Field near Chorlton. I told them to prep their thumbs ready to despatch some Daschund.

  

But No. This dog show featured nought  but laughter, scruffy happy dogs and a slight whiff of chum. 

If I can’t get the twins a full face Maori tattoo at the face paint stall there will be trouble.

   
 

The Wall of Death is another letdown. I have a feeling this is not The Thunderdome.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

The Sky is getting all Procul Harum. The warm ups are done and the parade – complete with bored dads on their mobiles is in full swing. 

 The warm-up.

Now it’s almost time to get fleeced in a polite way by people you know. This is Didsbury. A day for waft-tailed dogs, home-cooked Indian food and damp shoes. For by this time tomorrow we shall once more own our playground. 

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