Didsburydad's Blog

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

The Life Domestique and Things I Will Never Do.

  Inspiration comes in many forms

This morning I am all about altruism. Knowing that in the game of competitive tiredness it’s the space above your eyebrows that gives you away, I took one for the team.

The Pearly Princess was in my bed before I was. An hour broken by kicking (her) and snoring (me) later I ushered Didsbury Wife to the spare room. In our house this is an act of supreme sacrifice. It currently has the best bed and is the quietest room in the house. 

What followed was being shifted around the mattress by a 4 year old girl with the moving capability of a JCB. That was before The Mighty Headed Boy made a 4am entrance reminiscent of Chris Eubank in his prime. He jumped in, head-butted me and fell asleep at an angle that left me with one foot on the floor and no hope of duvet. 

We danced, argued, watched Chloe’s Closet on my phone allowing me 8 minute bursts of sleep before I gave up and got up.

There was a tip to get to, an “our washing machine’s broken this week” worth of laundretting and in my head I wanted to keep them out long enough for Didsbury Wife to catch that rarest of parental dreams, waking naturally. 

We had a lovely two hours, broken only by intermittent rushes due to toilet calls wrong time, wrong place. 

This much I know I’ll never do…

1. Driving past the tip 10 minutes before it opens there was already a road-blocking queue. Why? Do you want to be the first bin bag in the skip? Is your family so abysmal that waiting in line as though there was rationing is ok? Never.  No no no

2. Buy The Daily Mail or The Sun. No laundrette stay is long enough to justify giving money or time to these divisive, hypocritical, dangerous rags. (However good the sports section seems). 

3. Clean the car in the drive at a weekend. I may not be Mr Rock’n’Roll any more but neither am I “Terry & June”.

4. Start a conversation in a laundrette… again. I prefer Supernanny for tips on raising children, immigration and well, everything.
5. Interrupt a small child watching Blaze & The Monster Machines. You’d get a better reaction tagging a teenager on Facebook with their primary school pictures.
Everything else is negotiable. 

The Night Formerly Known As Parents’ Evening 

30 years ago, September 1986 a revolution started in classrooms, led by 14/15 year olds. This was no Punk ethic, New Romantics had cried their eyeliner away and chances were if you had a beard you were a teacher – not a graphic designer. GCSE Electronics Multiple Choice Question.

In September 1986, inspired by General Noriega and the stormin’ Norman Shwarzkopf, the then Home Secretary was Keith Joseph. He was a man whose caricature was less scary than reality. He killed off O’Levels and unleashed GCSEs ready for 1988 (a very bad year for football). 

30 years on I inherited the garbled, evolved, underwhelming fallout; year 10 Parents’ Evening.* (the school year formerly known as 4th Year).

Didsbury Son is now in the full throes of teendom. He’s still my lovely blondini, only the blonde is now expensively applied and the adoration is squeezed in between bouts of predictable disdain, disinterest and mutual exasperation.
Parents Evenings used to be straightforward. They went out. You panicked and prepared your excuses whilst tidying your room in the hope of clemency. They came back. They unfolded a depressing tale of being sussed staring out of the window, drawing, mooching, skiving and generally being as disappointing as most teenage boys are at school. 

You could then go into school full of venom for all, which fed beautifully into teen angst. ** (apart from your one ally in either art, cookery or RE who had said what a lovely and misunderstood boy you were and you were always attentive in lessons. That is to say the one teacher you fancied and fixated upon).
This was easy. Careers advice was nil, students had no fees and could sign on and signing on itself was a career choice. 
Now it’s all wrong. The children come to talk with you. The night starts with a scare video based on the teenage brain, internet trolls and league tables. There is tea, coffee and biscuits and the tone is bizarre convention. 
Every conversation begins with handshakes and “So… Didsbury Son/Freya/Archie, how do you think it’s going?” This savage form of open questioning throws the over-sugared teens into a panic. They know the answer, we know the answer and the teacher hoping I won’t speak to them knows the answer. What follows is an excruciating dance. The teachers either gush inappropriately or hide their frustration behind anodyne comments. The teens promise to do whatever is needed; and their homework. It is an honest, heartfelt pledge that evaporates into the ether and is as likely to be done as the NHS is to get £350m a day from the government. 
We troop home. Didsbury Son is relieved. With the adrenaline dripping away he reverts to teen-type and instagrams his friends as their versions of the night revert to folklore.
I get home for the last 2 minutes of Europa League football and fall into a deep sleep, safe in the knowledge that the status quo is restored and positive that the biscuits weren’t as good as last year. 

Hard hats, small beds and blowing bubbles

This started out as a light-hearted muse. Lapwing Lane has been turned into the Hi-Viz capital of the north. As the need for electrical upgrades takes the Chilli Banana’s road digging west of the city, more men in hard hats begin to take over.She’s starting to look old. That’s the elite for you. 

The pub formerly known as The Greenfinch, formerly known as The Bird in the Hand and now the unfathomable Generous George has had its bi-annual refit. It now has an enormous armchair outside it, Sky Sports inside and a lack of focus that really needs Learning Support. It sits in the suburban centre of M20, on the edge of Bohemia and thinks it’s a Travelodge off the M1. I’m going to petition whichever brewery is haemorrhaging a fortune to keep the playground open to turn it into a Dutch Pancake House. If we are going to throw money at dead concepts let’s go old school.

My concept for the new Generous George refit, wall to wall Lieutenant Pigeon.

Montrose Properties are having a major refit at Didsbury’s premier non-purple property centre and the skiptastic look to Lapwing Lane doesn’t end there.

Post Brexit only UK snacks will be allowed in lunch boxes. 

Pizza Express – where in the 80s I cashed my first giro (it was a post office) is having an overhaul. As it’s still always busy and every dad in Didsbury keeps an eye out for the 25% off mains offer in their inbox this is a bold move. I’m hoping to bring a review of the new doughball experience next week. 

Sneak preview of the new government housing strategy. 

The parade on Lapwing Lane is starting to resemble an al fresco Ikea. The tables and chairs outside Wine & Wallop extend to the Post Office, the furniture outside Didsbury Cafe ends at the hoardings bordering Sterling Chemists. I’m not sure if Jason’s operating a Latte and a prescription service but they’ll need softer cushions to bring in the Ultraproct crowd. 
I like Didsbury Food & Wine. Whilst Pete, Tom and Claire have Fusion buzzing and busy from early in the morning and continue to build their place as a community cafe for the proud to be liberal metropolitan dwellers (hooray for us in the middle), Didsbury Food & Wine takes a different path. The guys who run it are great. They saunter in after 10, too cool to Vape or chase the Metro commuters. They mooch, they’re laconic, they’re as not Didsbury as it gets – top place. Even when closed they have more customers than Didsbury Noodles and seem as relaxed as the punters walking out of Eve’s Retreat into the non table and chair end of Lapwing Lane’s shops. 
I was going to make light of this and the sad closure of Salon M20, once the fish foot nibbling centre of the village. It leaves three empty shops in a row and we are screaming for a firework shop and a few pop ups. (Although Waitrose would work).
I was. But it’s 2.30am and I’ve been awake for a long time worrying. The Oemeprozole and Camomile didn’t work. I’ve segued seamlessly between the usual triumvate of work, money, health. Trudged through the ever-depressing Brexit fallout, Theresa Thatcher (or is it Maggie May) and the general air of nastiness around. I’ve navel-gazed so deeply I thought I heard an echo. 
I used to lie awake worrying about football, girls and whether I could find girls who like football.
During the recession before last a friend of mine came up with a board game based on the idea of building your own bubble. The idea dissolved into a vodka in The Old Grey Horse but the intention works. 
I am now squeezed into a child’s bed with the mighty headed boy inching me over the edge. I’m breathing in his innocence and general joy at being alive. His hand is on my chest and he’s snorting gently and rhythmically down my ear, reminding me that this is my bubble and no one gets in here unless I let them. Family

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 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. 

Summer Holidays – A quick recap

Didsbury Son is unbelievably a fully-fledged Kevin the Teenager, and still my lovely boy. The Mighty Headed Boy is unbelievably enthusiastic. The occasional time she gets a word in, my beautiful Pearly-topped princess is funny, feisty and they’re three. A baby owl gets quality time with my Pearly princess. Good maths. £2, 7 minutes quiet, no sugar rush. 

Summer Holidays and annual leave make going to work in November’s dark rush hour seem like a morning in bed listening to 5Live and sipping tea. 

Holidays are a great time to embrace new cultures.

There are lots of stories, great memories and every spat will be forgotten but here’s a quick guide to summer holidays…

“Mummy! Daddy! Muuuuuuum! Daaaaad! She/he hit, pushed, took my, won’t let me have a go, I want.”

The Mighty-Headed boy went on a careers day taster. 
(SILENCE) said slowly… “Ok. Sorry, Please, Thank You”.
He / she is in my room, broke my (insert here), 
ICE CREAM. 
I love you, I love you back, yes you can have a pony. 
“Can you take them? I’ve been up since 5.”
“5! – luxury”
Mmm Beer. 
The weather’s broken and September’s in view. Yaaaay.

Summer is all about creating great memories for the winter. 

Getting Over the Brexit Blues

Apologies for going quiet. I have written eight or nine blogs in the last two weeks. Topics have included the disappearance of the magnificent AiryFairyCupcake on School Lane – why? Was it something we didn’t say? Its replacement by a Babyscanner is genius. The nearest is in Old Trafford and if we know one accessory always popular in M20 it’s a baby. We were offered one so early in the Twins’ development they would have still liked like dust under the carpet and my advice is be careful, at 20 weeks they still look like an outtake from Alien. 

I also wrote about the Viz gonad sign coming down in the village, the replacement of summer with a repeating week from Autumn and the trials of coordinating family, work, health and the European Championships. Boris Johnson’s post Brexit strategy document was less than impressive.

None has made it past notes. Each has turned into a self-pitying rant and call to arms for the soul of the nation split by the ridiculous Etonian argument. Since we voted to leave Europe (when I say “we” I mean the whole herd, not our bit grazing happily on focaccia obviously) I have moped, railed, cried, feared and read a lot of clever articles that would have been brilliant a week earlier. Had these tremendous minds talked in advance rather than pointing and saying “Told you so” afterwards it may have been different. They remind me of the Donald Trump & Nigel F*rage memes that have filled social media over the last year. Whilst we’ve chuckled and “liked” their crassness and the ease of satirising them, they have both hoovered up votes and influence. They talked to people too easily dismissed.

I’m sure some people voted “no” with positive intentions and I hope I’m wrong. I’m fairly used to being in the minority. BUT for those thinking this will re-invigorate the job market and bring wages, standards and vitality up – you must be too young to remember 79-97 and why New Labour and their domestic policies were met with such gusto. I’m digging out my Redskins records and preparing to find happiness in different ways. 

Revised post-vote integrated transport system for Manchester

Have a look at his Jonathan Pye video – says it better than I ever could. 

So as a Didsbury Dad so far past 39 that when I first heard about “Thatcher the milk snatcher” I thought it was a new character on Scooby Doo, this much I know.

1. Democracy is vital and I believe in it and will know longer use terms like bellend or mispronounce Jeremy Hunt when talking to people who voted “Brexit”, even those who thought it was “Brisket” and they were voting for a decent meat sandwich.

2. Over a decade as a Didsbury Dad has taught me that 90% of what I say is ignored, 5% is misunderstood and 5% is disputed. But at least I can add up. 

3. I feel personally responsible for the demise of TheAiryFairy Cupcake shop. When we moved house I gave up cupcakes – but sadly took up the pistachio biscuits and pain au raisins from Bisou Bisou

 4. I miss Cafe Rouge. It was originally a pre-work tryst location when I first met Didsbury Wife and we evolved with it into toddler-haven in its latter days. Bring it back.

Britishcakes

5. The bar menu at Chalk is so much better than you think it will be. 
6. Falling out over politics is a waste of time, we have to work together. However, if there’s someone you’ve been trying to ditch them this is the perfect moment to take offence at their “I’m not racist but…” Comment.
7. When I found out that the Tories had won in 92 I marched, angsted and made false promises. In 2015 when we found out it was over at 10.01pm I had an early night. On 24th June I swore loudly, was genuinely shocked and had to go and get milk. The world may be falling apart but my little enclave still has to have its routine. 

 Didsbury Son walks M20’s green and pleasant land – it is only that green because the weather’s been crap. 

If I was Tim Peake

Me and Tim Peake, brothers with a different view of the world.Tim Peake looks on wrily as rain lashes this year’s Didsbury Festival (Picture, ITV.com)



You can’t help but like and admire Tim Peake. He even had Heston Blumenthal in tears of joy at one point on his journey. His skill and general bonhomie are an antidote to the misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes and general sewer-dwellers who have taken the headlines recently. 

If only I had taken O’Level Physics and was not a mix-handed claustrophobic with a penchant for crisps we could have been work buddies. We could have counted down together. In space we could have run one half marathon each, held gloves on the moonwalk and hit the Duty Free at Khazakstan together before heading home to watch The Euros. However, if I was Tim Peake I think the journey back may have been different. Once the capsule re-entered the atmosphere and came within reach, the text message would flash up, “We’re out of milk, green and red, stop at Co-Op and don’t wake the children when you come in.” I hope he remembered his front door key. 

Where’s Didsbury Dad?

After de-brief, health checks, re-orientation, customs, press interviews etc. would come the tearful family reunion. Tim would be told that childcare was now his responsibility for the next six months as Moon Wife was tired and needed a proper kip AND… Enough of the moon rock, get to Jo Malone at the airport duty free and put your hand in your pocket.


If Tim Peake was from Didsbury he might come back to wonder why the plague of men under 30 with beards had spread here, whether Casa Italia was worth a visit and be impressed that Co-Op has a new front display when he stops to get milk.Happy Fathers’ Day, whether giver, receiver, both or neither. 

Not aliens met on a space trip.

Berocca, pecking orders and life in the slow lane

It’s been a media, Manchester and family logistics whirlwind recently. The beauty of a smartphone calendar is that you can be panicked into action with just long enough to get somewhere (if the traffic agrees with Apple) . The bad thing is looking at your diary for the day and seeing 28 arrangements,10 of which concern the time-sensitive movement of toddlers. There is absolutely no reason for this picture
In notes is all the vital information – remember changing bag. We are still subject to guesswork as to whether it will be a rainforest or Sahara day. Scope emergency Kinder Egg buying opportunities in the area, don’t forget Berocca. 
Berocca – like you but on a day somewhere circa 1995 when you could sit on your haunches and then get up without help. 

Nor this one 

Yesterday’s notes included finding the right bottle of Mountain Dew for Didsbury Son’s weekend camp out, making sure I had the right lights for filming in a Morgue and remembering that you can’t get the tram at St Peters Square (I didn’t, I was then late for everything). 
In the morning Didsbury Wife had been waxing lyrical about our ability to cope without the Volkswagen YouWouldNeverDriveThisIfYouDidntHaveKids since its inner city diet saw it wheel less and written off. After a day of tram, train, bus and taxi I dreamed of the ease of being a two-car family and gasped at the price of cabs. I don’t know if Uber have skewed the market but last time I paid that much to spend half an hour with a stranger so certain of their own thoughts they had Dr. before and capital letters after their name.
Oh it is the fate of the dad to know the price of everything and, that should be a full stop.
In a media life this week I got to play with cameras and body bags, sit in an edit suite and make decisions. At home I reverted to my position in the pecking order just below the cats. My main choice here being Paw Patrol or Blaze, Petit Filous or Yoghurt.

Rites of Passage

We are at the pre-school where my little blondinis will be fed in as caterpillars, to become butterflies, snappers, shrimps et al. All things being equal and brochure promises met, they come out at 11 ready to negotiate world peace as creative, inventive, respectful, academic, sporty, musical, multi-lingual individuals. All schools promise the same. They will take your blank canvas and your partnership will create a masterpiece. 
Today – thinking of this day years in the future, as long as every now and then they seem as pleased to see me as I am to see them I will be happy.
It is their taster day. I have only just got used to them having hair, teeth and language. This is a step too far. It was a toss up all morning as to who would cry most. I had to save mine until I got back in the car. There, as the rain smashed biblically on the windscreen I remembered with wet eyes Didsbury Son pre schooling. 
Then, the hugs and kisses were delivered with joy and urgency. The adulation unfettered and declarations of love came without the expectation of money or lifts.
I know it is as it should be. If they don’t rely on you wholly at 3 it’s not right. If they do at 15 it’s equally not right. It does not make it any easier. Didsbury Son is a typical and lovely teenage boy. This means parenting is strategic.
One difficulty with having teenager and toddlers simultaneously is that as you feel the sticky hands of a 3 year old grab you with adoration and urgency – the reality and criticism of what happens over the next decade is there, next to you, grunting and disapproving from underneath its headphones.
This means one thing only. I make the most of every squeeze, hug and use of me as a Fisher Price toy; they don’t last long. 

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