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 tag “Evans”

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. 

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Didsbury: I Have a Dream

I have a dream. I have many dreams. Beyond a harmonious world and an easy to assemble Kinder Egg Toy, I have dreams.          I remember when all of this was train track. 
I dream of reading a newspaper article (analogue or digital) whose research is not a celebrity twitter feed and in which fact checking does not mean a retweet. 

I dream of the time when the Pearly Princess can put on her own tights. Truly, as a man with the dexterity of the average baby this is a daily bind. Fifteen minutes spent struggling with a wriggly toddler to find they are on back to front and the heel is over one knee is soul destroying in a way that working out next to someone who keeps asking if you’re okay “…as you don’t get many people in your age” can only peck at gently.Burns, La Tasca, Cibo, Solita. Inhabitants and the back four of FC Nido in the 2004 Champions League qualifier. 

I dream of a time when each incarnation of the restaurant known as Y Fabrica (me neither, no idea) join forces. Whether it’s The Mud Crab Cafe, Felicinis or Didsbury Wine Bar, between them there is a decent menu lying in wait. 

I dream of people caring about each other. Of pushy mothers in 4x4s not double parking or taking residents’ spaces when dropping their Freyas and Archies at Primary School. Of the staff at Evans being knighted for services to middle class dinner parties in South Manchester. Of Unicorns singing Stone Roses tunes as you pass the “Welcome to Greater Manchester” sign on the M56 and of a time when my first action of the day is not deciding what to do with a pull-up. The names on the mug are in reverse order.

Alongside every act of lazy and institutionalised xenophobia we have witnessed over the last year I believe there is goodness. There are people who realise the contribution of all people whether British born or not. I thought about this as I sipped the most exquisite Sardinian-made Bloody Mary at Piccolino’s on Saturday. I remember it when it when I bump into people who remember me going for sweets on Lapwing Lane with my own Didsbury grandad. Rare picture of Fog Lane Park’s Pets’ Corner

I dream of a world where Coronation Street does not move so quickly that I miss a month and have no idea who Steve MacDonald has married/impregnated/saved.Kiwi, a rare Didsbury delicacy from when Evans first opened. 

I dream of a world where the city abruptly ends and the country takes over in seconds. Then I remember Stenner Lane, the perfect cut through between almost Gastropub The Didsbury and the haven of Fletcher Moss.

Ten minutes looking at the river and I don’t care who’s blocked my drive, which continent Felicini’s is pretending to be from or which toddler’s knee wakes me with a morning kidney jab. I just tap my heels together 3 times and I’m walking back from Flannagan’s with a smart haircut and a Fosters’ chippie tea in my hand. 

* thanks to @craftwords for keeping me up to date with developments and great one-liners whilst I’ve been too busy navel-gazing to write a regular blog. 

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. 

Bonnie Prince Charlie & The Didsbury Festival 

Funny day. That is the first Didsbury Festival I’ve had to swerve since 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jaccobite March south took in Barlowmoor Fields and stopped the festival. Two remain buried under Oak Trees near Simonsbridge, the stories say. They liked Didsburye so much they stayed to set up their own Jacobean Fishmonger, Cheesemaker and Butchers, but they couldn’t break the stranglehold of Ye Originale Cheese Hamlette, Evans and Axons.  * If you are not from Didsbury then honestly, that’s a good gag. That year there was controversy when the local town cryer Didsburye Magazine proclaimed ” Hale, Altrincham and Bowden” to be part of a Didsburye Territory they would control through shiny horses and people with teeth and without scurvy. 

18th Century Didsbury Delicacy

Two Hundred and Sixty One Years later this was the year of the Aqua Plane. The Fire Brigade were there collecting water for a change. There was an impromptu Frog display after the Wet Dog Show and the fairground became Didsbury’s Own Water Park.On a Day when Manchester’s two biggest events, Parklife and Didsbury Festival collided like The Rumble in the Jungle, it chucked it down. As though the weather has gone all Manc and thought “F it”.

plans to turn the Mersey flood plains into poppy fields have been shelved

Saturday night the carnival left town. The rides parked at the side of Wilmslow Road like Pimped up Tourans sided whilst hassled parents re-adjusted the car seats and wiped down the inhabitants and next year it will return – dryer, happier and thankfully exactly the same as it has been since the Eighteenth Century. 
An Oak Tree that does not have the remains of one of Prince Charlie’s Men.

NEXT WEEK: How Evans saved a Whale, Axons fought the Bratwurst War and The Cheese Hamlet may really be a village

Love, Hate and The Festive Season

The Festive Season is nearly upon us. Nearly as in the nauseating adverts have been launched and there is a slight sense of panic surrounding everyone I know. I don’t even have to worry about accessorising my little black dress; but from the taint of the wrong toy to a misunderstanding about the origins, ethos and expectations it can be stressful. There are certain aspects of Daddom that make even the most benign aspects of the season something to dread.
Here are my top ten…

1. Jools Holland’s Hootenanny: In my murky media lifetime I spent many New Years’ Eves throwing the party. There are late September, early October teens and early twenty somethings whose existence is down to these parties. They leave a legacy of slightly crumpled thirty plus ten somethings. However eclectic and enthralling the musicians are – watching a bunch of Z listers pretend it’s New Years’ Eve just doesn’t cut it.

2. The 5am pain of Christmas Day: Didsbury Son was a beautiful bouncing Blondini bed banger at 5am on 25th December. Finally, the Christmas before the twins were born he ambled in at 8 ish and then made a cup of tea. We lolled and had the most laid back and groovy day. I now have another decade of door slamming and early early footsteps to manage. My head, back and knees have lodged a formal complaint.

3. Mince Pies: these sweet and juicy, sticky, crumbly heralds of baby Jesus and a Christmas Market. These hand-sized waist tormentors and palate coverers. I love you, but in the cause of waistline not wasteland I must ignore you and treat you like someone who not only thrived on Movember, but decided to keep it because it “suits me”.

4. False Bonhomie: Hey, how are you. We’ve had no contact but you’re Jewish, I’m an Atheist let’s have a Christmas drink? The human equivalent of a casual Facebook like.

5. The 7am Xmas Eve queue at Evans and Axons. It looks as though civil war has broken out, middle-aged, middle class men from across the southern suburbs have been forced to get from their beds to queue for supplies and hand over wads of cash for a Copper Bronze Turkey. It’s when men know their place and the taste can be worth it.

6. 28th December – knockdown.
You spend £15.99 on some plastic tat. You cut two fingers on the unwrapping, spend £8 for a battery that lasts 6 minutes at the only shop open Christmas Day afternoon and three days later – having stubbed your toe tripping over its unused, unloved cadaver on the stairs, it’s 2.99 in Tesco.
This venting is working, I already feel more festive.

7. The Queen’s Speech
I am sure she’s a lovely woman. Bringing up four kids in the spotlight must be difficult, although Victoria and David are doing okay so far. BUT. If I want to hear old people talk about their lives, whilst talking on behalf of the nation I can listen to a phone in on BBC Local Radio.

8. The Stove Room.
Lovely shop. Great to have it in West Didsbury. The cost of a bag of wood. It’s enough to make you go Aga.

9. Wine at £6.50 a glass
My time on the other side of the bar learning the rudiments of wet sales and profit margins on them has ruined me as a date. Didsbury Wife has to put up with a cost breakdown to ruin each round. Only out hated by paying for sparkling water. No need, no point.

10. Christmas Specials
I love watching TV. Couch slouching whilst watching aimlessly with Didsbury Son, hands on snacks is one of life’s pleasures. But (with the exception of Porridge, Dad’s Army and On The Buses) I am struggling to find a Christmas Special less sour than a lime. It’s the screen equivalent of bonhomie.

With that out of the way there is much to enjoy – The Snowman is slowly edging out Frozen, Atuls is always open and time off work means a quick stroll to Bisou Bisou and The AiryFairyCupCake Boutique. There’s the Xmas Light Switch on (and talk of it being plural this year), there are Blagg’s Christmas Trees and the chance of a day without email. Yet more, even more than this is wide berth people offer a family with more than one toddler. I’m looking forward to it already.

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The queues for Axons and Evans Warm up.

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The Mighty Headed Boy awaits a Mince Pie

Bourbon, Black and The Healthy Spirit

In a battle worthy of a Sky Sports Hyperbole-driven alliterative headline I bring you the challenge no one ever thought could happen. In the Quinoa corner…The Healthy Spirit Vegetarian Cafe vs Bourbon & Black, pouring a drink in their corner and Didsbury Village’s newest and most independent bar/restaurant.
GASP as Bourbon wade onto vegan territory with chilli and garlic Edamame Beans (perfect with a Vodka Cranberry when the ankle-biters get uppity).
HOWL as Healthy Spirit put the Free into Gluten-Free and the jack back into a flapjack.
WONDER at whether or not I can spin this tenuous link out to 500 words.

I remember Healthy Spirit when it was Nature’s Grace and Bonnie Prince Charlie, escaping back to Scotland pursued by Prince Rupert stopped at The Albert even before it was a dairy pub and Fletcher Moss was hanging out with Jabez Clegg (these are pretty much Mancunian-only references so apologies to non 0161 readers, it’s back to sleep deprivation next time.) Didsbury was fields mainly, run on a feudal system. Only Evans, Axons and Kansas Fried Chicken survive from that era.
Bourbon & Black fills the space vacated by Casa Tapas, which spent 20 years as Didsbury’s 2nd best tapas bar – even when it was the only one. It is bare walls, big bar, steak led and very promising. The service was great, the chipolatas sublime, the vodka affordable and even though it has everything necessary to be toddler dangerous… They loved it, were made welcome, tired themselves out racing up and down the mini corridor next to the kitchen and didn’t fall down the exposed stairs. The guys who have sunk all their energy into opening the doors deserve success and the Roast Dinner looked so good I am salivating at the memory of it wafting past to another table. It has a good feel to it, looking forward to going back.

The Healthy Spirit cafe offers a little (responsibly sourced) slice of The Unicorn Grocery effect without leaving Didsbury. No chance of getting a double buggy in and it is a laid back and relaxed oasis. I had a gluten-free flapjack (I know, hold the front page) that was not only edible, but didn’t leave me wanting a “proper cake” and the coffee is good enough to hold its not tested on animals head high. I also like the rustle of wind-chime and waft of incense as a side order and the lack of Wi-Fi. I actually came out relaxed and raring to go. Ok, I did still have the B&B chipolatas warming memory – but they’re only small.

With Appleby’s, Art of Tea, Didsbury Lounge and the soon to be re-opening Sweaty Betty’s complimenting a rather fine William Hill, Spray Tan Salon and 4-5 hairdressers – Barlow Moor Road is on the up. Bourbon & Black nestles between the warm embrace of The Cheese Hamlet and the the slightly worrying uniforms of The Santander Abbey National, both have welcomed the whole family, which makes my job a little easier. Chicken or Chi? That is the question.

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Children’s Play Area at Bourbon & Black

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Not a Neil Rowlands photo

Didsbury – a historical lesson

I have a friend who went to Nido the week it opened. His rationale being to try it before it closed. This front for something, 60-Minute makeover of a restaurant was a slow car crash of a failure, whilst we watched the manager occasionally pace around outside.

As the letters symbolically fell off the Laughing Buddha signage next door the lights went out on the restaurant customers forgot. If only Didsbury Magazine had done a feature, if only Wadden v Brimelow’s aubergine v purple Estate Agent war had taken place over lunch there… But if onlys are scattered across Didsbury Village’s failures. Remember the fake gangster Japanese place where now lies Zizzi and what was always The Old Grey Horse? No. Neither does anyone else.

Time for a little indulgence. Starting at the library end where Didsbury station was a get-on for London we finally say good riddance to O’Neill’s. I loathe Irish-themed bars. I’m not Irish but The Railway across the road seems a great pub with strong Irish connections and when I see an “Oirish” bar I think of people making Cream of Chicken Soup and passing it off as the real thing. We are getting The Strokers Arms. ( not a euphemism).

After many years Ashley Brown’s iconic locks are finally swapping with the sublime Wendy J Levy who leaves the cobbles of Warburton Street to trade online. We are promised a deli, we expect Costa Express. Ashley Brown took over Jim’ s a green grocers. In the. 70s the Evans-Axons-Hamlet axis of power was a square. Jim was their D”Artagnan.

Jaanum ( which translates as Nido without seats) is still boarded up and Urban Grille’s baffling menu still pulls those who shirk the call of the burgeoning Domino’s.

So back to Padmore Parade. Jo Padmore took over Thresher, which was begat by a serve your own Victoria Wine. Nido followed an average Turkish Restaurants with name changes to cover every City in Turkey, before that a wonderful small restaurant and take -away. To those of us of a certain age it is always Sykes, one of Didsbury’s best record shops where we rushed home from school to buy Lipps Inc. in the 90s it spent time as Namaste Village (before the definition of Namaste had filtered down from Chorlton). This meant that in the mid 90s every Didsbury Child ( then named Ella or George) had their own dream catcher and Peruvian Worry dolls.
Next door was Ho Wah. In the 70s this had been a KFC. My own Didsbury Mum took a moral stance and refused to take us there – the bags of chips were too small.

* No facts were researched during the writing of this blog. Other facts are available.

Domino’s Dancing and Step Back in Time

I had to go to Wilmslow on Monday. I am not showing off or trying to gain sympathy but Didsbury Son and I had an appointment in the cheekbone-friendly, WAG filled Cheshirery of the Wilm. As with most visits to areas of Manchester where the Trafford Centre and the A34 have killed the local shops, it made be even more aware of the diversity and independence we have nestling between M&S, the approaching Domino’s and our blue and red coffee chains.

Domino’s in Didsbury. Its slot between Earle & Ginger and Carrington’s sums up the village nicely – a thorn between two roses. It has a great view through to the back wall of Gourmet Burger King unhindered by there being anyone in there. I like GBK, there are so few open spaces left in Manchester.

I like to slowdown Didsbury Son’s enthusiastic stories and dull his senses a little by talking him through what shops used to be when I was his age. Realising that this is even less interesting than when my dad did the same to me as at least he was running around in the Blitz when shops closed down more dramatically, I carry on.

The Aldi was a bus garage. It had a bit of mystique to it as I could not see over the wall and had to guess what went on inside. When it was announced that a German cut-price supermarket was landing on the site there was NIMBY led outrage, but nothing like a credit crunch to give 29p courgettes an extra bite.

The new houses behind the village were Healds Dairy and all the houses have milk deposits in the foundations. The Fletcher Moss was the pub for the Dairy. It was The Albert then and the nearest I ever got to feeling rural. I used to find it sad that the Fletcher Moss had a sign up saying no work clothes as it seems to be unnecessarily wiping the past. But they do have a good selection of snacks so are forgiven. O’Neill’s spent years as a Save The Children Fund shop; Didsbury’s only charity shop for decades (honestly) and next to it, Caffe Rouge and whatever the pub between the closed shop and the GBK is called, was a lovely cobblestone parking and mooching bay that had been the entrance to the station where you got the train to London.

I am on the Train to London now. Two hours only and there’s a Caffe Rouge, Subway and M&S Simply Food at Euston in case I get homesick. If Evans, Folk, Fusion Deli and Blade opened up here this place could do well. Next year I can pop on the metro and be at the new media capital of Britain in 10 minutes. Next they’ll be inventing Xbox Kinect.

Now fetch me Pomfret Cake and back to the reminiscing. When I give Didsbury Son this meander through the not mean streets that we tread, he looks at me like a gentle carer with a slightly confused patient. He puts his arm around me, smiles up with big grey eyes and ignoring it all, goes straight back into some technical breakdown of Legend of Zelda that takes the same time as your average shop re-fit.

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A parochial elegy

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Cue inspiring music.

Once in a generation a hero comes to your village. Something to give a hint of the Wild West (Burton Road) or the beauty of Lapwing’s Fusion Deli to Wilmslow Road.

It roars to Axons, YES we have Artisan Meats, Wafts to The Hamlet in a Wallace & Gromit stylee “Smell My Cheese” (actually I think that was Alan Partridge) and challenges Evans to a game of Fresh Grouse; this usurper with a sans serif font on its door.

This is something to erase the memory of Carphone Warehouse’s feeble pavement stalking, fag smokingly, indifferent staff.

This is a sign to the volunteers at our many charity shops that Sausage Barms with real meat are on the menu. For the Estate Agents in the village now charity shopping since the downturn good news. It is not just Tesco and Whitbreads that can afford the rent.

M&S, Co-Op, Subway, Costa are you watching? Bond, Jo Padmore, No. 4, Moretons you have a new family member.

In our house, excitement could not have been higher had Didsbury Son arranged to get Pikachu round for Christmas or 3-4 venti coffees with cake replaced 5 a day as a health requirement… My very own gentrified food shop with an industrial fridge in the back, in my village.

Didsbury Village Farm Shop, we welcome you to our humble village to share your purple kale, nutmeg laced £3 custards and stuffed Turkey crowns…

Let the price war hopefully commence.

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