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 “Lleyn Peninsula”

Halloween, The Trafford Centre and a new perspective

It is half-term. Usually a stressful time as Didsbury Son’s array of Junior Schools would be parading Eid, Halloween, Simchat Torah and World Animal Day in a continuous thread that would delight and utterly confuse him and us. One year we were carving a pumpkin in the shape of a hamster to commemorate the five pillars of wisdom and the giving of the scriptures by Moses; who was a close friend of Iggle Piggle and had played in the Premier League.

This year could not be more different. Didsbury Son has happily sloped off to a friend’s family for a few days without nappies. His phone call (not even calls) was crushingly happy, brief and indifferent. No amount of self back-patting for having such a sociable and self-assured son makes up for the move from absolute need to the foothills of independence.

Birds come to pay homage to the new twins near Llanbedrog. If the gifts are good they are British birds, if not the press will consider them Welsh

So Didsbury Wife and I headed off to the Lleyn; M20 by the sea, to introduce The roundest eyes and head in Didsbury and his sister the new boss –¬†our lovely twins to the sea, the caravan, Llanbedrog and Abersoch. It could not have been more different than previous trips. It was a one-handed, one-hour of sleep, nappy and feeding fest that was wonderful for all the small world, rigid timetabled, dictatorial restrictions three-week old babies can bring. I have never felt so needed or alive even though I barely had time to dress them up for my entertainment or loll aimlessly in the classic male pose, one hand was always around a baby.
I should have understood that my long anticipated new life was already here on a trip to the Trafford Centre with Didsbury Wife, Didsbury Son, Didsbury Twins and London nephew last week.
First, the organisation and logistics are phenomenal. I have booked tours and worked on studio shows more simple than getting 2 car seats filled, 2 older children seat-belted and assembling the required paraphernalia in a 60 minute timeframe. Secondly, You don’t need a nanny, you need crew.
After negotiating Didsbury Son’s erratic yet proud double buggy driving through the Trafford Centre (my 697th favourite place in Trafford), whilst fending off London Nephew’s enquiries about which twin I like best… I caved in and paid for them to go solo to the cinema to give them 2 hours of 3D and us 2 hours of question free parenting; bliss.
My normal visits to that place to ease Didsbury Wife’s shopping usually consist of placating Didsbury Son with 20 minutes at Game and Apple before fobbing him off with a Hot Chocolate so I can look at Sky Sports News on my phone.
This time, with sweat beading at my temples and babies beginning to shuffle and wake I went to Mamas & Papas ( it’s a real shop, honestly. I learn every day), John Lewis (same trip, different department), M&S ( starting to seem worryingly convenient beyond the food section) and Baby Gap ( disappointingly not staffed by babies).
Any of these stops would normally have me harrumphing like a teenager but I had a revelation . Pushing twins around in a pram got me the positive attention, queue jumping and ease of service I have only ever had in daydreams.
Although slightly damp and stiff of back – by the time we sneaked 20 minutes at Yo Sushi, where we received a welcome reserved only for people who unlike us, do not spin out 4 bowls of Miso Soup for a cheap lunch, I felt taller, prouder and ready to take advantage of this brief celebrity.
Changing a nappy at 3am over the weekend I realised that there are many things that have kept me up at that time: from the emotional to the chemical – but none of them had ever looked at me with something that was clearly wind, but worth waiting and remembering for a lifetime, and it doesn’t need paracetamol.

Caravans are the new hotels, Didsbury By the Sea

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Two weeks is a long time in the life of a Didsbury Son and one week is a long time in a caravan on the Welsh Riviera enjoying the wide range of rain driven weather patterns. Welsh Weather, that echo of chirruping sparrow and screeching sun that can change quicker than a transformer into leaden skied Hippos tap dancing on the roof of your caravan.

Our first afternoon here was idyllic. A beautiful hot spring day spent walking up beaches in shorts listening to lapping seas and well-fed seagulls. Didsbury Son and I stripped down to dig a joyfully pointless hole with seats in. The therapeutic value increasing inversely proportionate to its beautiful pointlessness. How we laughed as we created a jacuzzi. How we didn’t reckon on it actually being a usable jacuzzi so quickly. The perfect British seaside scene. Father and son digging, laughing and casting aside worries, Didsbury Wife in North Face coat close-by.

The sound of rain on a caravan roof can be mesmerising; then funny, then persistent, then overwhelming, then a precursor to a nightmare about water boarding. Still, it allows you to get to know the site, the caravan walls and the stock of Londis very well.

Caravan sites are microcosms of the worlds that they represent. There is a specific pecking order, etiquette and expectation. One magic moment was seeing Didsbury Son walk into a crowded Gents toilet block and shouting “Daddy!” From behind 10 stalls and through shaving foam and shower head a dozen weary voices, thinking they found a few minutes solace dutifully answered.

I have also had to up my blokeiness quotient to cope with other caravanning men who genuinely seem to know when to use a Phillips Head Screwdriver or the difference between live and earth (I am on a journey of discovery). Ask them about the difference between Spanish and Greek Extra Virgin Oil, nothing.

As a group of us manfully washed up in arctic conditions, pretending this was a good part of the deal I prayed the conversation stayed on sport and away from anything to do with cars apart from traffic. My honest view that DIY stood for “Done It? You’re Kidding” went down like… Anything except for water in a caravan sink. It is possible to sweat in freezing conditions whilst washing baked beans off a plastic plate. I am more Naked Chef than Ray Mears.

A quick guide to caravan etiquette:

1. There are two clearly marked taps – drinking water and chemical waste. They are not cheeky camping cocktails and pretending to empty the chemical toilet in the wrong one isn’t seen as a big jape.

2. There is symmetry between the boys here. They seem dressed, haircutted and taught to speak at Berghaus and White Stuff on the same day. They hunt in packs trying to look vaguely threatening in a way that only privately educated well dressed boys can. It’s not so much the crips and bloods and the crisps and Bloody Mary’s. The scooter tribe (John Lewis, not Vespa) and the bike possee skirt around each other warily like a pack of wolves. Instead of looking for prey they need their tummies tickled. Our tribe is the slouch and snack tribe worshipping the great God Freeview.

3. Being vaguely media and very MediaCityUK has no value.

4. The people you think don’t really exist when you spend your time in a city are real. Somewhere in the world there is someone dressing in a pink pinstriped shirt and blue pullover every five minutes.

5. Bumping into someone only when emptying a chemical toilet or going to a plumbed one severely limits small talk.

If Didsbury had a beach I would have no reason to leave. The ease of an M&S Simply Food and the Fletcher Moss on your doorstep should not be taken for granted. A week and weekends staring at the horizon across The Irish Sea, whilst wearing a coat has tremendously therapeutic benefits and we always hit that wonderful “Welcome to Greater Manchester” sign on the M56 rejuvenated by traditional Welsh fresh air, crisps and Peroni; ready to face branded coffee and aggressive begging with a new vigour.

The Lleyn Peninsula already holds many special memories and places for us. It is hard to beat the combination of mountains, coastline, cheese, and a good percentage of Cheshire’s 4x4s. For the roulette weather, there is the patient and friendly population (with the exception of the Londis in Abersoch).

This is where Didsbury Son built his first sandcastles, gave his first recital and caught his first, and hopefully only crab.

Our 2×2 occasionally gets a little bullied, but my off-road is parking in a field. When someone looked at my coat and asked me if I was a sailor I thought it was a chat-up line, but I am learning.

Didsbury Wife once told me that every child (from the North West) should have a chance to build a sandcastle on a Welsh beach and now I have found three venues close by with SkySports I heartily agree.

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Is Bara Brith a cake or a cave?

The Lleyn Peninsula; Bramhall by the Sea, the Cheshire set on Holiday. Like Gaul against the Empire. We are the Didsbury set in Wales. This makes me Obelix, Didsbury Son Asterix and Didsbury Wife Chief Vitalstatistix.

They call it Cheshire by the Sea because there are a paucity of decent delis and coffee shops and it’s expensive. But we love it. After M20, the A487 and the route from Conwy to Aberdaron contains many of my favourite places, memories and landmarks. The view from The Plas Glyn-y-Weddw across the bay is San Senastianesque; the crabbing on Abersoch beach sublime and the dressed crab near Whistling Sands worth breaking any diet to indulge.

There is a lay-by on the A470; just near Caernarfon (great Chinese in the square next to the castle) where everyone in the car takes a collective breath out and the blood pressure drops by 20-30 points.

The Caribbean is OK. But the weather lacks the diversity and uncertainty of The Lleyn. Yesterday Didsbury Son and I spent the day in shorts digging a hole that was joyfully pointless and therapeutic in equal measure. Today we are under 3-4 levels of clothing staring at the rain between us and crazy golf.

There’s also the cuisine. Fields of lambs chewing grass and fresh vegetables growing with freedom and we have already managed to have chips in paper, polystyrene and on a plate.

We have trips to a forest, on a boat and to a royal pub planned. Didsbury Son is painting stones and dreaming of fish we will catch and I… I am going to read the whole of a newspaper and not check my emails for 48 hours; happy days.

The picture follows our trip to a camping shop to buy Didsbury Son a coat, we were distracted and then lured into buying this ludicrous snood-type thing that would have made a Premiership footballer baulk.

NB: we are in no way denigrating Bara Brith, which is delicious and goes well with Welsh Tea and Butter

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