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 “London”

Top 10 Tips for Travelling with Toddlers

Travelling with twin toddlers. A simple A to Z.
A. – it’s ace
2 – two soothers, two snacks, two beakers or too late, you are done for.
Z. – toddling boddlers x 2. No chance of Zzzzzs.

Now that’s out of the way sit back, chew on a week-old rice cake and turn off every bass-less plastic teapot, frog, picnic basket and lion; here’s the skinny. I’ll just remove Iggle Piggle from the small of my back.
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Othello “Rude am I in speech and little blessed with the soft phrase of peace but I can adapt a range of football chants to soothe babies and amuse Didsbury Son”.

In their short lives so far the twins have been on a range of flights, starting at 10 weeks with a trip to Spain. My real secret is to let Didsbury Wife plan and strategise, then do as I’m told. It works. But for those occasions I am in charge I have top tips for travel. (Although many originally began… Tell Didsbury Son to run after them, blame Didsbury Son, feign sleep or cry)

1. Ignore the naysayers. The reaction to taking the twins on a transatlantic flight varied from hushed shock to claims of madness. Flights are free (except for the ubiquitous and unfathomable airport taxes, £28 landing, £11 per crack in the pavement walked upon and £3 for each bottle of water you can’t take through customs otherwise WHSmith would be the new Woolworths. The price of the items too dangerous to take through customs is the first mugging of your holiday.) for the under twos so we worked out we were in the last few months of being able to afford a transatlantic trip unless the government re-direct all taxes to free child care. Did I digress?
Calpol, low expectations, a fixed smile and an apology on the tip of your tongue and bingo, travelling with toddlers is easy AND more easily navigatable than Jazz.

2. Forget your last pre-children visit anywhere. Then, you stayed in a boutique hotel at the heart of the party. You need accessible lifts, storage room, air conditioning, carpets that cushion a falling boddler and dark wallpaper that does not show crayon marks. As we lay in our trendy hotel a block from Miami’s biggest party listening to drum, bass and next door ‘s argument and inevitable, excruciating and thankfully brief reconciliation, I craved the bland open spaces and Multi-channelled impersonality of our Homewood Suites off the I-95.

3. If you drive, they will sleep. When you stop, they will wake. Plan your stops. You cannot pull in for a quick wee/coffee/snooze – it will rouse the team from the depths of sleep to the clingiest screech in seconds. A minor note in the States. I asked where the bed was in the restroom, bad move.

4. Occasionally, the crap snacks we all enjoy are okay to pass downwards. My two have X-Ray vision and bloodhound noses for crisps. Their joy at a bag opened in their direction offsets the middle-class shame at sharing salty treats.

5. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool

6. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool

7. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool. This is the only hope you have of staying on budget, getting a tan and having a permanent excuse to get away from strangers mistaking you laughing with your family, with having the slightest interest in talking to them and hearing about Indiana. I genuinely had someone ask if we knew Jane Platt.., from London. Of course we said yes before feigning the need for nappy changes all around.

8. Do not be lured in by American waiters feigning friendliness with your brood, it makes not leaving a tip afterwards more embarrassing.

9. Sing. Most people think the English are eccentric (and love Royalty – the planned wedding between Prince George and my Pearly-topped princess was well-received) and being able to change a nappy whilst singing and ordering drinks is the way to happy kids and personal space.

10. Plan ahead. It’s a holiday and the chances are high that you don’t have childcare. The lure of a late night Mojito, ice-cold beer or Hemlock can be strong and you may wake up feeling more woozy than usual. The heirs to your eczema lying next to you neither understand nor care and to avoid feeling seasick have the tools ready to buy you a little extra sleep.
IPad loaded with known games -14 minutes
YouTube nursery rhymes or CBeeBies programme – 19 minutes.
IPhone loaded -8 minutes
Dragon breath slur “sleepy time” – 36 seconds and a potential headbutt.
Bag of crisps and iPad 24 minutes* – the call is yours.

* times may vary dependent on nappy weight and contents

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Sago Mini – I love this more than I should, 15 minutes of relative peace

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Things I have learned – small children like aimlessly walking around paths – you can virtually sleepwalk

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.

The Co-Op, Spandau Ballet, Francis Lee and the M6

Co-Op, WaitroseThis much I have learned:

As I have journeyed so far past 39 that I can now see it in the wing mirror without glasses or squinting I have noticed some startling developments

1. My twin lovelies are suddenly somewhere between babies and toddlers. They are tabies or boddlers. They sway in a 10pm Friday night way; they fall, cry, get up. They get knocked down, but they get up again. You get the picture.

In the middle of the night your eyes can play visual tricks. Last night my beautiful pearl-headed girl went full throttle around 1am. Via a quick fumble with Ewan the Sheep, I began rocking and sushing in the dark. I looked down at her, snuggled in a bright pink sleeping bag made grey in the dark. All I could clearly make out was a fringe and a high-necked short bib. In my stupor I thought she looked like a mini New Romantic. Specifically, Steve Norman at the height of Spandau Ballet’s fame. This was pure gold. To cut a long story short, whilst she cranked up Chant Number 1, I moved seamlessly from 64 Zoo Lane Through the Barricades. Eventually she calmed and as I put her back in the cot I thought “I’d Fly For You”.

In the middle of the night she tranforms into...

In the middle of the night she tranforms into…

 

I also felt slightly guilty. My mighty headed boy has a smile so infectious it could cheer up a Goth. Yet I am convinced he is the spit of 70s Manchester City icon Franny Lee. This after his Uncle Sol and Phil Mitchell phases. Note to self, they will take revenge.

...the one on the left, Steve Norman from Spandau Ballet. (pic www.allposters.co.uk). The likeness is uncanny

…the one on the left, Steve Norman from Spandau Ballet. (pic http://www.allposters.co.uk). The likeness is uncanny

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The Co-Op refit.is fairly spectacular (www.all-truelondon.com)

2. I have been lucky enough over the years to have presented on radio and to have organised major live and broadcast events. Back timing to the second, doddle. Bringing a crew of 100 and an audience of 1000s to the same point of a show – easy. Getting 13 month old twins, pre- teen Didsbury Son and sleep-starved Didsbury Wife in a car to go to London for 9am, impossible. The Everly Brothers on tour had less friction, the group tasks in The Apprentice have a stronger shared vision and the Formula 1 teams travel more lightly when shipping cars across continents.
By the time we stopped for our first nappy and coffee stop, ( My theory is that pricing at Service Stations is decided by spinning a wheel which begins at “Selfridges” and goes through to “Organic Grocer in Notting Hill”) the list of items we had forgotten really needed their own car. If you ever want to feel humble, buy nappies and wipes on the M6. I will never again complain about the cost of Premier League football.

3. When I see Didsbury Wife juggle the needs of Year 8 joy and pain in the same breath as coaxing two 1 year olds I am slightly less smug about my pride at washing up, whilst listening to the radio and chatting on the phone.

4. The New Co-Op in our village centre has undergone a transformation so drastic that I half expect to see it on QVC promoting its extreme makeover. In a week where Co-Op has been ridiculed for its ministerial management’s misunderstanding of metropolitan manners we’ve had free muffins and fruit. But Co-Op, surely to be known as Co-po also chose mid-November to open al fresco dining and all the over 21s have disappeared. Where is the stern blokevwho likes to begin pontificating with “Anyone in their Right Mind… ” and ends with Capital Punishment. What happened to the lovely women? The new staff are fine, but just a little too perky for Copo, it’s not Waitrose ( yet).

The post fit out Co-Op (www,all-truelondon.co.uk)

The post fit out Co-Op (www,all-truelondon.co.uk)

5. Didsbury Son took me to a charmless Japanese day in a sports centre. It was too full of geeks in fancy dress and gamers whose idea of personal hygiene peaked with licking their fingers after chicken wings. He was in his element and his happiness was my joy. But I’m sticking to football

As I have sailed past 39 and a bit, then a bit more. This much I know

Many of my contemporaries are having a combination of mid-life crisis and mentality stasis. This smacks of an admission that you got it wrong In your late teenage/early twenties. Be warned – a middle-aged goattee is only a short step in your Crocs from a male-patterned baldness topped ponytail.

Change in outlook is essential development; physically, emotionally, mentally – every way. If you haven’t changed since the 80s you are actually your family pet.

These contemporaries seem keen to prove they want to party like they did when smoking was an popular indoor pursuit, with people born post-Thatcher. They can, except now they need a week off afterwards and a night on the tiles means an Ibuprofen gel rub.Why this need to hang out with today’s youth, to be independent, be individual? It misses the point, like telling people you are cool or why a joke is funny.

If you think back through the mists of time to youthdom, remember the adults who talked about the 60s or the tragic “mature” student who in week 1 seemed worldy wise and by Week 4 was slightly creepy? That is us at 2 in the morning, feigning interest in the next generation as they BBM, Bump and Virtual each other whilst we look on with aching joints.

I still enjoy many of the same stimuli; but I am the Gold station demographic. If teenagers want to join in they are welcome. I can no longer be bothered being out every night or travelling through the night to Ipswich for a minor cup game. I am glad I have done it and can tick it off to remember at my leisure.

At 20 I had no responsibility. I could be marvellously outraged, avant and selfish. This was my right. I am no longer the centre of my own world and it’s fine because I have walked, danced and talked rubbish through the arrogance and myopia of youth. I care about less things, but I care more deeply and with a sense of realism. Having fun doesn’t age – posting it online does.

I still believe in the beauty of the human spirit and the power to change for better on a personal and global basis (I’ve always been an optimist) but it is tempered with a couple of decades of failure, success, love, heartbreak and the realities of money.

In London I enjoyed walking through the West End at night. Soho, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown are great places, full of life and human diversity. Vibrant, but I have no desire to be the teenagers I see in excited groups posing, preening, smoking and hoping. Their perfect hair and muffin topless waistbands are great to see. The air crackles with a hundred languages and hustlers shuffle next to big nights and trips that will be remembered and chatted about when these teenagers are Didsbury, Rome and Beijing Dads. It is theirs to grasp.

I now look at this and think of the fun I will have bringing Didsbury Son here and seeing his love of the neon, the comic shops, the smell of Chinatown and the naughtiness of Soho. I look forward to taking him through Soho Square and the warren around it. I can jabber on about working here and he can pay no attention – transfixed by such easy access to Subway and Caffe Nero.

I mentally weigh up the pavements and curbs for a double buggy. Soho, tricky, Piazzas are the new nightclubs when you have babies. I scan the surroundings for potential baby changing facilities and mentally make note of every chemist. It’s a new world for me and in its own way as enticing as the old one – just different.

Age and not worrying about everybody’s opinion brings a sense of freedom. I can genuinely have a night on my own terms. I don’t have the peer pressure, fear of ridicule and worrying if my winklepickers are sharp enough. I already know what my peers think, understand my own ridiculousness and wear insoles for my back- that’s what winklepickers will do for you. I strolled, stopped for a drink and a fleeting friendly conversation with a stranger without swapping Facebook or twitter likes. Then I mooched back to my hotel cell happy.

As an after thought; s Starbucks’ desire to write your name on your cup and hail you like a friend the most unintentionally entertaining retail department since “Suits You” on The FastShow? I have had more fun spelling Didsbury Son’s Pokemon characters in excruciating detail to the Stepfordly cheerful staff who can text 100 words a minute but cannot write Snorlax or Monferno without sitting down for a rest. It is not big, not clever and it certainly does not befit a Didsbury Dad – but it is fun.

Tottenham Court Road v Wilmslow Road, take me home

London has a habit of draining you more quickly than a visit to The Trafford Centre. Sometimes it is uplifting; sporting occasions, big events, trips with children – fantastic. But being down here for a day’s work, even with the ease of the Pendolino reminds what I love about living and working in Manchester.

I have had a successful day here. Done the deal, power shaken and been part of the metropolis on the day we celebrated our renewed sporting
prowess and organisational skill with a dash of open-hearted humanity.

But the thousand tiny cuts that such a commute makes to your humanity has me reaching for the dictionary to re-define parochial as “Home Sweet Home”. Each time I am down here I realise how much I have changed my priorities. I have a hour so to kill. In the past it would have been reaching for my diary, heading for bar and looking for an experience.

Now I am sitting in a coffee shop on Tottenham Court Road surrounded by technology shops thinking how much better this would be with Didsbury Son next to me hurrying me to drink up for a look around.

He would be in heaven at the idea of rows and rows of shop fronts stacked with Beats headphones, XBoxes, Samsung, Sony and all things micro-chipped. Didsbury Son would be prodding, playing,grabbing and dropping everything he could before talking me into buying him something just beyond his own understanding, and therefore way beyond mine. Technologically I peaked at Kinder Eggs and electronic game wise it was Donkey Kong.

He would lose interest in it on the way home and before it was shoved in a drawer, re-packaged for a minor cousin or eBayed it would remind me of a day out.

Similarly Decathlon and any sports shopping is always immeasurably
dull without our game of covering up all the team shirts of which we disapprove with those of a more acceptable hue.

This game of red and blue cat and mouse with the staff is up there with pants on the head in the amusement longevity states.

So, until the next half-term break or weekend when we can sneak off and turn a dull task into a snigger fest I will be a dutiful Didsbury Dad. I will make my calls, send my mobile emails and mooch around the shops looking for a suitable little gift for him, before buying something crap from Euston as I rush for the train having found a bar to while away the time.

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Didsbury; the birds, the barbers, the ship canal

Melton Mowbray has its Pork Pies and Eccles its cakes. Swindon, roundabouts and Hull white telephone boxes. Think of London and Dick Whittington springs to mind. Edinburgh – and it’s Greyfriars’ Bobby yapping at you from the gates of the cemetery, a saucer of Irn Bru having been lapped.

But what about Didsbury?

This birthplace of the RSPB, final home of Manchester Ship Canal’s Daniel Adamson and residence of the current Poet Laureate. This leafy suburb was the birthplace of 70s footballer/cricketer Jim Cumbes; hosts the resting place of two of bonnie Prince Charlie’s men and incorporates Fletcher Moss; man, pub and meadow.

A river runs through it.

What are we synonymous with?

Didsbury Son’s self-created Scooby Sandwich? It features 5 essential hydrogenated e-numbers and several incompatible layers. It is good, but…

Didsbury still loves its birds. Rare birds by the river, well-hung ones in Evans and mesmerising rotisseried chickens at The Didsbury Village Farm Shop.

The ship canal spirit lives on in the Mersey Basin and there are professional, amateur and Tai Chi inspired poets giving our village rhyme and lyrical beauty; but they do not define us.

So beyond supermarkets, young professionals and an M20 postcode what is our USP?

I think we have two.
Not the abysmal cell-like flats that have replaced two of our iconic buildings (Capitol Theatre where The Avengers was shot, Withington Hospital where I had my first endoscopy).
Not the ignoring of private car spaces and general manners by the not so yummy mummies at our primary schools.
Not even Wilkinsons on Barlow Moor Road, the shop that defies progress in the most delicious fashion.

In Didsbury – beyond doctors, lawyers, teachers, media luvvies and music biz veterans we do Barbers and Coffee Shops like no other village, enclave, borough or suburb.

Muswell Hill LOOK and LEARN. Alderley Edge, tell the nanny to take notes.

The spirit of Sid the Barber lives on. From Chalkie White and Blade in the East of Didsbury, down past the barbers on School Lane that now outnumber residential houses 2-1. From John at Gentry Grooming and the achingly naff Edward Scissorhands to West Didsbury’s boho barbers of Burton Road. Say it loud Didsbury… We are hirsute and happy Didsbury Dads, Granddads, sons and nephews. Boys and men who need a regular trim and not necessarily anything for the weekend…
And…

We can distinguish between an arabica bean and a full-roast from any number of differently coloured coffee shops. This is no village for Mellow Birds, wherever the RSPB was founded.

Sent from my iPhone

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