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 “Wales”

The Darkside of Destiny and Didsbury

It’s 20 years this June since the Manchester bomb. 15th June, a date imprinted on personal, professional and collective psyche for many reasons. England beat Scotland 2-0 – I never saw it. One of my closest friends got married – I had to miss it. A live event I had spent nearly a year planning was due in Castlefield Arena that night – it never happened. In my media-luvvy, Mr Manchester days it was big and memorable for none of the reasons I imagined. This blog is not about the bomb, the city or its aftermath. It’s about organisation.
We put the gig on four days later and 8000 people turned up. In my pre-Daddy days when it was only viewers, listeners or punters who interested me I loved to organise. On grass, in squares, basements, on screen or via audio I produced, promoted, presented and am proud to have negotiated and organised Babel-Esque crews. Yet no series, festival or Hitman & Her Under 18s Disco could prepare me for moving house and dealing with a certain Estate Agent (not purple) 

 insert name here

We are now “in”. We finally have a garden, a little bit more space and anxious cats locked in an unfamiliar kitchen. It still feels as though we are in a holiday let. It feels big but is currently cluttered with boxes. We don’t quite know how anything works, we’ve broken several things and the new bathroom seems exotic.  

 Cats love change

Didsbury Son is happy and the twins chase and play, relishing the space and the den/hide and seek opportunities of two floors crammed with boxes. 

I’m now not sure about leaving or staying in Europe, it seems a lot of hassle. Moving half a mile and staying in Didsbury has been so traumatic that I doubt myself in ways a teenager at a house party would find impressive.

When we actually met the lovely people whose house we were buying they weren’t the snarling, hate-filled and impatient harpies we had been led to expect by the estate agent and the process; they were reasonable and seemed equally relieved that we weren’t looking for £10 discount because the forecast was for snow in March. We shook hands, swapped keys, exchanged pleasantries and we both had Good Luck cards to give. 

There were moments during the move when I felt I was in an 80s Estate Agents’ sitcom. When I say moments I mean October to End of February inclusive. They vied for least professional, most aggressive contact. If I wasn’t sure about whether or not it was libellous I might use terms such as “pointlessly aggressive”, “unhelpful to the point of obstructive” and “undermining, know-it-all unable to grasp the basics of customer service. “; but I won’t as I am sure they have families who they love and love them. 

So we are here. Didsbury Dad Towers was emptied and Didsbury Son skipped out happily, building the boddlers a great snowman in our… Garden. 
We already miss our old neighbours, but have met some new fellow Didsbury Dads, Wives, Sons, Daughters and others. The house still smells strange, the scent of other lives receding as the overpowering smell of Lynx and used Cat Litter takes over.

My saviour was the process of moving. I was finally able to organise, coordinate and back time. This cathartic day in February expunged the previous four months and we arrived on time and on budget. 

I realise that talk of apprenticeships and psychometric testing are overrated in preparation compared to the attritional, money-leaching, strength-sapping process of house buying in Didsbury.  
 Classy times never fade. 

David Attenborough, Bear Grylls, The Birdman of Alcatraz and Me

Holiday Excitement – Family Style. Holidays should be full of moments that will brighten up a winter traffic jam when the sun is up after the babies and complaining that it is too hot seems a cruel joke.

Way before I was a Didsbury Dad, in fact from my earliest memories I have intimate knowledge of holiday problems.
My earliest recollections are of sitting on the side of European motorways next to a steaming Vauxhall Firenza and an immobile caravan. Since then holiday issues have been spontaneous and varied.
A stunt car recreates my childhood

A stunt car recreates my childhood

aaI have been grounded by war, nearly missed my own barmitzvah due to a strike (I know, we have all been there) and as a teenager was unfairly, if repetitively, a visitor to police stations in a wide range of countries. It was not exactly Midnight Express, but a first “boys” holiday ended with an unforgettable combination of arrest and dysentery.
It has left me sanguine, primarily unflappable and hard to impress wit a little trouble abroad.
I’ve flown Ryan Air, negotiated single-track cliff roads and been liberally pick pocketed. Didsbury Wife once had a job that took her on global jaunts, so a family caravan holiday in that jungle that is Wales would seem an easy week. Until we met this…
spaarrow5 Sparrow Hawk ating
Many things have woken me suddenly over the years; teachers, colleagues, policemen, worry, but never a Sparrow Hawk.
The exclusive deal between Kestrels and Adidas has driven Sparrow Hawks to search out Nike

The exclusive deal between Kestrels and Adidas has driven Sparrow Hawks to search out Nike

We had driven through the night with a car full of blissfully sleeping children. Didsbury Wife had graciously allowed me to lie-in and was feeding and entertaining the whole troupe when I was woken with…”There’s something in the awning you should see”.
This could have been anything – spider, tramp, projection from any orifice of any child. It was a Sparrow Hawk sitting on my sports bag eating a starling North to South – it had got to the Midlands in thorough fashion.
I stormed out, with only the protection of rare birds and the safety of my children on my mind. I eyeballed the bird and we communicated. I told him I respected his hunting prowess, he told me he would not harm my family. I opened the awning shared Avian Human respect and he flew off with his prey. Ish.
After thinking this trumps a trip around the ruins of Criccieth Castle I did what any same man would do. I locked the door and called the site manager and asked him to to open the awning as I needed to go to the toilet.
Didsbury Son has a great story to tell at school and we have another tale to tell the twins about our Welsh Safari.  I learned one important lesson- Dettox gets rid of the blood from most items, eventually.

This Much I Have Learned – holidays with small babies

Going anywhere nice this year? Planning to go or just back and regaling friends with all-nighters, mountain walks, that little bistro or hidden cove up the steps or the golden beaches you walked for hours?

Or have you enjoyed that secluded villa at the top of the hill or fun in a caravan?
The doorstaff in Ibiza have diversified over the years

The doorstaff in Ibiza have diversified over the years

This much I have learned, with Didsbury Son now at an age where I see more of the top of his head than his face, the Mighty-Headed boy on the march and able to get object to mouth in the time it takes to rub sleep out your eyes AND as my sweet pearl-headed girl deciding summer nights are for singing, not sleeping; it’s tricky.
We have opted for short breaks around Wales.
We love Wales. We enjoy remembering to take bags to every shop, like the weather lottery and feel that not being able to shop after 7pm or find baby change facilities a challenge that can really make a holiday special. As I daydreamed  about room service, pain-free moving and walking past Boots occasionally, I realised that my parameters had been re-set my checklist is:
1. No budget airlines. Babies fly free under 2 years old. We have already used this loophole and will do until its closed. However, the equipment you now need with you needs a roadie and you look like The Tweenies on tour. I planned a break, found flights but the baggage cost dwarfed the ticket price  to such an extent it would have been cheaper to buy popcorn at the cinema.
2. The time limit a Didsbury Son can go without wi-fi is three days. After that the pained expression at a life lost and disconnected is no longer entertaining and worse, if the 3G fails I can’t check the transfer news.
Didsbury Son got over his Piokemon separation anxiety in interesting ways

Didsbury Son got over his Pokemon separation anxiety in interesting ways

3. Caravans are fantastic. Until you have babies crying. Then you have nowhere to go. It’s one up, all up and here’s a tip. Anyone who says to you they had a lovely romantic break in a caravan thinks communal washing is foreplay.
4. Remember the supplies. Wherever you go in the world there is a small shop selling the errant nappy, wipe, formula for the same price as a small car.
5. It’s your fault.
6. Time differences are dangerous. At. 9pm the twins are finally asleep; Didsbury Wife and I crave the small gap they have left between them in bed and Didsbury Son is revved up for a film, preferably with mild swearing. It’s a tough negotiation. If it goes wrong there will be harrumphing on all sides and worse, I may have to feign interest in some Alien abducting, world creating  pixelated odyssey that Didsbury Son has had on hold for three days as the promised wi-fi is lost somewhere in the field of sheep behind us.
7. A double pram on sand is a nightmare, get a pool.
8. Keeping twins fed, changed and entertained in a caravan without crying is a test they missed on The Krypton Factor.
Free the Pink Bear 1

Free the Pink Bear 1

This is not to say that there have been those magical holiday moments. When Didsbury Son looked up at me and said those three little words that mean so much, “dad, Free Wi-Fi!”. Paddles in the sea and chips on the beach at night. These and a hundred other happy times that will be etched into our family story.
I hope this prepares you and warns you. It does all have one huge advantage. When you see the sign A34 Didsbury and get the first flatulent waft of Subway drifting up Wilmslow Road it’s bloody marvellous.

Wales: where are your changing tables?

The Didsbury family are all safely home from our trip to Wales. I like Wales. Parts of the North Wales and stop-offs on the journey home are so good they are almost like Didsbury; but with narrower roads, early closing, less choice, grey brick, no Cheese Hamlet and proper Welsh Cakes.

Wales, like Scotland with a less impenetrable accent, like Cornwall without Rick Stein pushing his haddock at you day night and… to overuse the word “like”, like a family holiday without facilities.

I am not Walesist, some of my best friends are Welsh (to paraphrase the “people” who voted UKIP).

Sunday afternoon was a perfect example. The journey from Didsbury was punctuated by stops at a range of cafes and hotels. Each stop met with friendly incredulity at the request for a baby change. Our pleas seemed as outrageous as having pram access to a toy shop ( Giddy Goat Toys, let us in).

I have been spoiled in M20. Caffe Nero has two changing tables (knowing its clientele well), Didsbury Lounge may drag you up spiral stairs but when you get there it’s worth it and even the independent Didsbury Deli is promising a changing station soon – I keep checking and the antipasti just arrives at my table, that’s my excuse.

This lack of facilities led to Didsbury Wife and I putting our knees and backs through unseemly hard floor, cubicle changes that were like going swimming in the 70s. The babies have spent so much time on toilet floors being changed by a tired and sweary dad they thought they were in a Ken Loach film about Wales in the 50s
(*Read the following Oscar worthy dialogue in ‘Nessa from Gavin & Stacey accent).
“We ‘ad to keep movin’ see – no place to sleep and a toilet to change the babbies mind.”

Anyway it is back to Sunday afternoon 3.45pm. One of those magical family outings that began in indifference and spiralled quickly into antipathy. I had a car full. One angry, one bored, two needing a change. Then, Nirvana. Cliff side location, beatific panorama and inside it got better. WiFi for Didsbury Son. A safe heaven and a good choice of refreshment for Didsbury Wife and, whisper it quietly – Sky Sports 1 cued up for Super Sunday and they took cards.

I grasped the wary family to my bosom and charged in. I was new man and ready to change a Mighty Headed boy whose nappy was threatening to emigrate.

I spent the next 20 minutes balancing him one-handed between basin and blower as we recreated our cubicle scene one more time.

We left the pub with friends, a new happiness and pong-free babies; but Wales, it’s 2013. there is no need for a fancy refurb, just a bit of fold-down plastic attached to a wall. Your resorts are full of young families and more importantly, I have two more years of nappies.


Just out of shot: Gareth Bale, Ivor The Engine and Alex Jones open the Welsh Assembly’s new changing facilities

A sound to make a parent quiver.

We have walked up the Acropolis at midday. We have driven France end to end in one go and I have braved the “wrong end” at a Local Derby. This week we have taken the spirit of adventure and the power of Northern stubbornness and pushed that envelope one letterbox farther than even we thought possible.

This week we have had all 5 of the Didsbury Family sharing a tin can in Wales. What better way to relax away the stress of life than the bright sunshine and occasional above freezing temperatures that Wales offers at this time of year?

For me there is little to beat the glamour of needing your glasses on as you tramp across gravel in your pyjamas to use a Siberian toilet, to ensure you fill your kettle from the tap marked “drinking water”, not “grey waste”. What is grey waste? I thought he was one of Ben 10’s incarnation or a euphemism for getting a job at B&Q.

Anyway, as Didsbury Wife and I lay shivering with the blistering light and insipid heat of a Halogen heater casting a neon shadow across our van we counted our blessings.

Didsbury Son lay cocooned on what had been the master bed – warm and with room to move. The Mighty-Headed boy and the pearl-delicate girl lay between Didsbury Wife and I whilst we perched on the edge of the Transformer Sofa. He was calm having been fed and top-to-toe changed at 3am and she snuffled, too small for the cold that had wrapped itself up in her. We counted blessings for a bit then got bored and thought it would be much more fun to share a sneaky 4am snipe about the non-advertised, worst bits of babies per se and twins particularly.

After sharing the joint pain of permanent lift/shift/soothe/rock x 2, the unfeasible level of Boots points accrued in 6 months, the lack of clothes without milky sick patterns, the inability to hold a coherent conversation or stay awake without the prompt of screwming after 9pm we hit upon it. The worst sound in the world. A small, almost innocuous sound that strikes fear into parents and can lead a grown man to tears in the middle of the night. It is not a sound that emanates from any part of a baby. It is not White Noise, high frequency or loud. It can best be described as a “put”. A quiet “put” which tells you that the soother (dummy – Didsbury Son thought dummies were Chavvi so we don’t have them – we have “soothers” that are dummy shaped) has hit the sheet.
This little noise means your baby (ies) is/are about to wake up and you are not going back to sleep.

That little pop from beautiful mouth to sheet means you are about to contort your wrists to arthritis trying to find the soft wet bit of your baby’s face to put it back in and somehow keep it there. It can “put” dozens of times before one of you gives in. It is the tiny sound to stop you in your tracks as you try and quietly sneak out of a nursery. That 3 inches drop strikes terror into me that a nappy explosion encompassing full body changing gets nowhere near. It is the sound of your night disappearing, your tea going cold or your beer going flat. It is the sound of your partner being asleep before you get to bed. It is the sound of your next day at work going awry.
Oh how we laughed as we “putted”. Sadly, we laughed too loud and woke up the twins.


Minecraft. More interesting than Ben 10.

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