Manchester: We are all immigrants
Potty Doris linked my arm and we traipsed slowly across the estate to pick up her pension at Openshaw TSB on the Old Road.
The eighty three year oldness in her means we just take our time. If the world goes past, then the world goes past. I always think we have to walk so slow because her heart is so big, and knows so much, that it takes a lot of lugging around.
I resist telling her that she walks like-a-dog’s-back-legs- whilst-it’s-shitting. She always says “As soon as you could walk I used to run your little bleedin’ legs off taking you to your Nana’s so she could mind you so that I could clock on at the Rotunda for eight o’clock.”
Apparently with vascular dementia the carers are supposed to embrace the repetition of the stories. One time it’ll be the last time and then you’d do anything to listen to that story again. Anything.
So, with her arms entwined around her son’s arms, she can just about make it to the bank now to get her weekly wedge out. She doesn’t spend it on anything as we pamper her. That’s the way it should be. When we were young we were pampered to fck. And pampered to fck comes in cycles. Everyone knows that. That manageable distance to the bank is a handy enough guide if we want to take her anywhere.
We don’t measure in feet, inches or miles but “It’s here to Varna Street School”, “It’s here to the five-a-side”, “It’s here to the bank”, “It’s here to Barkery Jamma’s”. You won’t know Barkery Jamma, he’s a good nearby neighbour.
Having said that, you might. He’s a kindly lad, very popular and his family is huge. There’s never been a recorded case of someone not being in at Barkery’s when you call. It’s like Cairo being out. So I take it back, you might know him.
Anyway me and the Dorisateer are just chirruping along to get her pension and walking past Barkery’s. Now Openshaw has changed over the last decade or so. For example when we won the league at the Tottenham home game in 1999 I finished up getting a joe back to east central Manchester late on.
As the joe reached a tenner on the clock I had to get out before I’d got home as all I had on me was a tenner. Long day of beer and celebrations etsetch. It’s gone two in the morning and I walked into four young lads, late teens and intent on giving me a crack.
They didn’t get their way. I was more aggressive then. As I recounted this story to another local the next day I mentioned that they were black lads. Because there were so few blacks in a very, very, very white working class area, the local knew the house the lads were from. Apparently they were not very nice people, regardless of colour and they’d just moved in bringing some nefarious ways from Longsight with them.
Openshaw now, as fitting with Manchester’s proud history, has seen an enormous influx of black economic migrants. There’s a little Zimbabwe going on in the tributaries off Vine Street and it has truly reinvigorated the place after the destroying decline of the Thatcher years with all the drugs and the board-ups that that piece of tory venom and her collaborating DNA descendants brought with her.
And within that changing face of Openshaw me and Potty Hole were going for her pension. As I’ve said we were walking past Barkery Jamma’s when Doris said “There’s a lot of black people around here now isn’t there?”
I looked across at the little thing in the big red coat that’s going too big for her as she’s diddifying. She’s concentrating on the floor as the flags are a bit bandit on Wetherby Street. Not for one moment did I even think a not-nice’ism would come out of this cute entirety of goodness, I was just intrigued where her mind, that had spent the whole of its 83 years in east central Manchester, was going with that last comment.
And so I said “Yes, there are Mam.” She shuffled along in the little leather sandals that are the only shoes she can wear now as her bottom ends give her a hard time.
After a second or two, without looking up at me from beneath her hood-that-she-looks- a-bggr-in as she had had to put it up as it was grey and drizzly, she said “Isn’t that nice…that of all the places in the world they could go…they choose us?” As she carried on looking at the pavement as she pottered along I said “It is Mam … it really is.” And I cried at the beauty of such simple goodness.
Notice how she also said ‘choose’ and not ‘chose’. Not a past tense but a continuing tense of choosing and continuing to choose. Ever-changing Manchester. As with all the finest, finest human beings Doris has an accordion for a heart, it just opens up and there’s room for everyone and no-one has to move up. And a little piece of east central Manchester got temporarily more temperate.
Love is the only anything that means everything. Love always wins. At some time or at some point, in however you choose to keep it, love always wins. You reclaim it if you’ve dropped it, you fight for it if you’ve not got it and you brawl to keep it when you have it because it’s life precious and it’s everything you are.
As the constantly fluttering, demonstration-attending Manchester Trades Council banner wisely states ‘ A better world is possible.’
- This is an excerpt of an article taken from AFL issue four. It, and many other previous issues, is now available to buy for just £1.50 inc postage at our online stall: AFLshop