None of us, either of my mini miracle working sisters, friends, or myself expected events to pan out as they are actually are. Our mum is, we might euphemistically say, struggling.
The details are not important for the purposes of this blog piece. Billy at the bread shop, however, is very much of importance. Billy is one of those souls who qualify completely as a local hero. He is, in totality, central to our mum’s community.
‘Go over to the bread shop,’ mum would direct me some decades ago. ‘Nip over and get the muffins from Mrs Dawson.’
Mrs Dawson’s son, Billy, now leaves that shop on half day closing to visit our mum in her current abode. He told me, just the other day, ‘Your mum needs to start eating again, I could feel her ribs when I gave her a hug.’ Billy does not need to cross the road to deliver cakes, pies or other food stuffs to our mum. He doesn’t need to care for her, and watch out for her, or for that matter, to try and find ways to encourage her to actually eat something, anything, to take on board any sustenance at all. But he does.
Mrs Dawson is long gone. Our mum is hanging on. And Billy is still in business, baking, helping, and being central to his community. Local, you see. Old school. Independent. Individual. Trusted. Manc.
Just down the road from Billy’s Bread Shop, you will find a modern, expensive, corporate style global edifice. The City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad Stadium) is home to Manchester City Football Club. Red or blue, Billy is a ‘blue.’
I spoke to Billy last weekend. As I stood outside mum’s house, Billy came out of his shop and shouted over, ‘Mark,’ he said, I have a couple of doughnuts for you.’
In conversation, it became clear, the doughnuts were for me to eat, and not mum. ‘We have to get your mum eating,’ Billy told me. ‘I will bring over a meat and potato pie for her later. The cakes won’t tempt her anymore, so I am trying her on pies. She ate the meat out of one the other day, a bit of it at least…’
Billy does not go down to the The City of Manchester Stadium anymore. He doesn’t shut up early to go to the match. And he doesn’t celebrate the stellar success of a global brand bought with oodles of Abu Dhabi United Group money – red or blue, no pun noticed.
I am not sure there is anything particularly local about the corporate behemoth that is, reportedly, the fifth biggest football club in the world. Almost a deliciously Manchester ‘fuck you’ spirited oxymoron, Billy v Manchester City FC – local v global – go figure…
The remains of community. Decent. Honest. Waning. Dawson’s bakery is but one local business surviving in the shadow of The City of Manchester Stadium. Some typically Manc folks have run with the baton. Others have quickly grown impatient with the ease of bought success.
During our chat the other day, Billy mentioned the days he would trek down to Maine Road, the old Man City ground. Back in the day, in a seemingly less successful day, fond memories were made. It was hard work back then to win at anything. A league survival campaign. Any sort of winning streak. A single game. ‘But,’ Billy remarked, a note of sadness in his voice, ‘Some of our players were proper pugs. Our pugs, though. They didn’t half try.’
So, on this mother’s day, I am saluting Billy Dawson. Local hero. Community spirited Mancunian. Friend to my mum, my family, and his loyal, local customers.
I salute the other entrepreneurial men and women who take the knocks of hard times on the chin and keep on keeping on.
I salute the institutions and individuals who refuse to die a death in the shadow of rapacious global capital.
And I salute the poor buggers who require sustenance to survive a little longer.
The Manchester spirit is renown for being gritty, quirky, in your face. Famous are the Emmeline Pankhursts, Tony Wilsons, and Howard Jacobsons of this world. My mum isn’t famous. Nor is Billy Dawson. All the people who used to nip down to Maine Road to watch ‘pug’ football players aren’t famous.
But you know what? Fuck the famous folk. Today is a day to acknowledge real heroes. Local heroes like Billy from the Bread shop. Those sometimes reduced loved ones in need. And certainly, local folk everywhere, who despite their circumstance, keep on keeping on.
Truth is, The North will rise again. Manchester will rise again. And yes, busy bees we are, difficult and awkward Manc buggers we may most often be, we will rise again. Count on it. Have some of that.
There you go, be like Billy – choose love. Please like, follow, comment, share, and otherwise do the bloody hell as you please.