How long have you sold the mag for?
I’ve sold it for about 12 years. I was living in Stoke. Then, when I was homeless, I came to Leeds. I’ve always been a Leeds United supporter so I used to travel up a lot to see the football. So I ended up in a hostel here and started selling Big Issue North.
How did you become homeless?
I went through a divorce and ended up on the streets. I’ve struggled with drink my whole life. I can leave it for two or three days and then all of a sudden things get on top of me and then I can go on a bender. I’ve always been like that. I don’t drink at home on my own – I go out and meet my friends in the pub. I meet all my friends in the pub and then there we go.
What’s it like selling the magazine?
I love selling it. I’ve got some great regulars. There’s a food bank in Wetherby. A customer goes and get two bags for me every week. He’s about 70, the bloke who does that.
Why do you sell the mag?
You are not sitting on the dole and just taking what money the government gives you. That’s not for me. I like to be out, trying to earn a bit of money. People know that you are doing something and not sat on your backside, especially when it’s cold weather and you are outside freezing. They see that and respect it. Also, I’d find it difficult to get a different job. There’s the drink now and again, plus I’ve got a problem with one of my hands. I hurt it badly about two years ago and I can’t really do anything manual.
Tell us about your tattoos.
I’ve got 12 altogether. Most of them are about my interests. I’ve got Mike Tyson’s name on my forehead. I’m a big fan – always followed him. I got it done at a tattoo place and they did check with me before they did it. I’ve got other tattoos about Leeds football club, Vinnie Jones and horse racing. Henry Cecil was a horse trainer and I’ve got his name and the name of one of his best horses, Indian Skimmer, tattooed on me. I won £1,000 on that horse and that’s when I got the tattoo done.
Do people treat you differently because of your tattoos?
I don’t think so. People accept me for the way I am. I’d never have them removed. Once they are on, they’re on.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m quite content as I am. I’m trying to get working tax credits at the moment because I’m self-employed and it’s something I am entitled to. The staff in the office have been a great help. They have filled all the forms in for me and, because my application was declined, they are now helping me with an appeal. If I get that, I will be really happy.
Interview: Christian Lisseman
Photos: Lee Brown