Rob, Sheffield University

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 55 and originally from the East End of Glasgow. I came down here at the end of the 1970s to work down the coalmines. I was a bit of a black sheep and I got involved in a gang. Well, where I was from you either joined a gang or you were the victim of one. My mum thought I’d end up doing life or being murdered so she sent me down here to get me away from that.

‘I look at my daughter and feel right proud, and proud of myself too.’

Why do you sell Big Issue North?
I’m struggling at the moment. I have fibromyalgia. My illness means that I feel pain everywhere, from the soles of my feet to the roots of my hair. I find it hard to keep jobs because I have to have long periods of rest.

Don’t you get any kind of benefits?
There’s no help from the benefits. I keep on trying to get disability benefits. You get so thick-skinned about it – getting disbelieved by medical professionals. But I’ve got an official diagnosis now and I’ve just been for a medical. I might pass. I don’t know. I don’t want extra money. As long as I have money for gas and electric, a roof over my head and food for me and my daughter, that’s all I need. I just want them to believe me and to stop sending me on these stupid courses to try and get me into work because I find that really difficult. And to stop sanctioning me because they think I’m not looking for work. I just want the recognition that I am ill.

Do you live with your daughter?
Yes. She’s been in my sole custody since she was seven and she’s 19 now. It was hard being a single parent, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. She’s turned into a lovely young woman. She’s at college studying to be a chef and she’s working in a pub kitchen. I look at her and feel right proud and proud of myself too. I really admire her. She’s really cool.

How long have you sold the magazine for?
On and off since 1995. Since I left employment because of my illness. It helps me pay my bills and that. It also helps me with my illness, being out and about. I’ve always loved talking to people, and being at home, I would just focus on the pain. The people here in the Students Union have been great. I recently moved into a ground floor flat and they bought me furniture and a kettle. The kindness of people was really overwhelming. And the staff in the Big Issue North office are absolutely fantastic. They couldn’t do enough for you.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know what my plans for the future are but I’m not going to sit back and fade away, I’m not going to give up. I am a positive person. Nothing gets me down, not even this illness. This isn’t going to beat me. Even though there are days when it knocks me for six and I am flat on my back, I bounce back the next day.

What makes you happy?
My daughter, my partner and my grandkids. And Celtic.

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