Simon, Boots, Harrogate

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I turned 40 in February and I have sold Big Issue North for years. I’m originally from Wakefield, I’m Wakey born and bred, but I’ve always sold in Harrogate. It would be strange to sell it anywhere else.

Why did you start selling the magazine?
I moved to Harrogate with my girlfriend. We split up and ended up being homeless. Selling the magazine was a means to an end really, and now that I have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis I doubt I’ll get another job.

‘Since the MS came I can’t keep selling Big Issue North full time’

Tell us about your MS.
I was diagnosed in August last year. It’s all new to me, and I’m finding things out about it every day, finding my body’s limits, what I can and can’t do. I first noticed it when I started limping with my left leg. I went to the doctor and he didn’t know what it was, and I was sent to a neurologist. Since December, it’s got worse and worse. Now I’ve been given some tablets that help stop relapses, but they lower my immune system so I’m getting colds and stuff all the time. I’m still getting my head around it. It changes every day. My body just doesn’t do what I want it to and it gets me really frustrated.

How have your customers responded?
A few of my customers have noticed a change in me. I used to stand up all day long, but these days, after an hour or so, I have to sit down on a stool that I have on my pitch. People have responded well apart from the odd kids who snigger and think that I’m drunk, especially when I’m walking. It used to annoy me but I’m used to it now – it’s their problem not mine.

Has Big Issue North helped you out?
People in the office have been really helpful. At the moment, for example, I’m living in a first floor flat and I have to drag myself up the stairs using the banisters. The office staff are helping me to try and get a ground floor flat.

What do you hope for in the future?
I don’t know. Since the MS came I just keep my head down and carry on as normal. I can’t keep selling Big Issue North full time and hopefully I’m going to get some disability benefit at some point. I’ve filled the forms in 10 weeks ago and I’ve not heard anything. But even if I did get those benefits I’d probably still come to work an hour to two a day to show my face and say hello to all my regular customers and have something to do. I’d be bored out of my mind
if I was just sat at home.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like going to the cinema when I can. I don’t go to pubs anymore because I have given up drinking. Next thing I need to do is give up smoking. I’ve got an e-cig at home but I just need to try and stop smoking. It’s hard. I’ve been doing it for a long time.

What keeps you going?
I don’t know. Nothing really makes me happy anymore since the MS started. I’m just struggling along.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you. Just a big thank you, for being so kind and nice and helpful. I’d do anything for people in Harrogate. They’re really nice people.

Interact: Responses to Simon, Boots, Harrogate

  • Abigail
    17 Jun 2018 19:31
    So sorry to hear this and always make my trip into town more enjoyable . Always admire your tenacity and hard work . Sending you lots of well wishes and don’t give up.
  • jackie Swainston
    14 Jun 2018 21:41
    Simon, I am sorry to hear the news and will look out for you next time I'm in town. I wish you well in the future and will share this article so more people in Harrogate know what you are going through. Jackie
  • Lesley
    14 Jun 2018 20:11
    Always have a chat with Simon when I buy the Big Issue from him - always has a smile regardless of the weather and how he is feeling. Simon - I wish you well and hope you get the treatment and support that you will need.
  • Cate
    13 Jun 2018 19:51
    I've been buying the Big Issue for years from you Simon. You always have a smile and a chat and it's been so sad to see you look less well recently. Hope you can get a ground floor flat soon and some relief from the MS symptons. Keep up the good work, please take heart from the fact that lots od people in Harrogate care and take care of yourself xxx
  • Olivia
    13 Jun 2018 14:27
    Simon is such a lovely guy and always smiling even when he is struggling! He always takes the time to say hi to my kids and give them a smile! I really hope that he gets the support he needs for housing etc and the best possible treatment for his ms symptoms. Keep up the good work and good luck for the future!
  • Pammy
    13 Jun 2018 05:18
    So sorry to hear about your diagnosis Simon. You’re such a great guy - always a smile for everyone. I’m a fellow wakey too. Don’t give up - MS care has improved so much. XX

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