John, Liverpool Lime Street station

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 44 years old and I’ve sold Big Issue North on and off since about 1997. 

Liverpool Lime Street station has been shut for the last two months. How has that been?
I had to work on different pitches that I could find around the city, and it has been a challenge. I’ve sold at Lime Street for about three years, nearly four, so I’ve got a lot of good customers on that pitch, some who have become good friends. It’s not just the sales that I’ve missed out on but missing the chat with people who know me and ask me about my health and check that I’m looking after myself. 

How did you come to sell the magazine?
When I first ended up homeless, I didn’t have a clue what to do and I was sitting begging. It was really degrading, sitting there with my hand out and looking at people’s feet as they walked on past. I had a magazine with me but I wasn’t a vendor. And a manager for Big Issue North at the time came up to me and said: “Would you like to be a proper vendor? It’s a job, you know.” And because I wanted to stop begging, I agreed. I don’t know what I would have done without it now. I reckon I would have ended up in prison or something. 

How did you end up homeless in the first place?
I got laid off in 1996. That was sort of the start of it. Things snowballed from there and I got made homeless. 

What was your childhood like?
It was tough. I had a lot of problems at home. I struggle with depression and stuff. The problem I have is that I over-analyse things, sit and stew on them instead of talking about it. And then I end up punishing myself in some way.

Do you have any family?
I have had a tough time of late. I lost my partner in 2016. I had been with her for 21 years. She had an undiagnosed heart problem and died in bed next to me. And I lost my brother last year. He was homeless as well and he died in a tent in the park and wasn’t discovered for four days. I miss him a lot. The staff in the Big Issue North office were kind enough to get me a suit to wear to his funeral. But I do have a son. He’s 16 and lives with my mum. He’s doing well. He wants to go to college and study engineering. I’m proud of him, but I should do more for him. 

You’ve got regular customers from Norway, haven’t you?
I have – Oddvar and Trinne. I met them four years ago when they bought a magazine from me and we got talking about Liverpool FC. They took me to a Liverpool match – I hadn’t been to see them play since I was a kid. They keep in touch and they’re good friends. They have even been in the Big Issue North office and donated to the Trust charity because they think a lot of what the organisation does.  

What kind of things are you interested in?
I love programmes about nature and the environment. I like learning all sorts of stuff. I didn’t go to school much so I try and teach myself as much as I can about the world. I love astronomy and anything to do with the stars and I’d love to buy a telescope one day.

Do you have a message for your customers?
I want to say thank you to all my customers. I enjoy the conversations that we have and I love the fact that you care so much about me. I’ve missed you all while the station has been shut and it will be great to be back there again and see some familiar faces. 

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