Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 42 and originally from the west coast of Scotland, but I’ve been in Sheffield for around 12 years now.
‘It’s a proper job, I’m self-employed, my own boss’
Why did you come to Sheffield?
Me and my mate Clive were supposed to be getting work here. We were living in Birmingham but our landlord had some money coming his way and he was going to use it to start a big project at the old Ski Village in Sheffield. Unfortunately he died and his business partner took all the money and did a runner. So we ended up without a place to live or any work. That’s when we started selling the magazine instead.
Do you like selling Big Issue North?
Yeah, I enjoy it. To me it is a proper job. I’m self-employed, I’m my own boss, I can come and go as I please. Who wants a gaffer hanging over them? It’s a graft and a half but it doesn’t bother me. I meet loads of different people, and I’ve got my regular customers as well. I try and make sure they leave with a smile on their faces and that makes me feel good. Some of my customers are pensioners and for one or two of them, me or Clive are one of the few people they talk to every week. If we make them smile, that smile might keep them going for the following week and I think that’s wicked. But it is getting a lot harder. The beggars are causing some problems.
In what way?
There are four or five beggars on Chapel Walk where my pitch is, and by the time people have walked past them and got to me they’re pissed off with being asked for money. Some of them can get snappy about it. We also have problems with beggars right next to our shared pitch. But what can we do? We can’t tell them to move on. We also had a problem with some people a few years ago who were hanging around our pitch and just drinking. We had a word with them and said: “If you’re going to drink at least hide the cans.” But I can’t talk about anyone drinking, I mean I used to be a raving alcoholic.
Can you tell us a bit about that?
I’ve been sober for about 18 years now. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been drunk since then. But I used to drink a lot, and since I was about 12 years old. I was the youngest out of a lot of boys in our area when I was growing up, and they were all bikers. I wanted to be part of the group. It was a giggle.
Was it hard to stay sober?
It was difficult at first. I used to cross over to the other side of the road just to avoid passing in front of a pub. But now it doesn’t bother me. It’s interesting because people don’t always know they have a drink problem. I was talking to a customer about it who was saying that she had a glass of wine every night. I said: “Try and go without it for a night.” She came back and said she couldn’t do it, that it made her ill and she had to have a glass of wine to get her head down. That’s a drink problem. I mean, she says she just has a glass of wine, but have you seen the size of wine glasses? Now she goes to AA meetings and she’s getting help for it.
What makes you happy?
Waking up in the morning, because I spent years not being able to do that and now I do and it’s great.
What are you plans for 2019?
I don’t make plans. I’ll keep going, take things as they come and see what happens.