Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 57 and I have been selling Big Issue North for about eight years.
What’s it like selling the magazine in Ilkley?
It’s good. A good pitch and a nice place. Not all concrete. I was baptised in Ilkley about six years ago, in the river.
‘Everyone has a right to their views and a right to express them’
Why did you decide to be baptised?
It was a personal choice. I kept going to the United Reformed Church in Ilkley, and no one ever tried pushing me to join, but I got welcomed and people talked to me when I was on my own. They never asked about my past. It got to a point where I started to talk to them about my past. Now I go routinely, and I even help out there sometimes. My godfather got me into that – Brian. He became my godfather after I was baptised. He’s a wonderful person. He’s an important person in everyone’s life who meets him. I’ve got a Jewish godmother too who also attends. Everybody is welcome in our church.
You also went to the religious retreat on Iona, didn’t you?
I’ve been twice. The church paid for me to go the first time when I came off methadone. I just knew it was a place I needed to visit. When you are on the ferry to the island, it’s like something washes over you. It’s like being cleansed. I would live there if I could. But you can’t just move there. You have to be nominated.
Have you always had a faith?
No. I didn’t want to know. I had to find my own way. It’s like doing detox. You can only do it when you want to. Now I say that I’m a reforming addict. I’m not reformed. No one ever is. People who have used drugs will always miss it, and if they say they don’t miss it, they are either still dabbling or they are lying. The temptation is always there. The highs – that’s something you can’t replace.
What was your childhood like?
Not good. I was a very violent kid. When I was about seven or eight years old I was diagnosed as bipolar. I ended up in an approved school, in borstal, then prison. Until I was about 14, I couldn’t read and write because I didn’t go to school a lot. I learnt in borstal. I didn’t mind being there or in prison. I’ve always been a loner and I can stand up for myself. Actually a bit of discipline doesn’t hurt you. I came out from prison the last time about 14 years ago and I ended up homeless and that’s how I came to sell the magazine.
Where are you living now?
I’m living in a private rented flat. The Big Issue North team helped me find and get it. I’ve only been there for a couple of months. It’s the first time I have had my own place in a long time. I feel like my life is getting back on track.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like reading – Westerns because they are an easy read, and Chinese philosophy, Confucius. The more you read it, the more confused you get! So you keep going back.
What do you hope for this year?
To get healthy. I’m a type one diabetic and I’ve got a few problems with my legs and my feet. I’m currently getting acupuncture to help. I was using a walking stick a few weeks ago, and now I don’t need it.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for buying the magazine or just stopping to talk to me, which I’m grateful for because it enriches my own perspective on life, even if I don’t agree with them. It’s good to see other perspectives and everyone has a right to their views and a right to express them.