Ian, Primark, Preston

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 53 years old and originally from London. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for about four years now, always here in Preston. 

‘Selling Big Issue North is a job. I’m out at half six in the morning’

Why did you start selling the magazine?
I was homeless, doing a bit of begging. There was another vendor who sold nearby who put me on to Big Issue North. And I stuck with it. I became homeless after my missus died in 2010. I hit the beer after she died, but I haven’t had a drink for four years in March. I just had enough of it. 

What other jobs have you done?
I’ve been a courier, forester and a motorcycle mechanic – I worked for Kawasaki for five years.

How’s life treating you now?
I’m okay. I’m struggling at the moment. Magazine sales are a bit rubbish due to the amount of beggars in Preston. The police move them on but they come back. I also lost a lot of customers because of all the problems with Northern Rail. People stopped coming to Preston because they were struggling to get here. Some people even had to give up work here and get work nearer to home. I mean, there were hardly any train services at the weekend for a long time because of the strikes and engineering work. Northern Rail has killed off Preston, I reckon.

Why is there so much begging now, do you think?
Well, 200 quid a day is not a problem, is it? I used to do it years ago when I was street homeless and I know how much some of them can make. It’s frustrating when you see people walk straight past you and then chuck money at a beggar. I still have some good customers though.

Why did you stop begging?
I found it too embarrassing. I treat selling Big Issue North as a job. I’m out at half six in the morning and I sell until about dinner time.

Tell us about your dog.
Pepper is three. She’s my little husky. She tows me everywhere on my bike. I don’t peddle much. She just pulls me along. She gets a lot of attention. I got her through a woman who works in Primark. She rescued her because the person who first had her was keeping her in a tiny cage, no food or water, covered in her own muck and never let out. She was only 12 weeks old. Now she’s right. 

What does Pepper mean to you?
She means everything to me. Every day people try and buy her off me. You could put a million pounds in front me and I wouldn’t get rid of her. Not a chance. If someone asks me why I wouldn’t sell her, I say: “If you go sell your kids, I’ll sell my dog.” They shut up then. 

What are your hopes for the future?
I don’t know. I just hope things get better really. I’ve got a place to live now. It’s cold and wet and damp, but it’s a home. It would be good if me and my partner could find somewhere else to live because she has a lot of health problems. 

What makes you happy?
When it’s not raining. 

What makes you sad?
When people just walk by and you get totally blanked. I say good morning to everybody but so many just ignore you.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you very much. And keep it up. 

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