How old are you?
It’s my birthday on 11 June and I will be 53 years old.
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born in Stoke-on-Trent and I’ve still got my Midlands accent. Everything was all right in my life until I was in my twenties. That’s when I went a bit off the rails because of the drink. I lost everything – my wife, my job, my home. I was a self-employed painter and decorator before the drink got hold of me. I still have a drink now and again, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. I realised a long time ago that enough was enough and that I needed things to change.
How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
Thirteen years. I like it. You never know who you are going to meet and it’s different every day. You have good days and bad days. You can never have a good day every day, but it’s nice when you do.
What do you like about selling the magazine?
You can keep your own hours, and as long as you abide by the rules, you don’t have any problems. I also get help from the office to do my tax returns, as I am classed as self-employed. People in the Big Issue North office help me do my tax every year on the computer. They do this for a lot of vendors. I wouldn’t know how to do it on my own. I hardly know how to turn the computer on, not like these young people who are brought up on computers. I can’t even send a text. When they switched over the televisions to digital, I went without TV for three days because I didn’t know what to do. I had to get next door to show me. So yeah, I’m not good with technology.
What’s on your mind at the moment?
I’m concerned about working tax credits. I currently get them and they are worth £53 a week, but they are getting replaced by Universal Credit and to continue to get them I have to be earning a minimum of £200 a week, otherwise I won’t be classed as self-employed. I don’t know when this will happen, but losing that money would cripple me. It’s a big worry. If I have a bad week with low sales, I won’t be able to cope. And if I was earning £200 a week, I wouldn’t need to claim any kind of benefit anyway. This could affect a lot of people, not just vendors.
Tell us about Wetherby.
It takes me about 40 minutes on the bus to get to my pitch. It’s a small town but it’s nice. There are shops that sell expensive shoes and men’s country casuals. No pound shops. I’ve sold there for eight or nine years now and the people are brilliant.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like a bet on the horses sometimes. I don’t follow any tipsters but I place my bets based on the trainers. I put a bet on the winning horse at the Grand National.
Any plans for a summer holiday?
No, I don’t go on holiday – maybe just a day trip to Scarborough or something. It’s been years since I had a week away, but I’m not bothered. Every day is different and life moves so fast. It’s already June and it feels like it was only Christmas yesterday.
What makes you happy?
When Leeds United win a match. I was a bit sick this season because it looked like they were coming up to the Premier League but then they lost in the playoffs to Derby. It was so close.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thanks for supporting me. You’re the best customers I could ever have.