When we spoke early last year, you said you were thinking of retiring. But now you are back selling the magazine. What happened?
Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of ill health and I had to take time away so financially it wasn’t viable to stop selling the magazine. One thing that happened was that I had a very bad fall, puncturing a lung and breaking two ribs. Also I needed to come back to work because my mental health deteriorated. I needed to be with people who have I known for nearly 10 years now. I don’t think of them as customers – I think of them as friends. Everybody is so pleased that I am back. Though because of my health, it’s not full time. I still have pain in my ribs and now I have to use a walking stick, at least for the moment.
‘I don’t think of them as customers, I think of them as friends.’
What caused the fall?
It was my birthday – I was 61. I thought I would have a nice meal out with some friends. I went up to get changed and unfortunately had a blackout in the bathroom. If I’m honest, it was drink. I felt okay at the time but I hadn’t eaten that day. I don’t drink as much now as I drank 10 years ago. I have tried to cut down a lot. I was an alcoholic from the age of five. My parents used to drink and I used to nick my mum’s cider. And I was always telling people I had a bad stomach to get the brandy from them. They used to say that brandy would help for medical purposes. Well, it was helping me to become an alcoholic. I continued drinking right up until at least 2005. I think it was then that I decided to try and stop. But I still have a drink at Christmas and on my birthday, but unfortunately this time it had a bad effect on me.
Have you had a drink since the fall?
No. I don’t want to take up drinking again. I’d rather spend the money on paying my debts now.
Tell us a bit more about your mental health.
I suffer with severe depression. Some days I don’t feel like mixing with anybody. They
have now said that I have a personality disorder. It’s been ongoing for years but they have only just come to a point that they have accepted that this is happening to me. It makes a difference knowing what the illness is. I now know when things are beginning to get too much – when I need that extra push or need advice – whereas before I just tried to ignore it and I didn’t listen to people.
Which football team do you support?
I am a fond Arsenal supporter. My cousin used to play for them back in the 1950s. His name was Derek Tapscott and he also played for the Welsh national team.
Are you close to your family?
I was never that close with my own family. I never really felt like I had one. I was like a black sheep. My parents wanted girls only. They didn’t want a boy so I was rejected as a child. I think that’s what causes my mental health problems. I was being suspended from school all the time. I got up to all sorts, so I’m not surprised. But looking back, I wish I hadn’t done those things but it was the way I was brought up. Well, not brought up – dragged up. I was homeless by the time I was 16.
How has Big Issue North helped you?
Big Issue North have been very supportive. They have allowed me to go back on to my pitch at the station for a start. I don’t think I would have come back to selling the magazine if I couldn’t have sold at Victoria. I get the respect there that I asked for when I first started selling the magazine. And that respect has grown over the years. Big Issue North are always there on the phone if I need them, even when I was off sick. It has been good to know that they are there and that I can call them when I need them. Without them I don’t know where I would be today, I think I would have gone back on the road.
Do you have a message for your customers?
I’m looking forward to being back out and seeing you all again, and I hope the support you have given me will continue. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping me. I can’t say thank you enough.