Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 50 and originally from Barnsley. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for a few years now. At the moment I sell in the city centre but I’m hoping to get an out-of-town pitch at some point. I’m still enjoying it. Keeping busy.
‘I don’t think you can write well if you don’t read a lot’
You are a poet, aren’t you? Tell us about that.
Well, I’ve stated writing and I like to write a bit of verse – experimental things, sometimes symbolism, sometimes rhyme. Whatever it is, I create my own patterns, my own rhythms. Writing helps me. It gets things out. I used to write about 10 years or so ago, but I never let anyone see it. Then I started again earlier this year. I never really had any confidence in my writing, but other people seem to like it. I had a good response to the first poem I had published in the magazine. Someone wrote in about it and because it was outside my circle of friends, I realised something must have gone right.
What kind of things do you write about?
The things that happen to people: homelessness, losing children. I write about dark things, but I do write about lighter things as well. I try to keep a notebook with me. I find it’s important to have a pen and paper handy in case you have an idea. If you don’t write it down when you think of it, it can be gone forever, or it is never quite the same.
What else do you like to do?
I try to read a lot of things. I don’t think you can write well if you don’t read a lot. You realise the same themes are always there. There’s only so much creativity to go around and there’s nothing new under the sun, but you can try and make something relevant to the time that you are around. So I read different authors. I like Dostoevsky. He gets into the darkest areas of the human heart. It’s good to see what other writers have got to offer and think: “What can I do with that?”
Where are you living at the moment?
I’m on the streets. I don’t want to go into a hostel. I’ve seen people go in them and come out worse. There’s a lot of pressure in there. I have a sense of freedom. I can do what I want, go where I want. Maybe some day I would like to get a place, but it would have to be a place that worked for me rather than something I felt was imposed upon me. At the moment this is all there is. But it’s not as if I’m not used to it. I’ve been sleeping out for nearly three years. I know some good places to sleep. And I try and move around and find places that no one else knows about because if other people find out, you can get moved on, or someone will come and throw a load of needles all over the place or something.
How did you become homeless?
A relationship breakdown. I’m fine now. I’m over that. Time’s past. Not that things heal, but you come to terms with them. And it’s meant that I find it hard to believe in people anymore.
It must be hard trying to write if you are out on the street.
It can be. Sometimes I have written something down and then got caught in a downpour and I’ve lost most of it. But even Steinbeck had problems. His puppy chewed up Of Mice And Men when he’d written the first draft. Not that I’m saying I’m Steinbeck or anything like that.