Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 70 years old and from Darlington originally. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for about 12 years now. I found my own pitch. I went to the new Sainsbury’s in Heaton Park about 10 years ago and I asked them if I could sell outside the store. They gave me a week’s trial and I have been there ever since.
‘I like making curries and putting dumplings in them instead of rice’
Why did you start selling the magazine?
I was struggling in Manchester for a while. I lost my last job at an old folks’ home. I was pushing 60 then. I had a friend who sold the magazine and he said to me come and sell it. He kept on at me and I thought I would give it a go. I’m not homeless but I need the money and it keeps me busy. And at my age it would be hard to get another job.
Do you still like selling it?
I do yes, but it is hard sometimes. I like being on my pitch. I help people with the trolleys. I keep my pitch tidy. Everybody there knows my name and I know all their names. I feel like I’m classed as a member of staff now. When it was my birthday last year, all the staff gave me presents and cards and all sorts. I had three birthday cakes. I hadn’t had a birthday cake in years and then I got three in one day.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I was the eldest of four. I had a brother and two sisters. I was at my mother’s funeral in Leeds when it dawned on me that I was the oldest living member of the family. I was telling everybody, my brothers, everybody, the next funeral you will be coming to is mine. And my brother said: “Don’t count on it.” And since then they’ve all died – everyone except me. I have been to eight family funerals in the last 10 years.
Do you have any other family?
I have two gorgeous sons who live in Wales. They are grown up now and both work and I am very proud of them. And now I’m a grandfather as well. I’ve got two grandkids who are two and three years old. I get to see them when my sons bring them over.
Will you ever retire?
A lot of people say to me: “You’re a lying bee! You’re not 70!” I do know a lot of people who are younger than me but who look older. It makes me realise how lucky I am that my health is fine. One of the reasons I still sell the magazine is that it keeps my mind occupied. If I sat down and watched that daytime television every day, I’d go round the bend. Also it pays for my holiday in Blackpool every year, my Sky telly and life insurance, which I have so I can leave my sons something when I go.
What makes you happy?
I like watching a good comedy. I’ve always been a big fan of George Formby and Norman Wisdom. And I have a ventriloquist friend who plays in Blackpool every year, Mike Dennett and his dummy Chic. They’re brilliant.
What do you do in your spare time?
I stay in and do some housework and I like cooking. I cook all my own meals. I like making different kinds of curries and I like putting dumplings in them instead of rice.
Do you have a message for your customers?
My regular customers have become really good friends and without their help I would be struggling. God bless them all.