Smurf, Preston

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You used to sell in Sheffield and then you stopped, and then you turned up in Preston? What’s happened?
I was living on a traveller site in Sheffield and then they got moved on. I went down to Nottingham and was staying in a tent there, selling The Big Issue. But I have a lot of health problems and by the end of winter it got to a point that I couldn’t carry on. So I came to Preston to stay with some family members. My tent fell apart when I was taking it down and then we had all those really bad storms just after I moved, so I thought, well, that’s the universe looking after me again. I had just started building up my pitch in Preston and then we all went into lockdown. But actually, all this coronavirus stuff is my fault.

Why’s that?
Because all the while I’ve been travelling I’ve been asking the universe to do something to sort out society and people – and what’s happened? It’s like the zombie apocalypse. The whole world is changing – I don’t know whether for the better or not at the moment. The one thing I have noticed is that the majority of people are becoming more friendly. I call it the coronavirus dance, when you are walking down the road and people look at you and everyone starts moving this way and that, trying to avoid each other. Whereas normally they’d just ignore one another, now they are at least saying good morning and things like that. I am intrigued as to how the world is going to come out of this and I have got fingers and toes – everything – crossed that it comes out as a better place.

So how is life going there in Preston?
I am adjusting to living in a house. I’m getting very domesticated – loading the dishwasher, cooking meals, hanging washing out. I went for an MRI scan and had to take my piercings out, so I’ve lost my nose ring now. But I’ve put a paperclip in instead and I’m still wandering around with my top out and bells on my boots and getting weird looks from people. At least I am safe and I am looked after, and the family members I am living with have been brilliant. My nephew especially – I can’t praise him enough. 

What’s going on with your health?
I’ve got cysts on my liver and bad emphysema. My consultant has said that if I get coronavirus, it will kill me. Still, I thought I had cancer last year, so at least I’m not dying right now.

Do you still have your dogs?
I still have my babies, yes! Luna is eight now, Woof is just coming up for five. My family are getting used to having them around. Luna is in full moult so the Hoover keeps getting clogged up with hair. 

What are you doing to entertain yourself?
I’m reading, I have found some games on my phone, I’m walking the dogs. We are living in a nice part of Preston, near the edge of town, so there’s loads of countryside around me.

How are you coping financially?
I have got 10p in my pocket that I found the other day. I have had two payments from the crisis fund from Big Issue North. I hate having to rely on people, but at the moment I have to. I can’t even apply for benefits because I don’t have a bank account and I can’t get a bank account because I only have one form of identity. I do have a lot of health problems and I could start claiming sickness benefit or whatever they call it these days because it’s physically hard for me to work now. But I hope that, whenever we can, I can start selling the magazine again and live off that.

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