Colin, Manchester city centre

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How’s it going?
I’ve been back since Friday because I was shielding until the end of July. I’ve done a few days of selling but it’s all changed since the virus – it’s knocked everything on the head. Things are really quiet in Manchester. It’s awful, really awful. I’m still on my pitches at the top of Oxford Road near the old Cornerhouse and outside the cinema Home, but that’s still shut until 4 September – which is my birthday. 

Do you feel safe on your pitch?
Yeah, I was shielding because I’ve got asthma, but I feel safe. If I don’t want to work, I wouldn’t work, you know? I just keep going. 

‘Things are really quiet in Manchester. It’s awful, really awful’

How did you cope financially during lockdown?
Big Issue North helped me out with hardship payments and I was getting food parcels, but it was only rice and pasta, the odd pie in there. That stopped at the end of July because the scheme ended. They say it will come back if I have to start shielding again. I’m in arrears with my rent now. Because I have two bedrooms, I have to pay an extra £15 a week myself. Plus there’s electric and things like that. It all adds up. I just need to make some money now.

What was it like being housebound for so long?
It was really hard, especially just not being able to go out at all. I tried keeping myself busy around the house. I did a bit of painting in the hallway, though I’ve not finished it yet. I sort of gave up halfway through. And I’ve started growing apple trees. I was given some apples, but I can’t eat them because of my teeth. But what I thought was, I’d take the seeds out, plant them in tubs and see if they grow. I live in a block of flats and I’ve got big double glazed windows so it’s like a greenhouse and now I’ve got about 15 apple trees starting to grow indoors. 

Are you tempted to grow more things?
Yes, where I live they have an allotment outside and they have let me use of their big tubs. I’ve got a few more trees growing in them. I’ll put the trees in bigger tubs when I need to and then I can plant some of them out. And once the apple trees come out of the tubs outside I can start growing veg. I used to do a lot of gardening in the past so it’s good to be doing it again. 

What else did you do to cope?
I put a notice on my kitchen cupboard, ticking off the days. When it got down to the 31 July I was like: “Yes! Last day!” I wasn’t sleeping much. Waking up early in the morning, getting a cup of coffee and going back to bed and thinking: “What am I going to do today?” While I was shielding, I kept in contact with one of the staff members from Home because he was shielding as well as he’s also got asthma. 

What do you think the future holds?
They are talking about there being a second wave and stuff like that and I know some people are saying that people who were shielding should be doing so again in Manchester. But I don’t want to do that again – it would do my head in. But if it happens, it happens. I got myself in a routine while I was doing it, so I’d just get back to doing that routine again. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
I’m sorry I’ve not been around but I’m back now so please, please come and see me.

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