Norbert, Bishopthorpe Road, York

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What did you get up to during the lockdown?
I was in my sheltered accommodation flat for older people. I was thoroughly enjoying myself, reading, writing and contemplating the future.

What were you writing?
I was writing about homelessness, about Gypsies and Travellers and Romanians because they are being picked upon by the government. I write articles for a group called Counterfire that publishes articles online []. I’m now writing about the possibility of thousands of people getting thrown out of their accommodation when the ban on evictions ends. The government have just extended the ban, but not for long. Maybe they will back down. They have backed down on other things, though I don’t know if they will on this since the Conservative party is all about property and ownership. But if there is a large number of evictions in the future there will be ramifications.

What else have you been up to during the last few months?
During the lockdown I was also getting to know some of the other residents where I live, because I had more time. We did a bit of gardening. I grew cornflowers, poppies and wild flowers to encourage butterflies and bees and to makes things beautiful. Because the world is a beautiful place – it’s just the way we treat it. People should grow more wildflowers because they are easy to grow and they are great for encouraging bees. Look after the bees and the bees will look after you.

How’s it going on your pitch?
I moved onto this pitch about a year ago. It’s a bit out of town but I am building it up. Sales have been down because some people are still shielding or are worried about coming out but it’s okay. I am waiting to get a card reader from the office – I just need a few things sorting out. It’s good if people purchase the magazine with a card reader. People have asked me for one so there is interest in it and I think having them will set us up for the future. I think it will take off. Using card readers will be difficult for some vendors because they will have to have bank accounts and start budgeting and things, but it’s not impossible.

You are a big Jeremy Corbyn fan. How did you feel after last year’s election?
I was totally gutted. The enthusiasm that was there in 2017 had sapped away a bit. I was sad when Corbyn stepped down as well. I think it’s fair to say he leads the half of the party that Keir Starmer doesn’t lead. I think as socialists we will get there one day, but I think it’s the end of the Labour Party. I think a new political organisation will come about – one that’s not getting sabotaged from the inside. People at the top end of the Labour Party helped to get the Conservative Party re-elected at a time when we desperately needed change. I joined the Labour party in 1974 but left because of New Labour. They asked me to come back under Corbyn, but I’m definitely not going to join again now.

How old are you now?
I’m 64. I must be one of the oldest vendors around. I’m probably the longest serving Big Issue North vendor as well. It’s been 27 years. And why do I still do it? Because I love it. It’s infectious. It’s not just about selling a magazine and getting a coin in return. It’s about having a conversation and establishing a relationship with your customers. And there’s a lot of support out there for Big Issue North out there, which is fantastic.

Photo: Kate Semple

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