How was lockdown?
It was a struggle. It’s a struggle in my life anyway, because of my MS, but lockdown was a real struggle. Especially because other people could come back to work a few months ago but because of my illness I had to isolate for longer, so I couldn’t start selling the magazine again until a few weeks back.
What did you do with your time?
I did a lot of eating. I just ate all the time. There was nothing else to do really. I read a book, one book that I read a long time ago. It was a Wilbur Smith novel, his first one. That’s about it. I’m not a big reader. I was when I was at school, but these days I’d rather stick the telly on and yeah, I watched a lot of telly during lockdown. There are so many repeats on now of course. The same crap over and over again.
What was the worst thing about lockdown life?
I just wanted to come back to work to speak my customers, my regular customers. Selling Big Issue North is not just the income – it’s my social life as well. I have a good chat with most of the people in Harrogate so I missed them a lot. I live in a first floor flat on my own and, to be honest, I don’t like spending time at home on my own so I went round to a friend’s house and sometimes I went to Harrogate to chat to some of my regulars. I just needed something to do and it was better for my mental health to be out of the flat rather than sat there doing nothing and staring at the four walls. That would have done my head in.
Do you feel safe out on your pitch?
Yeah. Most of the people who chat to me and buy the magazine are really safe. They drop the money on a post near me or whatever. Life is nearly back to normal in Harrogate. I think people there aren’t stupid enough to be doing illegal raves and things like they do in some bigger places, so they won’t get another lockdown. It’s a safe place. People have got their heads screwed on right. They look after each other and look after me, and I do what I can to look after them.
How is your health?
I think my MS is getting worse. It normally affects my left side but my right side seems to be tripping me up now. I had a consultation with my doctor a month or two ago but it turned out to be a phone call appointment and it’s not the sort of illness that you can chat about on the phone very easily. I’ve got a face to face appointment in December, but it will have been more than 12 months since I’ve seen a doctor by then.
How did you cope financially?
I got some money from the Big Issue North crisis fund to sort out my electric when we first went into lockdown. Now I’m scraping by. I’m on some benefits, PIP and Universal Credit. The PIP is every four weeks, and UC is every month and sometimes you get both at the same time of the month. I’m not exactly great with budgeting so by the time I’m due more benefits, I’m out of money. But I try my best.
Have you got a message for your customers?
Thank you for all your help during this hard time. Thanks for keeping yourself safe and for keeping me safe.