Darren, Leeds city centre

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Where were you staying during the lockdown?
I share a flat with my brother, though he was with his girlfriend most of the time so I was there on my own. I stayed at home and watched a lot of television. I can’t even remember what now. 

What was the worst thing about being in lockdown?
Just not being able to do stuff. Having to rely on the hardship fund and on food banks to get something to eat. It was just horrible, absolutely rubbish. 

‘I’d like to go back to college. I’ve done some engineering courses’

How long have you sold Big Issue North?
I’ve been selling for more than a couple of years. I started off in Leeds, then went to York. But now I sell on different pitches in Leeds city centre. I’ve been back selling since we were first able to – the first week we were allowed. But it’s been very slow. When I first came back I was pretty much the only person out on the street. It’s starting to get busier now, slowly, but it’s still not like it was. But I would rather do something than do nothing. I really like talking to people and it’s good to see some of the customers who I haven’t seen for a while.

Do you feel safe out on your pitch?
Yeah, I feel safe. I have a mask and I wear it when someone comes to buy a magazine from me. I worry more for my mum and dad than myself because they are pensioners. I don’t see them a lot, not since this has been going on. But I do go to their house sometimes because I don’t have a washing machine and so I have to take my dirty clothes to my mum. Yes, my mum still does my washing.

Tell us a bit about your mum and dad.
My dad was a miner. My mum was a tailor. I can remember going to where she worked when I was a kid, and my brother and me sitting watching her work on the sewing machine. I’m the oldest. I’m two years older than my brother.

How old are you?
I’m 49. I turned 49 during the lockdown so I didn’t do anything to celebrate. I’m not bothered about turning 50 next year. One year blends into the next when you get to a certain age.

What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to go back to college at some point. I was thinking about it before the lockdown. I’m not sure what I’d do. I’ve done some engineering courses when I was younger. I’d like to go back to doing that.

Did you enjoy school as a kid?
School was okay. I went to school near Wakefield. I liked that, but my dad, who worked down the mines, he was at Rothwell pit but then he moved to Selby and we had to move. I was about 13 and I didn’t like the school over there.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for coming to buy the magazine from me. It’s nice of you to stay with me after all this time.

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