Gordon, Sainsbury’s, Heaton Park

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How have sales been recently?*
Rubbish. Before this virus I was selling 40 or 50 a week. I have customers who buy it religiously every week. They all know my name and I know theirs. But they are all older and middle aged people, not young people. A lot of my customers are frightened to come out and are sending other people out to do their shopping for them, but those people aren’t buying the magazine.

How long have you been back selling?
Since the restrictions changed, so 10 or 11 weeks. But I was off last week, because I was on holiday.

‘I like Elvis. The Shadows are my favourite band though’

Where did you go?
Blackpool. It was like a ghost town. They imposed the new restrictions while we were there. But it was still a break from work and from Manchester, doing the housework, that kind of thing. I stay at the same hotel every year. I stay there because it’s decent. It’s ideal. I go with one of the trolley men from the supermarket. We’ve been going together for the last five years or so. We’ve become good mates. And I used to go to Blackpool with my kids every year in the past, though my two boys are all grown up now. 

What did you do while you were there?
We just did plenty of walking about, sightseeing, looking around. No, I didn’t paddle in the sea! I don’t go anywhere near the sea, or the beach, or the Pleasure Beach. I wouldn’t go on them rides that turn you upside down – all the money would fall out of your pockets. Whoever is cleaning up down below them rides must have plenty of money.

Has Blackpool changed a lot over the years?
I’m 72, coming up, and the changes I’ve seen there are unbelievable. But last week, the places that have gone bust – the hotels, B&Bs and shops. You go walking along and a lot of the shops are up for let and they’ve all been cleaned out inside. Businesses are losing millions and the unemployment rate is rising. It’s higher now than it has been for years. The world’s gone crazy.

What was the worst thing about lockdown for you?
Boredom! Just being stuck inside. 

How did you keep yourself entertained?
I was just stuck in the flat, usually watching telly and supping tea and that. And because I’m over 70, I had the police knocking on my door checking that I wasn’t going out. I was going out, every other day down to the shops, and they were like: “Can’t you get someone to go for you?” I’m not stupid. I’m not sending someone I don’t know to do my shopping for me. I put some bloody weight on too during lockdown. I’m a chef by trade and I like cooking and being stuck in the house all day I was cooking a lot and eating a lot too. 

Are you worried about the future?
Well, if we go into another lockdown now, it’s going to be a lousy Christmas. My two sons live in North Wales and they have it bad there. Two or three weeks ago my ex-wife, their mother, she had a heart attack. She ended up in hospital and they wouldn’t let the boys go and see her. Luckily she’s back home now.

I notice you have an Elvis badge on. I take it you are an Elvis fan?
I like Elvis, yes. The Shadows are my favourite band though, and then Cliff Richard. Shirley Bassey, she’s got to be the best female singer. The Shadows are all fabulous musicians. I’ve seen them loads of times and I’ve met them. They brought me a drink once. And then I bought them a drink.

Have you always been into music?
When I was a kid, seven or eight, just down the street from where we lived, in Darlington, there was an Odeon picture house and they had Saturday morning miners’ matinees and you could get in a for a tanner. The main film was always George Formby and I got to love him and that started me on popular music. Since the mid-1970s, I stopped buying records and following music, because all this music that’s in the charts now is rubbish.

*Interview conducted before the lockdown

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

Following the announcement of a full national lockdown from Thursday 5th November, our vendors are once again unable to sell Big Issue North and earn an income.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

  1. Donate to our hardship fund
  2. Buy the magazine online or from Sainsbury’s, Co-Op, McColl’s or Booths
  3. Subscribe to Big Issue North or The New Issue or do some Christmas shopping on our shop

Every donation makes a difference.