What have you been up to recently?*
I’ve been back to London to see my kids. It’s the first time I’ve seen them since Christmas 2019. It was emotional, but I had to try and get it to feel as normal as possible. I was worried that they wouldn’t know who I was. I have three kids. The youngest is four now. He was two and a half when I last saw him.
How did the visit go?
It was fine. The four year old was a bit nervous at first. I tried to spend as much time with them as I could, though my eldest is a teenager now and she was going out with her friends all the time.
You’ve lived in a hostel ever since you came to Manchester three years ago. Where are you living now?
I’ve got my own flat! I moved in in March this year. It’s been on the cards for a while but there was nothing coming through. Then two weeks before we came back to sell the magazine, I got the news about moving in. I’ve got a lot of work to do there – like getting furniture sorted and things like that – but it feels great.
‘It’s four years since I had my own front door. It feels like the next step’
What kind of stuff do you need?
I’ve got most of my bedroom furniture sorted now. The hostel where I was staying before let me take some bits and the Big Issue North office is going to help me as well. But I don’t have an oven. Apparently, because I’m a single person, I don’t qualify to get a grant from the council to buy an oven – only a microwave. It would be cheaper if I had an oven. I could cook things like pasta bake that can last for days but with a microwave it’s just ready meals and things like that.
What was your first night in the flat like?
It was weird because where the hostel was, it was on the main road, whereas this place is down a back street. It took me at least 10 days to get a good night’s sleep because it was too quiet. But it’s great. I feel happy there. It’s been about four years since I had my own front door. It feels like the next step.
What’s the plan now then?
I might look into doing some further education. I’d like to do some support work in the future. I’ve done that in the past when I worked with people with learning disabilities, but I might need to get some new qualifications. I want to work with homeless people because I’ve had the experience myself. My view is, it’s no good just having the qualifications – you’ve got to have the empathy as well. And having had that experience will help me understand people’s problems.
How does it feel to be back selling the magazine?
I’m glad to be selling again, but I’m a bit nervous about what’s going to happen in the future. I have a fear that we could have another lockdown in autumn and winter this year. But I’m looking to get my vaccine sorted soon. I just need to get registered with a doctor first.
How old are you?
I’m not as young as I used to be! I’m 45. I feel a bit funny about my age now. I suppose it was seeing my kids that made me think about it. When I was a kid and I met someone in their forties I thought ‘oh, that’s old!’ and now I’m that age myself.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to go into the army, especially when I was a teenager. I was in the cadets and things like that. But back then the medical to get in the army was quite stringent and I failed it. Apparently I had one shoulder that was weaker than the other.
What have you learnt from the last year?
Don’t plan anything! It’s actually quite liberating. I always had this idea of how things would go but then, when the virus happened, you couldn’t plan for anything. You didn’t know how long the lockdowns would last and what was going to happen. Everything just went out of the window.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for your support. Onwards and upwards!