How’s life since the pandemic?
I’m doing terrible, to be honest. Covid has totally changed everything for me. There’s a lot more begging in the city and some people are begging using the magazine, which is not right for the legitimate vendors. I know people who used to sell the magazine who are now back on the street and back begging. It’s not good at all. I like Big Issue North. I love it. I love going out and doing what I’m doing. I love talking to people and seeing my regular customers but it’s hard. I don’t want to give it up but it’s hard to keep going. I need to make some money. I’m keeping up with my rent but getting behind on my bills. I’m trying to get on my feet but I can’t get into a routine.
How are sales going?
I’m not selling all the time these days. I’ve got to look after the dog because he’s not well enough to come to the pitch with me, and I’ve got some personal stuff going on. Plus the city is much quieter than it used to be. I don’t see a lot of my regulars that I used to see first thing in the morning, because nobody is going to offices anymore and they’re not coming out on their lunch breaks – things like that. It’s gone dead slow and no one has cash.
Do you have a card machine for people to use instead of cash?
I do but there’s that much dodgy stuff going on in the city centre, a lot of people don’t want to give you their card details. It would be good for people to understand it’s safe to pay by card.
How easy is it for you to get access to your money if people pay by card?
It comes straight to my bank. It takes a couple of days to reach me and they take a percentage from each sale but it’s good to have it because less and less people use cash.
How is Taz, your dog, doing?
He’s a bit poorly. He’s got something wrong with his stomach. He’s keeping me up most of the night crying at the moment. He’s going to the vets tomorrow. The PDSA and Street Paws are helping with it. I hope he’s going to be all right. People are always asking where he is.
And how’s your health?
My mental health has suffered a lot recently and I’ve got some mobility issues. But I’ve got my family at least. They’ve all been worried about me and have been helping me.
Andy, your friend, died last year.* How are you coping now?
I still miss him. We had a good system, us. A good partnership – not just selling the magazine but in life. We just got on with it, you know? We had everything worked out.
When was the last time you had a holiday?
Ha! Eight years ago – more. It was when Andy was alive. We went to Wales for a weekend. If I could go anywhere, I’d go down to Cornwall. I wouldn’t go abroad, not with all this Covid about. There are nicer places to go in the UK. I love Cornwall. That would be a nice place to go. Maybe next year. We just got to hope. That’s all we can do.
What do you hope for in the future?
I just hope things are going to get back to normal, but I don’t think they will. Not for a very long time.