Joe, Marks and Spencer, Prestwich

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How long have you been selling Big Issue North for now?
For 17 or 18 years, so a long time! I do it to keep me occupied. It stops me being depressed. 

Would you do any other job?
I would love to do painting and decorating, and gardening, because I did that years ago when I was in Leeds but I still love selling the magazine.

How old are you?
I’m 58. Still a baby! I look older because I had a hard paper round.

‘I ended up sleeping on the streets, not long before Christmas.’

How are sales of the magazine going?
Okay but I really want a card machine. A lot of my customers say that other people would buy a magazine if I had a card machine because no one has cash these days. I could do more sales if I had one but I’m struggling to get my bank details sorted. The Big Issue North office is helping me, but it gets frustrating at times.

When we last spoke*, you told us about feeling suicidal during the 2020 lockdown. How has the last year been?
Not good. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital at one point. My depression got worse because I couldn’t sell the magazine. I also lost my flat. I just walked away from it because I was in a bad way. People tried to help me, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I ended up sleeping on the streets for a few nights, not long before Christmas. Once I was out of hospital though, I went to a hostel and then I got a new place, a bungalow.

How are you settling in?
It’s great. The Big Issue North office helped me out with furniture, and so did the hostel and one of my customers. I’ve been in there since April. I’ve got everything I need now except for carpets for my bedroom and the hallway. I’m really happy there. I’ve also got a support worker who comes round to see me every couple of weeks and I’m back on my tablets to help with my depression. 

What do you think causes your depression?
It’s when I’m not kept busy – like when I couldn’t sell the magazine. Then I think about things. Like about how all my family have died and there’s only me and a couple of sisters left. 

What was your childhood like?
My dad was really nasty. He was violent. He would smack us with pipes and things. I remember one time when my mam cooked him breakfast and he picked it up and he threw it at her and said it wasn’t right and that she should do it properly. He used to knock her downstairs and everything. He told me to leave home when I was 15. 

When were you happiest?
I’m always happiest when selling the magazine. Talking to my customers makes me happy. I have loads of regulars who worry about me when I’m not there. All the staff in Marks and Spencer are really good to me as well. 

What do you do on your days off?
I work five days a week and when I’m not working I just stay home and watch telly and read all kinds of books from the library. 

Do you have plans for the rest of the year?
I’ve got no plans really. No plans until they happen. I’ll just keep going. I’ll be at home for Christmas. I used to cook Christmas dinners for all the residents when I lived in the flat. I might do the same now for people who live near me. And I like dressing up as Santa on my pitch at Christmas as well. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you very much for buying the magazine and thank you very much for supporting me through this very difficult time.

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Interact: Responses to Joe, Marks and Spencer, Prestwich

  • Susan
    23 Nov 2021 17:14
    You are doing an amazing job Joe. So sorry for what you have been through. In your life. What a kind soul you have. Take care and hopefully I'll see you at marks and spencers. Next time I'm in Prestwich.

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