How are things going?
Things are okay. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for something like 25 years now. I’m what you might call one of the “50pers” because I can remember when the magazine was only 50p to buy! And yeah, my life is a lot easier now than when it was when I first started selling the magazine because I’m not in as much debt these days and my lifestyle choices have improved massively.
‘I chat to people. I believe that good deeds come back to you’
How have the last two years been?
Covid caused a few problems financially, but I had been saving up before the lockdowns for a few years, a couple of quid here, a couple of quid there. So I had enough put by to help me through the lockdowns. Plus the Big Issue North office helped with a few bob here and there. I was really fortunate in the end. I mean, I struggled, but the hardest part about the lockdowns was the isolation, just being on my own. I’m a people person. I come out to sell the Big Issue North and to tell you the truth it’s not about the money. If you look at my sales it’s obviously not about the money! I go out chatting to people. I believe that good deeds come back to you. Like opening a door for someone or saying good morning to someone who looks a bit down. And little things like that, that’s what I buzz off. Just doing something simple like that can turn my heart up to gas mark nine, you know?
Why did you first start selling Big Issue North?
I first became homeless because I left my partner. It’s a long story and we don’t need to go there but we split up and things went bad. I spent nine years living on the street and when I first got into my house it took three years before I could stay a full week there. I used to go out and sleep rough on the streets for a few days every week. After nine years of being on the streets, I was used to community, used to never being on my own. Of course, now I love it. I’m comfortable in my own skin and I’m still in the house that I’ve been in for 18 years.
How old are you?
I was born in 1964. And on 10 December I’ll be 57!
Would you ever do another job?
People do come to me and say you could do this or that but I’m in the best job I could possibly do. It gives me freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, without letting anyone down.
How is your health at the moment?
I ended up in hospital a few weeks back. I came into the Sheffield office and I didn’t feel well and the people in the office were like: “You need to go to hospital!” They got me into a taxi and got me there and it turned out I had pneumonia and a blood clot. I had pneumonia years ago and stupidly I thought you couldn’t get it twice. What an idiot! Haha. Still, I’m getting better.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in care. There were family problems. I found my mum when I was in my thirties. I was in rehab and when I came out of that I decided to track her down. I met her down in Bristol. It was cool meeting her. A bit weird. Growing up in care wasn’t easy, but it was better than some of the alternatives and actually it was okay for me.
What do you think people have learnt because of Covid?
Covid has been really hard for a lot of people but I do think some good might come out of it. People are putting things in perspective – things like work and chasing money and all that. They are stopping, looking, seeing, listening and actually hearing things for the first time. There’s genuine concern out there. And people are just so happy to be out now. When they turned the Christmas lights on in Sheffield there were so many people about. I sold all my mags in like half an hour and I was a bit sad about that really because I had no reason to be on my pitch after that chatting to people. I would never just stand on my pitch without magazines because I can’t stand it when I see vendors do that.
What are your plans for Christmas?
The last couple of Christmases have been rubbish. Last year was very isolating. This year, I’m not sure. I might go to Manchester and see some family or I’ll do a dinner at home, which I do someone times, and invite other people who would be alone for Christmas.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for all that you’ve done over the last year. And have a happy Christmas!