Paging Lewis

Selling Big Issue North and collecting scrap metal to get by, Lewis could barely manage 20 minutes a day when it came to writing his new diary. But as he notes a better future, he’s pleased he did

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A Big Issue North vendor has written a diary covering a year in his life after a customer gave him a journal, and now he hopes to get it published.

Lewis*, who lives in Preston and sells the magazine in Lytham St Annes, started writing about his experiences every day when the customer gave him the journal last year. Having written the diary first in pencil, then in pen, Lewis decided to type up the manuscript. The finished journal now runs to nearly 100,000 words and covers a period in his life from June 2021 to May this year.

“It started off as something just for myself,” says Lewis. “But as I was reading it back, I thought it was really poignant and worth publishing.”

He has been reading extracts to his customers and is pleased with the response. “Everyone is loving it and they are all wanting to read more.”

The diary covers the “ups and downs” in Lewis’s life, including his work selling the magazine and collecting and dealing in scrap metal, descriptions of his life at home in Preston and observations about people in his local community.

One of the most important, and tragic events is the death of Lewis’s beloved dog Georgia, who died in October last year.

In one entry he writes: “Jade [Lewis’s partner] greeted Georgia but wasn’t greeted back so she called her again slightly louder with worry in her tone and still didn’t get a response. Georgia looked comfortable and hadn’t moved an inch since I’d left.

“Jade repeated her name several times, getting progressively louder and sounding more worried, to which I thought she was being ignored. Jade looked at me worriedly but I was sure that she was asleep. Jade approached her and touched her head, then ran from the room in tears. I approached Georgia and stroked her head and her eyes stayed shut. At that moment I knew that she’d gone.”

The diary also includes many insights into Lewis’s life as a Big Issue North vendor.

“I went to the church for the mags and stood at WH Smiths for a while. I didn’t make any money whilst I was there so I went home, I walked past two beggars and one said to the other that I wasn’t even homeless. I wanted to tell them that it’s because I pay rent with the money that I make but I didn’t want to make a scene in the city centre.”

The diary ends in May mainly because, Lewis admits, he was struggling to find time to keep it going.

“I enjoyed writing it sometimes, but it was hard work, especially typing it up when I decided to do something with it. I can’t afford to take time off work from selling the magazine and doing my scrap metal dealing to sit and write, so it was just a case of doing 20 minutes a night when I had the energy.”

But he’s still contemplating a new diary and is also writing a more in-depth memoir about his life, which he hopes to have published. Having been through periods of homelessness since he was a teenager, the 36 year old is now in a more stable place in his life. “Never have I had a steadier home than I do now,” he says in the opening of his diary.

Lewis suffers from memory problems, which means he struggles to retain work and keep regular appointments. A diary was a good way for to him record his life and help him remember some of the things that had happened to him.

He is hopeful a publisher will take an interest in the finished work. Ideally, he hopes to make some money from publishing it since money is tight.

“I’m in debt to loads of people,” he says, revealing that he has sometimes has to walk from his home to his pitch, a distance of over 10 miles, because he couldn’t afford the bus fare.

In a happy twist, he has recently been offered work at an Italian resultant in Lytham. He was approached to work as a kitchen porter while selling the magazine on his pitch.

It’s early days but he’s hopeful that this new opportunity will work out for him. “I’m finally overcoming adversity,” he says.

Photo: Rebecca Lupton

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