How are things going?*
My life is not good. It is so awful at the moment because of my teenage son – he gives me lots of issues. For example, last night I bought some food and as I tried to cook it my leg was in so much pain that I had to take a break. So I say to my son, “Can you watch the cooking for a minute?” and when I go back to the kitchen, everything is burning and he has already left and is not watching it. What kind of person does that? He doesn’t wash dishes. He doesn’t clean the house. He does nothing. I do everything!
How are sales going?
It’s getting very difficult to sell my magazine. I think the price is too high and no one has the cash. I’ve been in this business for about 25 years of my life. 25 years! In those days, when we first started, the magazine used to be 50p! Back then I used to be able to sell 380 magazines a day. Nowadays I am only able to do 50 magazines every month. People cannot afford that much money because of the government and everything has gone up because of inflation. The people have to survive, and they don’t have the spare cash for our magazine. The economy is very, very hard at the moment for everybody – like me. I’m 56 and I started selling the magazine at 31. Many people have started selling the magazine and have moved on since, but I can’t. I have to provide for my family both here in the UK and in Pakistan.
Do you still enjoy selling the magazine?
It’s still a job at the end of the day. You get to see the public and you see the community thriving. The oldest people in society, you have to respect them, you know, respect people and people will respect you back. So that’s one aspect of the job that I like. I try my best, but I want to get another job also, maybe a night-time job and so I can continue to sell on my pitch during the day. But I have applied for many different jobs and cannot find one.
What impact do you think there has been on your life or your selling experience as an Asian minority?
I think it does impact me being a part of the Asian community. I was very upset with my family the other day, and so I had to get out. I took a bus all the way to a hotel and I stayed there for two days alone. They did not give me breakfast or cups of tea or anything. I sometimes think that may have to do with the fact that I was the only Asian person there – everyone else was white. Everyone else got cups of tea and breakfast for example. That really upset me.
What’s going on with your leg?
My leg started playing up about two, three months ago and still I continue to sell the magazine. Sometimes it really hurts and I cannot sell as much as I should be able to. I came to the Big Issue North office yesterday when my leg was in absolute agony and a lady who works here, god bless her, she took me to see someone who was in the building. The nurse checked my leg and she wrote a prescription for me.
And you’re going to see a doctor?
Yes, I’m going to see my doctor. I’m going to make sure he checks this because it constantly burns like a fire deep inside my leg. I am still working on my pitch most days of the week though, sometimes working 14 hour days. I always make sure whatever magazines I have bought, I am able to sell.
* Read a previous Q&A with Mohammed in the Vendor Stories section of bigissuenorth.com