Lincoln vendor Richie: ‘I’ve never felt so lonely’

The popular seller has been struggling while in lockdown and has seen his long-anticipated operation to amputate his left leg postponed. The Big Issue is working to support Richie through the Covid-19 crisis

Much-loved Big Issue vendor Richie has been left in agonising pain after the coronavirus lockdown meant his leg amputation operation was postponed indefinitely.

The former horticultural engineer suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that has left him with “seven per cent” of the circulation remaining in his left leg.

Richie was hoping to undergo the operation at the end of last year, later being given a date to go under the knife in June.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed the operation and, due to underlying health conditions, the veteran vendor is consigned to his small flat and is unable to access treatment.

I miss all my customers and I want to tell them: we will get through this

He told The Big Issue: “It’s just up in the air now. I was hoping to be back by August/September time but it has all just been put on hold.

“My leg is bad at the moment because they won’t even allow me to go to the doctors to dress it or to the hospital for them to look at it. Because of my health conditions I am not allowed to go out at all.”

Richie has sold the magazine for almost 25 years, most recently outside the M&S on Lincoln High Street.

In that time he has become a treasured member of the community as his customers proved last year when they clubbed together to raise more than £5,000 to help him pay his bills while he recovers from his operation.

And the face-to-face time that Richie got with his customers is something that he is missing while in quarantine.

Richie also admitted that he is concerned about his finances and is worried how his dwindling income will cover utility bills that will be higher than normal as the vendor spends more time at home.

DID YOU KNOW…

The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

Previously relying solely on The Big Issue, his Universal Credit claim is also among the 950,000 that have been made in the last few weeks. But the vendor is wary of the five-week wait to receive payments as well as the perils of accepting an advance loan.

In the meantime, The Big Issue is supporting Richie with vouchers to buy food while there is also support available for vendors to help with electricity and gas payments.

Richie told The Big Issue: “I’m finding it really, really hard. It’s just unreal. I can’t go out. I can’t talk to my friends. I’m not an indoor person at all and I just want to get back to work.

“I’m struggling. It’s lonely. I’ve never ever been this lonely before.

“I’ve only been able to speak to a couple of customers who have my phone number and I’ve had a couple of letters so I’ve written back. That was really nice. It’s the physical contact and the talking to people that I miss, I’m nearly always talking to somebody and I just miss that.

“The Big Issue has sent me £25 in food vouchers. That was absolutely amazing of them, I’m thankful for that.

peter Hickman Richie Deborah Chester
Richie-gets-his-money-Lincoln-October-2019
Peter Hickman (left) presented Richie (centre) with the cheque on his pitch after Deborah (right) started the crowdfunding campaign to help him get through his leg op

“I know Boris has tried his best for me and The Big Issue have tried their best for me too but I’m dreading the utilities bill at the end of this because I haven’t been out. I’m dreading that day and it is making me even more depressed than anything.

“I miss all my customers and I want to tell them: we will get through this. It’s hopefully not going to be for too much longer. I’m okay, leg aside, but we’re all in the same boat.”

Vendors like Richie need your help. You can help The Big Issue support them through the Covid-19 crisis by subscribing to buy the magazine online to be delivered straight your door. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for details.

Alternatively, you can buy the magazine in select Sainsbury’s and McColl’s stores around the country. Or individual issues in The Big Issue Shop.

Vendors will receive 50 per cent of the cover price whichever way you buy so we can continue to support them until they are able to return to the streets.

Image: Patrick Stubbs