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Big Issue vendor Clive: 'I’ve missed the positivity from my customers'

Now he's vaccinated and feeling confident, Clive is itching to get back on his pitch

Theatre Royal Plymouth vendor Clive

Plymouth vendor Clive, who sells the magazine at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. Credit: Trevor Burrows

This lockdown has been easier for me than the first one. I haven’t been so petrified of catching the virus and dying, basically. And the pressure cooker of life just really got heavy on everybody first time round, there were fights and violence all over the shop.

Thankfully, I’ve had both vaccines now as I’ve been volunteering at a mass vaccination centre. On my very first shift I was very fortunate and got the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination by a bit of luck. Then last Friday I got my second one.

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I’m just so glad I’ve got it, it means all the arguments in Europe can’t now get in the way. After the first one, it was like a weight had dropped off my back. It’s quite a big relief when you get that first jab.

You don’t realise, but you’re carrying a lot of weight being stressed about going into shops, about getting on buses. So when you get it you go, Oh! I’m not now going to end up in hospital with a major virus. That’s the difference. It was a touch emotional because I’m a single person, I was adopted then put back into care, so I’ve got no family whatsoever. It’s just me and my little dog Geezer. So I was more worried for him than I was for me really.

I’ve nearly died in hospital before so I wasn’t scared of that but I was worried because it would affect my dog. When I got the jab I just thought, well thank God for that.

You would never think that a street person would have the opportunity to do something like this

My main problems are mental health issues from being on the streets for 20-odd years. I’ve been in some really violent situations where I’ve nearly been kicked to death. I’m bipolar and I’ve got issues with PTSD where I get flashbacks. Harsh things happen on the streets sometimes. In the first lockdown I was really distraught mentally because it was such an unknown. The bipolar really swung me around. It was also the loss of my customers.

Whenever I’m feeling down I go and do my pitch and within five minutes of being outside the theatre I come back up again. Other people’s good feelings rub off on me. I’ve really missed the emotional checking-in every day, that positivity I feel from my customers, my friends and people from the theatre. I’m looking forward to having people to talk to again when I go back. It’s the people that make the difference.

The hub round the corner from my pitch were doing a survey to find out why people who are homeless are presenting at A&E but not staying or coming back for other treatment. They wanted to interview people but didn’t know how to do it so they asked me if I’d consider helping. I was quite frail mentally at the time but I agreed and I did 40 interviews, which then became part of a big 30-page report. It had some names on the front of it, Doctor Such-and-Such times three… plus Clive!

They wanted to pay me £12 an hour, which worked out as £200, but I said, I’m not doing it for money. I’m not making money off homelessness. They asked me what to do with the money and I said I wanted it to go to the Plymouth Soup Run, which it did.

You would never think that a street person would have the opportunity to do something like that but it’s been part of my recovery and I’m really proud of myself. Doing it was really scary –seriously scary – but it taught me that I can do things that normal professional people can do in life.

Clive was speaking to Sarah Reid

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