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Big Issue vendor Robert Brownridge: ‘I’m going to be retiring soon’

Glasgow Big Issue vendor Robert Brownridge has missed his daily chats on his pitch, but the end of lockdown doesn’t prevent him worrying about how his own health might prevent him working.

Every week in The Big Issue magazine, a Big Issue vendor tells their story in our My Pitch column. This week 65-year old Robert Brownridge, who sells the magazine at Glasgow Central Station, speaks of the difficulties he faced during the lockdowns and his worries about how his health will impact his ability to work. 

I’ve been living on the streets on and off for most of the last 20 years. It’s something you can never get used to. These days I live in a housing association property, it’s very small but it’s very nice. And it’s mine. It’s brilliant – you can’t beat a roof over your head and security.

During lockdown, though, being in the house drove me mad – you didn’t get to see anybody. I just watched telly, there was bugger all else you could do. I’ve got a cat, Bella, which is a bloody good thing. I must have driven her mad during the lockdowns, poor thing must be glad I’m going out again now.

My mental health stayed good but my physical health is pretty bad. I’ve got COPD, breathing difficulties and a problem with my hand. It’s the little finger on my left hand, I can’t straighten it and it’s always bent. I can still work, but it affects my writing because I’m left-handed. They were going to get it sorted but it didn’t happen because due to the Covid situation they were only taking the emergencies. But I’ve got used to the fact I can’t do anything with it.

I was worried about the virus, it was frightening because of my health and it stopped me going out. After the first lockdown even when we were allowed to go out I didn’t work for three or four weeks because I was frightened. It took me a while. What I missed the most was the people. I’m a great talker, even if they don’t buy a magazine and they just stop to speak. I’ve had both vaccines now and so this time I felt safer. My first week back wasn’t too bad, not too bad at all.

The station’s dead at the moment, nowhere near as busy as it was. And there’s no such thing as the rush hour any more, it just doesn’t exist. A lot of the regular customers I used to see every week I haven’t seen for over a year. I’ve missed them, definitely. They’re the people you know will come every week. It’s hard to judge how many magazines to buy now, I used to know the minimum amount I needed whereas now I’ve no idea.

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My grandchildren are what brought me to Glasgow from Manchester. They’re 11, eight, nearly seven, five and two. Three girls and two boys. I don’t work on Wednesdays because I pick them up from school and take them to their other granny’s around the corner. That was one of the biggest things I missed when there was no school, getting that time with the grandkids.

I’m going to be retiring soon. I’m nearly 66 and my health is going to force me to stop very soon. Physically I won’t be able to do it. I don’t want to stop but I’ve had to cut down my hours so I can physically survive the day. I’m not doing anywhere near as long as I used to – I used to do six hours a day. Now if I get to four or five I’m pushing it. I remember when I first started selling The Big Issue in Glasgow after coming up here I could walk into town and back out again. Now I can’t. Now getting to the bus stop is a far enough walk.

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