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Stevie’s reunion with Tour de Flat-conquering Jacob will have to wait

The London vendor returned to his pitch on July 6 but a face-to-face meeting with the man who raised £16,000 in his honour has been set back by Covid-19

Stevie Taylor

Steve Taylor

Big Issue readers have gone above and beyond for vendors since the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a 15-week spell off the streets. Few have gone quite so far as Jacob Hill-Gowing.

The art director made the most of lockdown to cycle the 2,200-mile distance of the Tour de France on an exercise bike in his flat in a challenge he cheekily dubbed Le Tour de Flat.

The mammoth challenge, which raised more than £16,500 for our charitable arm The Big Issue Foundation, was inspired by London Big Issue vendor Stevie Taylor. He returned to his pitch on Monday outside Pret on Old Street near to where Jacob works and where the pair struck up a strong friendship.

The Big Issue reunited Stevie and Jacob following the end of the challenge in May and the pair have been swapping texts ever since, in anticipation of a face-to-face reunion. That was boost for Stevie who spoke of grappling with the boredom of lockdown.

But Stevie told The Big Issue that the reunion is on hold for now as he returned to work this week.

“I was hoping to meet up with Jake but he told me that he has been struggling with a serious chest infection. We were gonna meet up Tuesday morning but he’s been really struggling,” said Stevie.

“I’m really gutted for him because he has been safe all the way through this lockdown and he had a few people in his family who were vulnerable so he has kept away from everybody so it’s bad luck for this to happen.

“He’s been mindful of everybody else and he’s been ultra-careful so he’s scratching his head about how he could have caught something.”

Jacob told The Big Issue that he is “hoping to meet up with Stevie in a couple of weeks” once he has fully recovered.

However, Stevie has not been without visitors since July 6, having welcomed a BBC camera crew to share news of The Big Issue’s return to the streets.

He was keen to show off the new PPE and health and safety measures that vendors are working under to make sure both they and their customers stay safe.

Stevie added: “It’s been very, very quiet. I did alright on Monday when I was filming with the BBC. That went great, even if I feel like I’m in a goldfish bowl with the visor on. I’ve been wearing it when I’m vending not only for myself, just to reassure people.

“It’s a great idea to have these visors and the rucksacks – it’s phenomenal, it’s got the logo on it, it’s brand new and packed with PPE, you can’t knock it at all.”

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