Local resident Richard Fryer has been buying The Big Issue from Easton first thing in the morning for years, he said, and will miss their chats about reggae music.
“Easton, for me, is a feature of where I live, he always has a happy word for everybody,” Richard said. “I will miss always receiving the first Christmas card of the year from Easton. He would say, ‘I’ve left it blank for you to put your name’.
“Easton has a genuine enthusiasm for life and making others a little happier in their day. So many people stopped to have a chat with him, and he is the epitome of kindness.
“I’m so pleased he can retire, it’s hard graft out there each day with an early start.”
Though he enjoyed his work and is known for his sunny disposition, in recent years Easton has suffered with arthritis in the fingers on his left hand. The hours spent on his pitch exacerbated his condition.
“It’s so painful stretching it out but I’m trying to work to get it ok,” he said. “It’s the ring finger on my left hand now. At first it was all four of them, but now it’s just that one of them gone again.
“I reckon it’s because I’ve been getting up, and going from the warm to the cold, into the warm again, and standing up there for so long.
“So I’m just trying to take it a bit easy now.”
Like Big Issue vendors across the UK, Easton had to stop selling in March this year and was unable to work for 15 weeks.
Since Easton has been back on his pitch, he said business has been quiet because many of his regular customers are working from home. Easton reached out to new customers, spending time on new pitches across London before deciding to hang up his red tabard.
Still, he said, he’ll miss the social side of his job.
“It’s a bit sad that I won’t see all those people again and interact with them,” he added, “but you know, we all have to move on with our life. Probably, I’ll still see them when I bump into them on the road.”
Easton was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK as a child in the late 60s, at a time when discrimination against black people was rife. There was no anti-discrimination legislation to prevent landlords from refusing to accept black tenants, and many immigrants were forced to live in slum areas of cities.
Easton initially lived in Notting Hill, which is now an affluent area of London but in the 60s was notorious for slum landlords. It was the dire housing conditions in Notting Hill that provided the impetus for social activist Bruce Kenrick to found the national housing organisation Shelter in 1966.
“Now it’s very wealthy but in the 1970s it wasn’t like that – I think they might have even demolished part of the old terrace where me and my family lived,” Easton said.
A devout Christian, Easton has found a supportive community in Frampton Park Baptist Church, near where he now lives in Hackney.
“Church is the most important thing. We get together on a Sunday morning and a Sunday evening. There’s always a very good atmosphere,” he said.
Easton wanted to leave all his customers with a message of gratitude: “Thanks to everyone who stopped and said hello or bought a magazine. I hope they all have a happy life.”
Everyone at The Big Issue would like to wish Easton a happy retirement.
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