Ahmed Hashi, Waterstones, The Hayes, Cardiff

Ahmed has been with The Big Issue for more than 20 years, but when he's not on his pitch, he gets on his bike to explore around Cardiff and beyond

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I’ve been selling the magazine for more than 20 years now. Bloody hell, I can’t quite believe that. A friend of mine was selling The Big Issue and I was hard up at the time. He said to me if I want to earn some money I should come and join The Big Issue and do some work, so I came with him. So that’s how I started. 

It’s such a long time ago now that I can barely remember what I used to do before The Big Issue. I had a few jobs: working as a carpet fitter, doing some painting, stuff like that. 

Selling the magazine was a bit daunting at first, but it’s OK now. I suppose you hit your stride after 20 years. I enjoy being among the public and the people all the time. I’ve got my regulars. Some do other things for me besides buying the magazine. I might get taken for lunch or things like that, or they might buy me breakfast. It’s certainly nice when that kind of thing happens. Thank you to my customers for their support. 

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I’m planning to continue selling The Big Issue in the future, it’s all I know. I actually prefer selling in the winter. The sales are better and everyone is on their holidays in the summer. It’s pretty slow on my pitch at the moment.  

Christmas wasn’t quite as it usually was but it wasn’t too bad. I don’t give anybody any issues on my pitch. I get on well with the staff in Waterstones and, when they can, they give me a bit of help. 

I’m from Cardiff and Newport, I’ve been here since the early ’70s. It’s changed quite a bit since then but I guess everywhere has.

This year I’d love to be able to get a vehicle to drive again. I haven’t driven for 20-odd years. I’ve got five daughters and five grandchildren so it’d be helpful to visit them. I’ve got a few in Newport, one in Newbridge and one in Cambridge. My eldest is 43 now and my youngest is 28. It was quite busy raising five girls but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I’ve struggled with alcohol in the past but I’ve got my drinking under control now basically. I have relapsed a few times but at the moment I’m in a good way and I’m keeping it under control. 

I’ve got a one-bed council flat in Cardiff and I’m finding it very hard to keep up with bills. I’m really struggling but The Big Issue has been wonderful, they’ve helped me with loads of stuff. They’ve helped me with food. They’ve helped me get my driving licence back. It was about a year and a half ago when I got my driving licence. I was disqualified a long time ago and that expired a while back. But I had never been able to get my licence back because I haven’t got a birth certificate under the name I’m known as.

With the help of The Big Issue I’ve got it back. It’s really tough when you don’t have these sorts of documents. The Big Issue also got me a fridge freezer and a washing machine when they broke. They’ve really done a lot. Fair play. 

When I’m not selling The Big Issue I do a hell of a lot of cycling. I’ve always done it, I’ve been doing it for years. I just like burning energy, I love it. I just go all around Cardiff at the moment and I go up the Taff Trail as far as it’ll go sometimes [55 miles, Cardiff to Brecon]. It’s a good thing to do – I don’t feel like I’m getting on a bit! 

Words: Liam Geraghty

Waterstones, The Hayes, Cardiff, UK