I’ve been selling The Big Issue for three months and I’m so glad to tell my story for International Women’s Day on Sunday. I don’t think I could find a better way to thank the people of Glasgow for their generosity and solidarity. I really love people – I’m shy, but sociable. It’s a difficult combination but my wish to say thank you has made me overcome my fear of publicity. The constant kindness here has helped me put the pain of the last six years since I originally lost my home behind me.
In December I was given five free Big Issues to go out and sell. Those Big Issues have kept me safe and well for three months. It’s a continual process but it’s transformed my way of seeing myself. I do have some regular customers now, and they worry about me if I’m not there. There’s something in Glasgow. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s place runs very deep here. I’m from the New Forest but I feel so excited for my future in the city. The women’s support group at the Glasgow City Mission is the best morning of my week.
Selling The Big Issue means I can live in a very pleasant hostel on the outskirts of the city. Because I have employment now, they keep rolling forward my place a month at a time, even though I’m not always able to pay the full amount. They give me leeway and it got me out of a very dangerous situation. I’ve never spent a night on the streets, I think I would be much too frightened to do that.
During my two years of being homeless in Scotland, I’ve visited several places to offer my skills as a gardener. I’ve never gardened professionally but it’s the only skill I was really born with. It means a lot to be able to offer something completely from the heart. There’s one garden I’ve spotted that I hope to be able to give my loving attention to as soon as warmer weather comes. When I look to the future I do see myself selling The Big Issue but now that I’m in less of an emergency hopefully I’ll also find my way into other work. Maybe in a bookshop or in tourism where I can share my love of Scotland.
I’m volunteering at Glasgow’s Women’s Library and they’ve been so supportive of me. I’m also learning Gaelic at the National Piping Centre because the course tutor there gave me the opportunity to do his classes for free. I started four weeks ago and I’m loving it. It’s more than just a language for me now. It has no verb ‘to own’ and for someone like me, who lost all her belongings, that has opened new doors.
Finding myself alone in the world has its issues but I have a daughter and a granddaughter, both of whom I’m really proud of. They’re in England and I was able to see them for the first time in two years recently. My granddaughter is nearly 12 and she had changed so much, but it was so reassuring to feel that we can continue to grow in closeness.
The Big Issue is like a miracle for me as an older woman with no skills or professional confidence. It’s huge for me to be independent, earning my living for the first time since the distant past. I feel completely surrounded by love, so anything that had happened to me doesn’t matter any more. Every magazine I sell is the free choice of the person who buys it, and that’s why I’m so proud to do it.
Image: Jamie McFadyen45 Buchanan St, Glasgow G1 3HL, UK