Andrew Larkin, 56, outside former Masham Hotel, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough

Andrew speaks a few languages and also played several musical instruments in his younger days

I’m from Hartlepool originally, but I’ve moved around quite a lot in my life. I’ve been homeless before, and I’ve lived in London and Amsterdam. I’ve had quite a few accidents. I’ve been knocked off a motorbike twice and I’ve been run over by a tram in Amsterdam.

I’ve lived in Middlesbrough for 15 years, and I like it because it has a lot of facilities for people like me. I’ve got osteoarthritis, which can be a bit painful at times. I’ve had mental health problems as well and I’m bipolar so sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. It’s just about finding the happy medium. I was always in and out of hospital before, whereas now I am quite stable.

I was close to my father before he passed away in October last year. I’m still bereaved but I haven’t cried about it or let it upset me. I just think that he’s in a better place. I’m glad he’s not suffering any more. He was very poorly for the last six or seven years.

I used to misbehave quite a lot, but I’ve not been in trouble for years. I’ve managed to change just through my own actions, through not stealing or being dishonest any more. I’m currently in recovery for drug addiction, and it is going very well. I’ve been clean for about six months and it has been hard work. It’s not the longest stint I’ve done, but it is the longest in recent years. I’m on the road to recovery. When I was buying illegal substances I wasn’t a well person. But since I’ve got on this programme I am a lot stronger in myself, I seem to be enjoying life a lot more.

I’ve been selling the magazine on and off for about 10 years, but I got back into it seriously at the end of last year. Doing The Big Issue has given me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to go out. I’ve only started doing it seriously now, and it has given me something to aim for. The Big Issue gives me a bit of pocket money to play with.

I’ve got a card reader on my pitch now. Because the money takes a while to clear in the bank there’s always something in a few days to look forward to. It’s a bit of cash to put away and keep in the bank if you need to. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past and I had quite a bad habit with gambling as well, which I’m trying to conquer. The card reader takes the temptation away.

I used to have a lot of hobbies before, whereas now I mainly do puzzles. Sudoku, card games like Solitaire, crosswords, things like that. They keep me busy. I also like travelling. I’ve had holidays all over the world and I’m quite well-educated in foreign languages. I speak a bit of Spanish, a bit of French and a bit of German. I like the different cultures, and I like to be in the sun as well. I’m quite keen on my music too. I used to play a few musical instruments when I was younger. I played bass guitar and I was in punk groups and I also played the flute, the keyboard and the French horn. I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m trying harder now to be a better person. I think that I’m quite good at talking to people and it makes me happy just to be able to make someone else’s day.

I appreciate the help from my customers and I’m grateful for this chance with The Big Issue. I’m going to try and give it my best shot. God loves a trier. I’m quite religious, I say my prayers every night and I hope the good Lord is listening.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

M&S Bureau De Change Middlesbrough, Marks & Spencer, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, UK