Bob MacLeod, 40, outside Waterstones, Brighton

"I’m interested in archaeology. Going to Pompeii is the dream."

I was a big drinker. But I got sober about five years ago. I had just turned 35 and my old man had died at the age of 35 because of the drink and a heart attack. So when I woke up on my 35th birthday I thought, I can’t do this any more. My mate threw me the bottle of Bell’s and I threw it straight back and said: “Nope,I can’t – if I keep doing this it’s going to kill me.”

I went cold turkey, sweated it out and gave it up. If you’re on the streets you get offered drink on a daily basis, so you have to be tough for a while.

I kept thinking about my old man – he was always in the back of my mind. Today, the smell of whisky makes me feel sick. If I see cans of lager in the shop it turns my stomach.

The Big Issue is a lifeline. It gives you something when you have nothing else

I saved up and got a small deposit together to rent a room. It’s a bedsit – a big old townhouse subdivided into rooms. It’s in a bad state. I’ve tried to keep my own room clean and tidy but it’s the kind of place where the carpet needs sprayed for fleas.

So at the moment I actually sleep on the beach most of the time. I’ve kept a tent over the years – I’m quite self-reliant that way. I still go camping and do a bit of fishing. I suppose part of it is that I’ve been outdoors for so long, I’ve found it hard to adapt to settling down somewhere. But you can’t settle down in a place like the bedsit, and I certainly can’t afford a house in Brighton.

I’m from the north of Scotland and I roamed around a lot, trying to grow roots. I just couldn’t seem to do it. Even now it’s difficult, even though I’ve been in Brighton for more than 10 years. It is a nice place – there’s lots going on in the streets. And the staff here at Waterstones are good to me – very nice people.

I’ve been outdoors for so long, I’ve found it hard to adapt to settling down somewhere

I’m also thinking about heading back to the Highlands this year. I’ve got family problems back there to be sorted out – people I haven’t seen for a long time. I feel as if something’s calling me back to Scotland. Meanwhile, selling the magazine keeps me going.

I don’t think people realise that The Big Issue is a lifeline. It gives you something when you have nothing else. If it wasn’t for The Big Issue I’d be dead by now.

My dream holiday… Pompeii. I’m really interested in archaeology and I’ve read a fair bit about ancient Pompeii. I know the sites inside out from photographs but I’d love to go and see it for myself.

The place I’d most like to return to… In the Highlands where I lived as a boy. We lived there for a few years, about 50 metres from the edge of a loch, not far from Ben Nevis. My brother and I would go fishing together.

Photos: Adam Bronkhorst

Waterstones, North Street, Brighton, United Kingdom

The Big Issue

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