I’ve been doing The Big Issue for 13 years in the same place in Cambridge and I love it. I came over from Belfast in 1987, I was looking for work. First of all I went to London but then later on I came to Cambridge and I’ve never moved on. I was 23 when I left Belfast and it took a lot of courage, leaving my home town and leaving my people behind. My mum’s still back in Belfast, she just turned 89 yesterday, but I don’t go back much. I’ve been all over the place; Coventry, Manchester, Glasgow, Bolton. But Cambridge is a brilliant place to live and a great place to work. The culture’s good and all the colleges… mate, they’re beautiful. This is where I’ll die.
I used to work on building sites but the money was no good. Now I’m my own boss and selling The Big Issue gives me something to get up for in the mornings. It’s taught me communication skills and how to keep my money and pay my bills. All important things. I’ve got loads of loyal customers and I’d like to thank them all for sticking with me through all the virus stuff. They look out for me. I own this Trinity Street, I swear to God. Not because I’m Irish but because I’m loyal. I’m here every day.
During the lockdown The Big Issue kept in contact with me, and my customers were always looking out for me too. They’d buy me coffees, offer me food. Everything. It helped me through a difficult time and they’re still helping me. Jenny in the patisserie on Trinity Street has been really, really good to me. Since I’ve been back on my pitch it’s been quiet, so hopefully it picks up again really soon. I think I need to get more students buying off me, there’s not really that many who are buying the magazine at the minute.
I’ve got a daughter called Chloe, who’s 24. She’s a frontline worker in an old people’s home in Coventry and I’m very proud of her. She’s beautiful, 110 per cent. We see a lot of each other, in fact I’m going to see her soon because it’s her birthday on the 26th. So I’ll need to sell a load of magazines before then.
When I came to Cambridge 13 years ago I was living in Jimmy’s night shelter. Then years later after I had a big split up with my missus unfortunately I had to leave the home and I went back to Jimmy’s. And fair play to them, they got me a brand spanking new house here in Cambridge. I’ve been in it for three months and I just love the space, love the people, love where I am. I can’t thank Jimmy’s enough because this is a new start for me and nobody’s given me a chance like this before.
It’s great having this place, I’m left alone to do my own thing and everything in it is brand new. When I get home at night I close the door behind me and it feels as if the whole world is just left outside. It’s my space, my place, where I can watch the boxing and the snooker. I used to watch Barry McGuigan when I was a kid, he was my childhood hero. And Wayne McCullough, the Belfast boy. And in the snooker I’m a big fan of Joe Perry and Mark Allen.
I can stay in the house here for up to three years, but I hope to move on and get my own council place very, very soon. I want to get myself sorted and get myself my own dog because I love dogs. A wee cocker spaniel.
Photo: Onur PinarWhistles, Trinity Street, Cambridge