Frank Thomas McGucken, 46, Sloane Square, London
“I’ve had good news. A friend wants to help me start my own coffee business”
I’ve been out selling today, it was a good day. I always have a good day. I get up, go out and come home empty-handed, no magazines left. I’ve just got so much drive.
I’ve been selling The Big Issue on and off for 24 years. I think my first badge was Number Two. My first pitch was in Cambridge, I used to travel there and back with a friend every day. That was the best.
I was brought up on the backstreets of west Belfast, no one had anything
I was brought up on the backstreets of west Belfast, no one had anything. My grandmother looked after me, then I was in care from the age of three until I was 15. Then I got the Belfast ferry to Liverpool Lime Street, made my way to Euston and my mother picked me up. I’ve been here for 31 years now.
I think I get my drive from my grandmother. She brought up 12 kids in a two-bedroom house and was a rag-and-bone woman, selling paint brushes and combs round the pubs to put bread on the table. Sometimes I go back to Ireland for a little holiday. I never forget my Irish roots, it will always be my home.
I’m in recovery now, coming up on four years without drugs or a drink. I was a chronic alcoholic and drug user but drink was my main demon. The turning point came when I was attacked by four idiots in a hostel. They broke my C7 vertebra and punctured my eardrum and I ended up in hospital. I’ve never touched drink or drugs since.
When I was in the Royal London Hospital there was a lovely woman who used to bring me tea because I couldn’t walk or move. She’s now my wife – Inna and I were married last year – and she’s now a trauma nurse at the Royal London.
I was a chronic alcoholic. The turning point came when I was attacked by four idiots in a hostel
I’ve got good news. My friend who works in an office above Tiffany’s wants to help me start my own business, turning old phone boxes into coffee booths. All the staff in those offices are really good people.
The Big Issue has always been there for me. I have a lot of respect for John Bird. I always say, if you work the magazine, the magazine will work for you.
My famous customers… I’ve sold to so many celebrities over the years. Jack Nicholson, Frankie Dettori, Harry Hill, Bob Geldof and quite recently Graeme Le Saux. One of the nicest was Richard Branson. He was with his mother, and I had a good old chat with him. A very nice, humble man.
On my pitch… I’m outside Tiffany’s in Sloane Square, Monday to Friday, from 8.30am until 6.30pm.
Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer