Gary Spall, 55, Neal Street, Covent Garden, London

"Timothy Spall and I had a joke about sharing a surname"

I started selling The Big Issue in London about four years ago, when I came back to the city. I had been away for a long time. I’d been travelling around – up in Scotland, around Manchester and then in Birmingham. But I had fallen into homelessness in Birmingham, and when I came back to London I had nowhere to go.

I was in hostels for a while but after being on the streets for so long I didn’t get on very well, when one of the charities got me into independent living accommodation, a place you share with others. Once that fell through I was on the streets again.

But I was glad to be back in London – I really missed it. The Big Issue have given me a chance to earn money and helped give me a bit of structure. The other great thing that happened when I came back was getting Lola, my lovely dog. She was only nine months when I got her from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. She’s four years old now and she’s as good-natured as ever.

It’s not fun sleeping rough in winter but I’ve got a good spot under some awning

All my customers respond really well to Lola. The shops round this part of Covent Garden are great at giving her treats. She eats better than I do. I’ll make sure we get down to Green Park or St James’ Park so Lola gets a good run-around and has a chase of the squirrels.

We went camping in Somerset. I saved up from my Big Issue earnings and found a pitch at a dog-friendly campsite. It’s a lovely part of the country – I’d quite like to move there, actually, because it’s so quiet and friendly. It’s not fun sleeping rough in winter but I’ve got a good spot under some awning here in Covent Garden.

I’ve met quite a few celebrities on my pitch: the boxer David Haye, Dame Judi Dench and Timothy Spall – we had a joke about sharing a surname. All really nice people and good supporters of The Big Issue. I have some great customers and I’d like to thank them. Everyone’s in a good mood this time of year. It’d be nice if we could keep it going all year round, wouldn’t it?

My favourite band… The Clash. I was lucky enough to see them at the Roxy in London when I was a young punk, and they’ve been my favourite group ever since.

The city I’d love to see… Rome. I’d love to visit the Colosseum and some of those other ancient buildings. It would be fascinating.

On my pitch… Neal Street, Covent Garden, London, 8am-4pm

Photo: David Tett

Neal Street, London WC2H 9QW, United Kingdom