I was on the streets in Glasgow when I started selling The Big Issue. I’d been moving around the country, chasing work. If the work ran out I’d go somewhere else… Tranmere, Redcar, Aylesbury. I’ve done all sorts; coal miner, factory work, cleaning, recycling. I can turn my hand to anything.
But the work had dried up so I was on the streets. I was only out for about three nights, so I was lucky. I saw people selling The Big Issue and I asked them where the office was. I went down on the Monday and started selling on the Tuesday. I was there for six months, then I left Glasgow and came to Bristol.
One customer gave me a bottle of whisky for Christmas, another gave me a bottle for my birthday
My regulars here are excellent. I’ve got a base of about 40 people at the moment. It used to be a lot more but some people have left or I don’t see them any more. It’s starting to pick up again now. One customer gave me a bottle of whisky for Christmas, another gave me a bottle for my birthday. One year a guy said he’d moved and hadn’t seen me in ages but had come up to see me. He bought a magazine and I nearly cried. I had tears in my eyes.
I love my musicals. When the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert came to the Hippodrome in Bristol I went to the theatre and asked if they had any cheap seats. I got one in the stalls for £20. It was excellent. I was seeing it for the first time, but I’d heard the music before. I saw Susan Boyle at the Hippodrome as well. Somebody gave me some tickets so I kept one for myself and gave the others away in my Issues. That was an excellent show as well.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
I’m in a private rented place now. The Big Issue helped me get the flat because I had to save up for the deposit. I was in a hostel at the time but I managed to get a two-month deposit together. I’ve been here for seven years now. I live on my own, so I can listen to whatever music I like. I love Roger Waters, Eurythmics, Stereophonics. My favourite is Roger Waters’ opera album Ça Ira. I don’t play music though, I just like listening. And if I sing it rains.
At the moment, I’m applying for two jobs. One’s at Southmead Hospital as a porter, because I get on well with people. And I emailed my CV to Bristol Waste for street cleaning. I’ve also helped out with co-ordinating Big Issue distribution. I enjoyed that, but my shoulders are starting to go. One day I had to lift 200 magazines and I’ve got arthritis in both shoulders. I’ve had an operation on one but it’s starting to come back again. As you get older these things get to you.
Music’s my main love and I once had the lead singer of Sad Café in the pub where I worked. But he had children with him so I refused to serve him. I didn’t know who he was until he told me. But I said, I don’t care – you can’t have kids in here!
I’m a dog lover…
I don’t have a pet of my own, but I love my customers’ dogs. India’s a Scottish terrier and she’s soft as a brush. Another of my favourites is Shadow, he’s docile as anything.
On my pitch…
Tuesday-Friday from 7am till 2.30pm and weekend mornings
Photo: Sean MalyonFalcon Group Plc, Bristol BS8, UK