Ian, Morrisons, Wetherby

Ian says he doesn't bother voting, as all politicians are as bad as each other

Image: Exposure Photo Agency

I was 58 this month, and I’ve been selling the magazine for 18 years – 14 years in Wetherby, and before that, two years in Skipton and two years in Otley.

I started selling the magazine because I went through a divorce and lost my home, and things went from bad to worse. I thought, I’ve got to turn my life around; I’ll sell the Big Issue, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Now I live in a flat in Beeston. I’ve been there for five years.

I got divorced because of drink. I used to drink a lot – it nearly killed me. I did an apprenticeship in painting, and then I was self-employed and used to do council house repaints, but when they brought PVC [windows and doors] out there was nowt for me to do. I’d been drinking since I was about 20, but it got worse then.

I started selling to get off my backside. I was just drinking all the time, and thought, I’m going to kill myself here. Selling helps me to meet people, and I’ve got a lot of friends because I’ve been on my pitch for 14 years – I know a lot of people. I’ve probably been selling for longer than anyone else at the Leeds office now. There were a few who’d been selling longer than me, but they’ve died. I’ve lost a few friends.

Lockdown was horrendous for me. The money was horrendous, because I got payments off the government because of being classed as self-employed – three payments of £500 – but I had to wait ages for the first one.

During that first lockdown, when you could only go out once a day, that was absolutely horrendous. Living just across from Asda, I’d go through a case of beer each day. That’s what I’d do – just sit and go through a case of beer. I couldn’t do anything else. Once lockdown ended, my drinking went down again. It was just boredom – just sitting in the flat all the time. It wasn’t good. 

I went through a bad attack about seven years ago and ended up with staples and stitches in my head. I’m lucky to be living, really. I was just walking home from the pub with my dog, and these three blokes said, “Give us your money, give us your money,” and I just carried on walking. Next thing, they had metal bars and baseball bats and were hitting me round the head. I had 47 staples and three stitches in my head. It still hurts now. I should’ve got criminal injuries compensation.

I’ve got about 10 or 11 tattoos. I’ve got Mike Tyson’s name on my forehead. I was mad on him when he was world champion. I’ve had that a long time, that tattoo. I’ve also got ‘I hate Man United’ – I’m a Leeds fan!

I’m into all the old stuff, me – Blondie, all the punk rock greats. That was my era. Horse racing, too. I like a bet.

I can’t use computers. I can’t even text. If there’s something I have to do online, Nic in the Leeds office does it for me.

I don’t bother voting. They’re all as bad as each other. They’re all full of promises until they get in. The amount of homelessness is absolutely scandalous. There shouldn’t be people sleeping rough or using food banks. When I go out in the morning or come back in the evening, there are people everywhere in sleeping bags. They need to do something about it and get a good grip on it. It shouldn’t be happening in this day and age – not when Rishi Sunak’s got all those millions.

To my customers, I’d like to say thank you for supporting me all year round. You’re there every week and you don’t let me down.

Interview: Brontë Schiltz

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