Jack Richardson, 41, Bird & Blend Tea, Park Street, Bristol

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I got married the day after my birthday because I’m really bad with dates. I’ve got ADHD and Asperger’s so this way I could never forget my anniversary and get myself in trouble. It’s been four years [on March 19] since we got married and it’s been the happiest and most stable four years of my life. [Jack married Toni, one of his customers, after they became a couple when he helped her to pay her electricity bill in 2013]. On our anniversary we’re going out for lunch, that’s what we like to do.

Toni took me in off the streets. When I met her I was sleeping in a room that a hotel used to store furniture in an underground car park. At 16 I’d signed myself out of care and moved into bedsits and until I met Toni I hadn’t lived in the same place for more than three or four years. I felt there was no place for me. The Big Issue has also been a very big part of my life becoming more stable. Because of my depression I’ll have four or five days a month where I can’t face anyone. Any normal job, that would be the end of it. I’ve done casual labour but you’re always moving around and you never put roots down. One of the things I love about having had my pitch for five years is that everybody knows me. I’m part of the community.

Toni Jack Richardson Frankie Stone My Pitch 1401
Toni and Jack met when he helped her with an electric bill back in the days when she was one of his customers (Credit: Frankie Stone)

For years I resisted any kind of diagnosis for my conditions because I’m very high-functioning. But I always knew I had dysgraphia, a weird kind of dyslexia. I can read faster than anyone you’ve ever met, four books a day if I’m just sat reading, but when I write I get every dyslexic symptom in the book. I want to get this voice-recognition software because I’ve got so many ideas for science-fiction and fantasy books. If I could just talk at a computer… I’ve got worlds bubbling away inside my head.

 I got the equivalent of a double first in psychology and sociology with the OU, and I want to do a PhD, but at the moment I’m enjoying having some free time. Because I have a fast reading speed and I get this hyper-focus I become very interested in something, then I get bored and move on. I used to be at the mercy of my conditions when I was trying to deny them, but accepting that I’m not exactly the same neurologically as everyone else has allowed me to become comfortable with who I am.

Toni is incredible. We are completely perfect for each other. Everything I’m awful at she’s brilliant at and vice versa. I often have trouble reading subtle emotional cues and Toni tends to feel things very intensely. If she’s happy she’s ecstatic, if she’s sad she’s crushed. With Toni, everything is right there in front of me. Everyone confuses me apart from her. If I’d kept pretending to be someone else I’d never have met the person who clicked so perfectly with me. If you fight against who you are, you’re always going to be at a disadvantage. You’re fighting shadows and smoke.

Image: Frankie Stone

Bird & Blend Tea Co., Park Street, Bristol, UK

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