Joe O’Malley, 40, White Hart Pub, Bristol

"I love the creativity and the free-flowing spirit of the people in Bristol"

I used to work as a chef in a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant – Benares in London – under Atul Kochhar.

I also worked at Vivat Bacchus in London. I came over from Limerick 20 years ago for work but eventually I burnt out as a chef. That’s part of the reason I’m homeless now. I started when I was 16 and I was a chef de partie and a junior sous chef. I crashed and burned when I was 38 so I was a chef for a big chunk of my life.

I’m at an in-between stage in my life now. I’ve had a long and complicated series of misfortunes. I get involved in pop-up kitchens from time to time but I don’t really know what I want to do. At the moment I’m living in a caravan near the M32 with an Irish traveller. He works as a labourer and his boss lets us use the caravan. It suits me for now and it’s quite cosy.

The Julian Trust in Bristol is my second bolt hole. It’s a hostel but it only has 18 beds so you have to queue.

I’m at an in-between stage in my life now. I’ve had a long and complicated series of misfortunes

I’ve been selling the magazine since May. After I ended up homeless I went to The Big Issue as my ex-partner used to sell it in Exeter. This pitch is busy, I do very well in the morning with regulars. Then it dies down and I go to Easton to sell outside St Mark’s Church. I slept rough in Easton for a while and one day I got chatting to the pastor, Richard Skinner. I asked if he’d mind if I sold magazines outside his church and he was fine with it. He has been incredibly kind to me.

Doing The Big Issue has taught me more about sales. I was always used to being stuck in a kitchen away from people, and I used to hate customers. I was kind of aloof and indifferent to people but now I’m much more congenial. Since I started selling the magazine I’ve become a hell of a lot more friendly.

I’ve travelled about the country but I’d say Bristol is the best city I’ve lived in. I love the art and the creativity and the free-flowing spirit of the people. I landed up in Glasgow at one point too, working in a place called Babu’s Bombay Kitchen – an Indian street food restaurant – for quite a few months.

I can’t say a bad word about Glasgow either to be honest. Apart from the cold.

Check mate… I’ve no interest in sport but I play chess. I’ve played since I was about five or six. You get better throughout life, so I’m a mean chess player now.

The pies have it… From my time in Glasgow I have to say I prefer vegetarian haggis to the real thing. But I used to enjoy a Scotch pie.

On my pitch… I’m at the White Hart from nine till about noon. Then I go to St Mark’s in Easton.

Photo: Rebecca Bernstein

The White Hart, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol, United Kingdom

The Big Issue

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