I started selling The Big Issue because I got picked up for begging too many times. It got too hard. In between begging I used to walk into work agencies, and in those days if you looked reasonably smart then you could get cash. If you showed up for work on time and did the job then you got your pay. It used to be easy. But then that stopped.
I’ve been selling the magazine on and off over the years but I first got badged up in ’92. I’ve sold the magazine in most of Somerset, the Midlands, Colchester near where I’m from. Brighton was a good laugh. They say that Essex boys get around, I literally did.
I’ve had years where I’ve done other jobs but a lot of times I’ve ended up back on the road. I sold all over while I was rough sleeping for 24 years. A few years here, a few years there. Before I got this accommodation I had been 11 years no fixed abode. I got this flat on May 31 2012, got my keys about 6.30 in the evening – when you’ve spent 11 years rough sleeping you remember these things. But I think that when people move in from the streets they get too serious, you can’t do that because it’ll do your nut in. Take it easier, it’s about not getting stressed because what’s it going to do for you? I don’t have broadband and I don’t do TV or radio so what happens in the world I don’t really know.
Lockdown was alright for me. I live in the middle of nowhere and Marlborough is quite a cliquey town – I’m not from around here so I know some people but everyone sticks to themselves. When you spend so much time on your own while you’re homeless you get used to it. I quite like my own company and I love being out in the sticks.
In Marlborough if you walk 15 minutes in any direction then you are out in the countryside. If you walk a mile out then you won’t see anyone, it’s just fields. It’s brilliant, you could walk around, get a tan, what else were you gonna do? No one was about so you had all day to roam about. I do enjoy walking, I walk everywhere. I want to get a bike soon so I can cycle about. When you get past the age of 32 you can’t rely on youth any more so you have to work at it a bit harder, otherwise you’ll regret it when you’re older.
It’s not been too bad on my pitch since I got back. I sell around 60 mags a week but I’m used to having nothing so I always do alright. I get on pretty well with my customers and I only really deal with my regulars. I stand there outside Waitrose with the issues on the floor. I’m there like a billboard and if people want the issue then they will come and buy one. That’s the way I see it. If they don’t want one, what’s the point of annoying them?
I’d love to get myself some land. I’d like to get a quarter-acre parcel here in Wiltshire that’s big enough to have something like a barn and space to grow plum trees, fennel, sweet potatoes, things like that. And maybe room to keep chickens or have dogs. The long-term plan is for an organic land co-op. That’s my dream. If I could be self-sufficient for a few years then I could always sell anything I grow. My main goal is to be self-sufficient, use solar panels or a wind turbine to produce electricity. My time on the streets has taught me a lot of survival skills, like burying my things where I know they are so people can’t find them. It’s alright having a house but I’ve never bought into that because I was always told when I was 14 or 15 that you can be kicked out of your house. That’s because you don’t own the land, so I want land.