Before I sold The Big Issue I was living on the streets. I’d had a flat but some undesirables were using it and wrecked it. I ended up sleeping rough and begging but I thought to myself, I can do better than this. I’d had enough and I wanted to change my lifestyle, so when I heard about The Big Issue I went and signed up.
The first sale of the day is always the hardest, but I’m always polite. I sell the magazine most days and sometimes you ask someone if they want to buy one and they’ll just totally ignore you. I’ve been spat at and sworn at, and I feel like saying to these people that this is a proper job. It’s not like I’m sitting under a cash machine asking for their money.
I’ve got two pitches and they’re both quite busy. Sometimes you have a good day and sell 15 or 20 but on other days you struggle to sell two or three. It varies. You get to meet all sorts of people, if someone needs directions I’ll stop selling for five minutes and take them there, or if an OAP is struggling with their shopping I’ll help them. People really appreciate that and it can help with sales. Sometimes I dress up, Dracula for Halloween or a snowman at Christmas. Someone could be having a rubbish day and that sort of thing can make a difference to them. I never pressure though, I just wish people a good morning and see what happens.
On a Monday I come into The Big Issue office from 8.30am until 2.30pm and I work on the subscriptions. I put the magazines in the envelopes and send them out, and it gives me a regular income. I’m slowly learning to use the computer for stocktaking, and now I can send emails or book time off work on the system. It does help with your confidence. I also come in on a Saturday to help with the deliveries for the following week. I get on with all the staff in the office, it’s a good team atmosphere. Once I’ve got the subscriptions ready, they go out to Australia, America, Japan, France – all over the world really. What I’m hoping for is to get a passport because I’d like to see the world. I’ve never been overseas. I’d love to do a cruise or something. I just want to experience different cultures. The Big Issue will help me with all the paperwork so I can go to the passport office in Newport.
I left my home city in Cambridgeshire when I was 22 and travelled up and down the country. At one point I thought, the only place I haven’t been to is Wales and when I got to Cardiff I found there were a lot of friendly people here. I’ve got a private flat in the city now and there’s a lot to do here, like Cardiff Castle or the football. Sometimes about 10 of us from The Big Issue get tickets to go and see the Wales side play.
My family’s in Lincolnshire now. I lost my dad three years ago and the last time I went back was for his funeral. It costs quite a bit to get from Cardiff to Lincolnshire, 140 quid sometimes – and that’s just one way. But I’m close with my brothers and sisters, I phone them when I’ve got credit, or if not I write them a letter. If I could get the finances sorted I would love to have a week away with them all.
For more information about the subscription-funded Sheltered Employment Project that Mark takes part in and how you can support it, email email@example.com