Big Issue Vendor

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Martin McKenzie, 39, Stroud Green Road, London'I’ll be looking out for a few of the locals who can’t get out as much'

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Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.

The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.

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Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.

I’m going to be on my pitch right up until the last minute. They’re selling like hot cakes at the moment because everybody’s aware of the situation. But then… there is no plan for my income. The Big Issue is supposed to represent a step up, that’s the way I’ve always treated it. If you put the effort in you will always get the result you’re after. But if I can’t sell I can’t really make an income. Last time during lockdown I was living off foodbanks and when I heard about food vouchers I got one of them. The council also gave me £50 of supermarket vouchers so I was kind of living off whatever was on offer. Some of the food you get you don’t like, or it’s just on the tail end, and without sounding ungrateful I’m quite funny about what I put in my body. But you just have to force it down for the sake of the nutrients.

I’m not going to lie, I anticipated this could happen. I’ve stocked up on some long-life stuff. I had thought that maybe the way they were dealing with it we were going to reduce the R number, but on closer observation of people’s day-to-day activities I can see this was inevitable. People are ignoring the rules. Without playing the blame game, people are throwing illegal parties. I’m still hearing it to this day. ‘Oh, I’m feeling rough, I was at a party last night.’

It’s soul-crushing. I’ve been doing everything carefully and safely and yet I’ll pay a high price for this lockdown. And I like being out here mingling with people, I don’t like sitting on my own. I’m still trying to work out other ways of pulling in money. [Martin also runs a mobile bike repair business in London]. I’ve got a few reassurances from customers that they’ll keep me in mind whenever something goes wrong with their bikes.

Mentally I reckon I’ll be alright. I’ve been through a lot worse. And this is a great community. I’ve been getting lots of phone numbers, for example. I didn’t expect that. My customers are all giving me their numbers and they want me to keep in contact with them during lockdown. And there’s a handful of us with our birthdays over the next month. December 1 is my 40th and I’m on lockdown! It’s a big one for me, I don’t normally go on about my birthday but the 40th is a big deal. You’ve lasted four decades and you’re still going strong.

I do get depressed but I can always get myself out of it. It takes a lot to knock me down. I don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a way out. I’ll occupy myself – that’s how I deal with these situations. As long as I’m busy my head will be fine so I’ll be making sure to fill my days up with something. And I’ll be looking out for a few of the locals who can’t get out as much. I did that in the last lockdown but I’ve taken on an additional two this time. I’ll be doing their shopping, going to the chemist for them, that sort of thing. They have to shield because they’re older and even when we weren’t on lockdown I could tell they were struggling quite a lot. I know their sons and their daughters as well so there’s a massive level of trust there. They’re like family to me, there’s no other way of putting it.

Photo: Orlando Gili

Stroud Green Road, London, UK
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