Nick Cuthbert, M&S Lemon Quay, Truro
As well as the magazine, Nick sells Christmas cards with a picture of him and his dog, Bryony, to raise money for local homeless charity St Petrocs
Things have been up and down recently. Some days have been diabolical and I’ve sold about seven magazines, but then there are days like today when I do 30-odd. A lot of people only buy the magazine at Christmas. I do little things all year round for people like calling them taxis, picking up their shopping trolleys or carrying their shopping, and a lot of people give you a Christmas bonus. I sell Christmas cards with a picture of me and my dog Bryony in tabards on them to raise money for St Petrocs, who look after people without homes around here. We started last year and tried them for a pound and sold 200 of them. We’re doing it again this year.
I started selling The Big Issue 20 years ago because I broke my leg and I couldn’t work. I sold the magazine in London and then a bit around Glastonbury before I ended up settling in Cornwall. It’s nice. It gets busy in the summer and then we have all the lovely beaches to ourselves. I like the people in Truro, they’re good people. I can’t go anywhere without being recognised here, I always have to be on my best behaviour. Walking around in the morning it’s “Morning, morning, morning” everywhere.
I’ve lost so many customers in the last few years – many of my customers are elderly ladies and gentlemen, and I probably could have done a funeral every month this year. I just lost my mum as well. She got cremated the other day. It was old age in the end. She was driving and playing badminton then one fall and she was three months in hospital and then dementia kicked in and she couldn’t move. But I still have to keep that smile going.
My dog Bryony’s 13 now and her walk has become a very slow one. She gets a taxi home or a lift from my girlfriend when she finishes work. We don’t live together but she’s got two kids and I helped bring up the youngest who thinks I’m like his dad anyway. My older stepson is an electrician – he’s got all the tools and he’s very handy, so he and the younger one helped me work on the converted horsebox truck I’ve been living in since the first lockdown. Bless their cotton socks. I couldn’t have done it without them.
It’s nice, we’ve got a wood burner, the back bit where horses used to be, the bed and Bryony’s settee. I don’t think the cost of living will affect me too much. I live in two acres of woods so I have loads of wood, that’s not a problem. I don’t really have any expenditures, other than gas from a bottle for the cooker, and I don’t use much of that. This is what I’ve always said: if I’d moved into accommodation I would have had to sign on for benefits, I’d have had bills coming out my hair and I would have ended up homeless again. The Big Issue is my only income.
I still enjoy selling The Big Issue. I wouldn’t still be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. I haven’t had a week off since Covid – I do six days a week without fail. It takes a lot for me not to be there. I like the freedom of it, I don’t have to be in tomorrow if I don’t want to. But I am because it keeps me sane. It stops me from getting depressed because you’ve got to smile with The Big Issue. You can’t be ill or in a bad mood. And I wouldn’t have this network of people who know me without The Big Issue.
Thank you to all my lovely customers for your support. I hope you have a lovely Christmas.
Interview: Liam Geraghty
Marks and Spencer, Lemon Quay, Truro, UK