Pat Cadwallader, 40, Outside Pret, Marylebone, London

“My life spiralled out of control. It doesn’t take long to lose everything and be left with nothing”

I first became homeless back in 2004, after my dad died. I hadn’t had much contact with him for a while, so when he died it really hit me hard and I turned to drink in a big way. My life spiralled out of control. It really doesn’t take too long to lose everything and be left with nothing.

I was on the streets for about three years, I think. I slept rough in different parts of London but mainly around Victoria. Over time, I began to piece things together. I connected with an outreach team and stayed in a hostel for a while. It wasn’t great but it was okay. There’s a danger you get stuck in these places. But it probably was a necessary step for me.

Selling the magazine began to help me get some confidence back. I got control of my drinking and began to build up my pitch. You get to know London in a different way because of all the customers you speak to during the day. People are pretty busy but there are a lot of nice people who stop for a chat.

People are pretty busy but there are a lot of nice people who stop for a chat

I grew up in Kent, and when I was a young man I was very active, very sporty. I played a lot of football. Every chance I got I was playing football in the park. I was also in the Army Cadets for about 10 years – from 12 to 22. So I did a lot of hiking and trekking back then, on trips with the other cadets. I enjoyed the camaraderie that came with it. And remembering those days has spurred me on to get fit again.

So I’ve signed up to The Big Issue Foundation’s London to Amsterdam Cycle Challenge. I turned 40 this year, and I wanted to prove to myself I could still do something physically demanding like that. I’ve been cycling at weekends to try to prepare myself. My legs get sore, but I think my body’s getting used to it.

Things are really looking up for me. I’ve got my own flat in Camberwell now. After being on the streets for so long, it took a while to get used to having a roof over my head. I’m beginning to feel quite settled.

I’ve also recently become a franchisee for The Big Issue in the Oxford Circus area, so the vendors in the area come to me to pick up their magazines. I’m enjoying the extra responsibility. Things are going well. I’ll keep working hard, whatever I do.

My favourite team… Tottenham Hotspur. I’ve always supported Spurs. Last season was great but I worry this might be a bit of a hangover season.

My favourite band… Queen. Freddie was such a great performer, and the Live Aid concert was probably one of the great live performances.

On my pitch… outside Pret A Manger, Cavendish Square, Marylebone (9.30am to 4pm)

Photo: David Tett

Pret A Manger, Cavendish Square, Marylebone