Paul Smith, 42, Oval Underground Station, London

“My customers have been fantastic. It’s not just Christmas spirit – I think a lot of the public are just amazing, kind people”

I started selling the magazine again about six weeks ago. It’s done me the world of good already. Despite the cold weather at this time of year, my customers have been absolutely fantastic – buying me cups of tea, giving me advice and support. I’m a tea freak and I love a chat, so it’s very much appreciated. It’s not just Christmas spirit – I think a lot of the public are just amazing, kind people.

I actually sold the magazine back in the nineties, right up until 2001. I’m born and bred in London, and I first became homeless after my mum died. I’d been living with her and things fell apart after she went. I got trapped in this cycle of living on the streets.

I first became homeless after my mum died. I’d been living with her and things fell apart after she went

Selling The Big Issue back then allowed me to travel the country quite a bit. I went all round England – Plymouth and Southampton, up to Blackpool and Manchester, then Leeds and Dewsbury. I got on especially well up north, because people are very, very good-natured there. And I picked up fishing when I was in the south-west, so I’ve got fond memories of that time.

I suppose I had itchy feet and selling the magazine kept me out of trouble, but eventually I came back to London. Thanks to the staff at The Big Issue, I eventually found somewhere to live. After some horrible times recently, I’ve come back to it, and it’s helping me get back on my feet.

DID YOU KNOW…

The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

I’m hoping I can continue saving a bit of money, and possibly even find work as a dustbin man again. I did that in south London back in the early 1990s and I quite enjoyed it.

It might be a big, dirty, smelly place, but I wouldn’t change London. Lately, I’ve come to love going round the museums. I like looking at stuff from the Victorian era and 20th century. The Imperial War Museum and the Museum of London are great for that. There’s just something about wandering around in the peace and quiet that keeps me calm, like the fishing used to do.

Lately, I’ve come to love going round the museums. I like looking at stuff from the Victorian era and 20th century

I was a bag of nerves when I started selling the magazine again, but I’ve got some structure back in my life for the first time in a while. It’s exactly what I needed, and I can’t thank The Big Issue staff and my customers enough for their support. I hope everyone has a great Christmas.

My football team… Crystal Palace. We’re having a bad season but I remember the early 1990s team of Mark Bright and Ian Wright with a lot of affection and I’d love to go back to Selhurst Park one day.

My favourite place… Brixham, near Torbay in Devon. It’s a beautiful little fishing town where I spent some time in the 1990s. It’s a dream of a place.

On my pitch… I’m at Oval Tube Station from 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday.

Photo: Shen

Oval Underground Station, London, United Kingdom
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