It’s been going really well on my pitch since I returned. It’s a time of great uncertainty for people and people are trying to get back to whatever normal is these days. I’ve had an awful lot of positivity and in a smallish town like Wadebridge you are part of the community. People are stopping and talking to me and they’re pleased to see me, I’m pleased to see them. I missed them. I missed the daily conversations you have with people. It’s really good to be back. You only realise that you miss that positivity you get from people when it’s gone. My spirit lifted when I was back.
Lockdown was difficult at first. Steve [Carter, The Big Issue’s Sales and Operations team leader for Devon and Cornwall] was in touch every week and we also got the cash payments, which were welcome. At first it was like you could take your foot off the pedal and have a rest. But as soon as you could exercise again I walked the coastal path, I got my tent and my backpack and walked about 520 miles in four weeks. I really felt for people isolating in tower blocks with kids in inner cities.
I’ve been selling the magazine for about a year. I’m from the Midlands initially, but I moved down to Cornwall about 18 months ago looking for gardening work and found it impossible to find any. All my savings were gone and I maxed out all my credit limits. Steve gave me the pitch in Wadebridge and overnight I had money coming in and I didn’t have to rely on foodbanks. At the moment someone is letting me put my tent in their field and before that I was living in my car, although I managed to lock down indoors with a friend to stay safe.
Recently I had a different car but the clutch went and it was going to cost £800 to repair it. It was devastating that I had lost that – I have to pick up my magazines from Truro, and to get there and back can cost £15 every day on the bus. Steve from the office went through all the free ads, Gumtree and eBay and sourced a car for me for £250, money which I had to borrow from a friend but have now paid back through my mag sales. I’m sure Steve had things he would have preferred to have been doing and it must have taken him ages – his job is to make sure vendors are OK and he did that so wonderfully for me. I’ve had a few difficult times in the last few weeks and he has been so supportive.
As well as selling the magazine to save some money, I get a bit of gardening work and decorating work from my customers. I’ve done lots of other things in the past. I used to be an investment analyst in the City in my late teens and I was even a trekking guide for a few years taking people up mountains in Nepal, Morocco, Spain and France. It was straightforward but just very high!
I remember looking down from the mountain and seeing planes beneath me. People would freak out when their oxygen levels decreased, I was there to hold their hand. After the financial crisis in 2008 I couldn’t get any work as a trekking guide so I ended up running a campsite, and through that I ended up gardening. But I’m 50 now and I need to find something a bit less taxing.
My main preoccupation for my mind is trying to find a home. It’s proving impossible. There seem to be fewer properties to let at the moment and so many people after them. And so many obstacles and barriers too. But I’m experiencing a lot of positivity and support – The Big Issue has been wonderful for me.