I’ve been selling The Big Issue for 23 years, on and off, from the top of the country to the very bottom. But because my family are in Lincoln I’ve stayed here. I’ve been at this pitch for three years and it’s the longest I’ve settled in one place. I have a four-year-old grandson just outside the city and it means I can see him, not as often as I’d like because of the finances but it’s better than nothing.
I was homeless for 20 years and my dog Stix was with me for 10 of them. I’ve had him for 12 years so he’s an old boy now. He’s with me all day, every day. In 2014 our friends were so sick of seeing us homeless that they wrote letters and made calls on our behalf. It felt like nearly half of Lincoln did something, and the council looked at my illnesses and it turned out that because I’m so poorly they had to house me.
So Stix and I now have a one-bedroom flat just off High Street. I used to have a beautiful view of the cathedral but someone has built three flats right in front of my window so it blocks my view. Oh well, there are worse things.
I’m a horticultural engineer by trade, I repaired tractors, combine harvesters, sugar beet machines
I’m a horticultural engineer by trade, I repaired tractors, combine harvesters, sugar beet machines. I’d love to go back to it but I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and irritable bowel system, so I haven’t got the body strength any more. I even struggle selling the magazine some days – if it’s really warm or too cold I can’t breathe properly.
It can be hard but I can’t be employed so this is my business. I love every second of it, friends come up to us every day and I’ve always got time to have a chat and find out how they are.
Yesterday, a customer, who knows I suffer with IBS, got me a gluten-free meal. She’s one in a million, if she doesn’t see us for a couple of days she phones to make sure we’re okay.
Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.
Lincoln’s a city where 99 per cent of people are caring. One day a guy came up and took a photo of Stix and me. I said: “Excuse me, manners would be nice.” He told me to fuck off and get a job. I said: “This is my own business. Have a nice day.” He stopped dead in his tracks and told me not to be stupid.
But later on he came back and bought a magazine, and he came back the week after that and said: “Keep it up.” And he buys one every week now.
In the fast lane… I love rallycross and motorcycling. One day I saw Ivan Lintin, one of my favourite TT riders, going into M&S and he signed one of my magazines. I’ve got a few of my favourite riders’ autographs on Big Issue magazines.
My grand tour… I’ve travelled all over the country and lived in every major town and city. My favourite areas are Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Norfolk but Lincoln is home.
On my pitch… I’m on High Street, Lincoln, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, seven days a week.
Photo: Phil CrowMarks & Spencer Lincoln, High Street, Lincoln LN5 7AU