Rob, Waitrose, Longfield, Kent

Since he got his boat, Rob has worked very hard to renovate it and has now moved in – but there's still much more to do

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Things are not good at the moment. No one’s got any money because the price of gas and electricity has gone through the roof and the trains have gone on strike for four days this month. I’m coming from Faversham, and it means I have to go down to three days a week because I can’t get to my pitch. It’s more than £20 a day for the train fare. When I first started getting a weekly ticket it was £80, now it’s £90. It’s a lot of money, and when you don’t buy a ticket they nick you for it. I try and explain the situation and that I don’t have any money. 

I want to keep selling the magazine in Longfield because I like it. I’ve been there a long time, like 20 years. Everyone knows me there and I know them. Since lockdown so many people have passed away and just vanished off the face of the earth. It’s been sad to learn about customers who have passed away but it’s just life, we have to carry on. 

I’ve got a boat to live on now, so I spend a lot of time in Faversham. I’ve had the boat about three years and I’ve been doing it up. I’ve been living in it for about nine months. It’s been hard, really hard. I’ve never done anything like it before, it’s my first project. 

I had a bit of money in the bank, that’s why I bought the boat. I paid up my rent for six months and then I was living off my savings basically. Since then I’ve done up about four feet of one side and eight feet of the other and then I’ve just run out of money. So what I’ve done is I’ve smashed a load of pallets up and I’ve done the inside in pallet wood so it’s recycled timbers. They’ve got to be rubbed back down and filled and sanded a little bit then I’m going to just clear varnish them. I’m off the water in the boatyard. It’s not bad, it’s better than living on the streets. 

I was homeless, sleeping on Victoria Street in London when the magazine first came out and I’ve been selling since then. I was young, I was about 20. I’d packed my bag and went to the streets and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. The streets either make you or break you. It hasn’t broken me. It’s made me the man I am today. I’m not going to change that. I go down to my pitch, I go and get the trolleys for the old ladies, I get the disabled trolleys for customers. It’s what you do, isn’t it? Thanks to my customers for their support, especially through the time that we are having.  

Just as the pandemic hit I was planning on walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End. That’s been postponed, cancelled until further notice. The dog’s too old now – Molly’s nine and a half. Three years ago she was nice and fit but now I walk about half a mile and she’s done. She’s got arthritis as well now.  

I do a bit of fishing away from my pitch, in fact when the train strikes were on recently that’s what I did. I got a two-and-a-half-pound catfish the other week but that’s about it for big catches. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and I like the relaxation of it.  

At the moment, I’m just looking to survive. If things don’t pick up for Christmas I’m going to have to jack it in. I’m struggling now and it’s dead out there. It’s all a knock-on effect, we’ve just come out of lockdown and then the electricity bills just going up and people just ain’t got the money. I don’t really have much hope the people in charge will sort it. We’ll just have to keep struggling and hope it changes. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Waitrose Ltd, Station Road, Longfield, UK