Tony Flynn, 59, outside M&S, Barnstaple

“I came here after a tough time in my life. It’s a nice, friendly sort of place”

I started selling the magazine here in Barnstaple about a year ago. It’s been going really well in the past few months, now that I’m building up a base of regular customers. It’s a very nice, friendly sort of place. Because it’s the biggest town in north Devon, people come in from all the other villages and towns to do their shopping here. Which is great for me.

I came here after a very tough time in my life. I had worked on the south coast, then in London, as a photocopier engineer. My work with office machinery of all kinds goes back to the early ’80s, and I had kept up with the latest tech in the industry. But I lost my job and my problems in London began to mount from there. I had a breakdown and was in hospital for a spell.

When I started at The Big Issue things really started looking up again

I wanted to get away from the big city, so I moved to Bournemouth. Things were difficult there for a while, and for about six months I was homeless, even sleeping rough for quite a while. I decided to move up to north Devon because I had some family here. It made things a lot easier, and when I started at The Big Issue things really started looking up again.

Recently I got a flat near Barnstaple, so I’m really beginning to get my life back on track. I have my dog Toby now, a lovely little springer spaniel, with me – a loyal companion. He’s so good-natured and gets a lot of attention.

We like to go for good long walks along the River Taw. He’s always darting in and out of the water, so it takes hours to get anywhere. There’s a walk called the Tarka Trail that takes in part of the river, and I believe it used to be an old railway track. That’s a great thing to do on a Sunday.

I’ve also found plenty of good spots here to go fishing. I loved it when I was growing up in South Africa, and it’s something I’ve been able to rediscover. It’s a peaceful way to pass the time, and I have actually managed to catch some fish too.

I’ve found plenty of good spots here to go fishing. It’s a peaceful way to pass the time

Because I hurt my back from all those years of driving around fixing photocopiers, it’s great to get out walking and doing exercise. I’m working hard with The Big Issue, but really enjoying life again and hoping it all works out.

My favourite place… Berry Head. It’s a fantastic spot near the Devon coast to go fishing. I’ve managed to catch mackerel there, which was a treat.

My favourite author… Wilbur Smith. I love the kind of historical thrillers Dan Brown and Frederick Forsyth do, but Wilbur Smith is my favourite and Those in Peril is probably his best one.

On my pitch… I’m outside Marks and Spencer, Monday to Friday from 10am until 4pm

Photo: Julie Wicks

Marks & Spencer Barnstaple, High Street, Barnstaple, United Kingdom