Mark, Waterstones, Leeds city centre

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We last spoke in 2015. How’s life been since then?
Well, 2016 was a very hard year. A few bad things happened to me. I got robbed in the summer. I was coming to sell the magazine one Sunday morning, and three lads came and jumped me, knocked me down, kicked me in the back and nicked my rucksack off me. This bloke stopped in his car and chased them but they ran off and he didn’t catch them. The police did catch them though because they robbed someone else a month later.

‘All the Waterstones staff chipped in and got me a new rucksack’

What effect did that have on you?
It did my back in for a couple of weeks but people were really supportive. When I got back to my pitch on the Monday morning and I told the manager of Waterstones what happened, all the staff chipped in and got me a new rucksack. They are nice people there.

What else happened last year?
I got a chest infection over winter. It was bad. I ended up in hospital for two weeks just after Christmas but they were short of beds so they let me out with some antibiotics, but a few weeks later I got sick again and I had to go back into hospital. I was very poorly and I lost a lot of weight, which will take me a long time to put back on.

What caused the chest infection, do you think?
I think it’s from the bedsit that I’m living in. It’s got damp there and it’s affecting my health now. I’m trying to get it sorted. My landlord has been out and had a look at it. It needs treating to stop the dampness coming through. Another lad in the building had the same problem as me.

Has this year started off better for you?
Yeah, it has, thanks. I’m happy and I’m on the mend now, this year has been all right so far.

What are your plans for this year?
To try and find a nice job one day.

Have you any family?
No, they are all dead. I saw my dad when he died, but I wasn’t there with my mum. I didn’t want my troubles coming to her anyway, so I kept away from my mum.

What was the start of your troubles?
A relationship breakdown was part of my troubles. My ex-girlfriend walked out on me and left her five-year-old kid with me. She said: “I’m just going out to get some stuff” and I never saw her again. It was a shock. I looked after him for about six months but it was too much for me. He is with her mother now. That was a long time ago. Also, I lost my job selling the Evening Post in Leeds when we all got laid off. That’s how I first ended up homeless.

When did you last have a holiday?
A holiday? This is my holiday – life. The last time I went on a proper holiday I was at school. And then I worked in Germany on a building site for a while in the late 80s, a long time ago.

What makes you happy?
Life, I suppose. I’m always happy. Every morning I say good morning to everyone, even if they don’t buy the magazine. It’s a great pitch. I’ve got some nice customers and they worry when I’m not there.

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