Gary, Chester

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve been selling Big Issue North for more than 12 years. I’m 54 years old, I’m from Liverpool and I still live here but I travel over to Chester every day to sell there.

Why do you sell in Chester?
I love Chester. I love getting up, getting over there on the train. It’s a good day out and I love the town centre and the people there are brilliant. I’ve been selling there for a long time so I have some great customers who I know really well.

‘What makes me happy? Putting a smile on people’s faces.’

You’ve got children, haven’t you?
I’ve got two girls. And I’m a one parent family now. My partner died about seven years ago. When she died I thought I could rely on my mum for help but she died just five days later. It was very difficult and even now I try not to think about it, but I’ve got to stay strong for my kids. They were seven and three when my partner died. It’s hard sometimes, being a single dad, but I just get on with it. Now one of my daughters is a teenager so it’s especially hard to understand her. When I was growing up, I had three brothers so I’m not used to having to deal with teenage girls! And me and the washing machine have never been so close.

Why do you sell the magazine?
To put a couple of quid on the table. My education isn’t very good. I’ve not had many other jobs. When I was younger my family all split up, my mum and dad divorced and I nearly ended up on the streets. I left school and I got into the drugs scene. Things went haywire for a while and I started selling the magazine then. After my partner and my mum died I realised that if I didn’t sort my life out I was going to lose everything. I knew if I stayed on the drugs I’d lose the kids. I went to NA meetings and they really helped me. I’d advise those to anyone. I’m proud to say I’m clean.

You have a customer who lives in Australia, don’t you?
It’s weird how that came about. I have a customer, this lady who is in her nineties. She turned up with her daughter one day and introduced me to her. Then her daughter moved to Australia. When she was back over to visit her mum she made a special effort to come and see me and she said that she usually buys a Big Issue there. Now whenever she is over she makes it her business to come and see me and she brings me copies of the Australian Big Issue. I didn’t know before I met her that there were different street papers all across the world.

What makes you happy?
Putting a smile on people’s faces. I like waking up and knowing I haven’t done anyone any harm, and seeing my kids get up and getting them to school.

What do you hope for in the future?
I take each day as it comes. I don’t want to make plans because I don’t know what’s around the corner. I just want to keep going and keep looking after my kids.

What do you do in your spare time?
Are you having a giraffe?! What spare time? When my kids are asleep, I can have a bit of a rest.

Do you have a message for your customers?
I love them. May they keep on coming.

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