A few years ago I had a nervous breakdown through overworking. I worked as a manager for a house in a multiple occupation block, running the place. But I jacked it in, not thinking about my house being tied to the job. Things had got too much.
So, having been a housing manager, I was homeless. I lived in a cave for about a year – a sea cave above the high tide line. It was safe and I kept myself warm enough in my tent. It was fine until the local authority threw me out.
I decided to walk along the south coast, from Margate to Bournemouth, with my dog Chloe. By the time I’d arrived I only had 29 pence in my pocket. So I went into The Big Issue office.
Someone immediately realised there was a problem. I was in a bad way, suffering from depression and low self-respect. But they got me badged up and helped me apply for Employment and Support Allowance.
I got a good pitch at the library, and people around me – customers and people in shops and cafés – were very supportive and friendly. That helped immensely and I started to get my confidence back. Selling the magazine has been great. I’m in a far better place.
I still struggle with depression but I agree with what Chrissie Hynde said in her interview in The Big Issue recently – better to fight it than give in to it.
When a new pitch came up next to M&S the owner asked for me personally – I’m a well-known vendor in the town. I was quite proud of that.
I’m also an arts advocate for the Bournemouth Arts By the Sea Festival. Last year I did everything from helping erect tripods to acting as a fire marshall at the theatre. I’ll be doing more organising this year – running around like a headless chicken, no doubt.
Bournemouth is a lovely place, just right for me – I prefer being out of the city or along the coast. There’s great walks here and I love walking along the coast with Chloe. I’ve made a lot of progress – I have a little flat now.
Life isn’t perfect by any means but I’m in a better place than I’ve been for years.
One man & his… Chloe, my dog, is nine years old now. She’s an Irish Staffordshire bull terrier and she’s with me all the time. I’ve had her since she was 12 weeks old so we’ve been together a long time.
On my pitch… I’m there from 8.30am until around 2.30pm most days, some days I’ll work longer into the afternoon.
This article is taken from ‘The Big Issue’ 2015