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Our vendors: Simon (The Big Issue Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Interview by Peter Ascot and Matt Stedman, The Big Issue Australia 

My parents were from the UK, but I was born and grew up in [South Australian city] Whyalla. Dad was a crane driver with [mining company] BHP and mum stayed at home.

I had an older sister and two younger twin sisters.

I loved fishing, BMX riding and a lot of ‘roo shooting – we used to sell the skins and eat the meat.

I was a bit of a loner, liked spending time by myself.

Simon sells The Big Issue Australia in Adelaide. Photo: Nat Rogers

I did army and ambulance cadets from ages 13 to 17. It was weird that for one I was learning how to kill, and the other I would learn how to heal someone!

At 18 I moved to Adelaide. Just rocked into a really big city, didn’t know anything or anybody, and it all spiralled downwards from there.

I was homeless, hung out with others and got into drugs.

I was addicted to speed and heroin; you name it. I also had a problem with drinking. This was on and off for 30 years.

During this time I did odd jobs: metal polishing, security systems, worked at vineyards. I wasn’t able to hold down a job for long though, or housing.

I went back to Whyalla for a year or two, doing a TAFE [vocational] course.

I met a woman and we had a son and a daughter. Mum and daughter still live in Whyalla and my son Tom is living with me at the moment; we’re really close.

At 36 years old I went to rehab. People there were really helpful. I’ve also been going to AA meetings regularly, which really helps – 18 months sober now.

Five years ago, I got introduced to Street Soccer through rehab, and went to the 2012 Street Soccer Festival in Sydney, playing on the floating pitch. It was great fun.

I still had a drinking problem, but once I got the alcohol out of the way I discovered I had a lot of time on my hands, had to find something else to do.

I signed up with The Big Issue in March 2015, figured it was a good way to meet people outside of the alcohol circle.

“At 36 years old I went to rehab. People there were really helpful. I’ve also been going to AA meetings regularly, which really helps – 18 months sober now”

It’s been really good. Back when I was drinking, I’d see the really dark, seedy side of people here in Adelaide. But since selling the magazine I’ve met some really nice, genuine people. I like my regulars who talk to you and ask how things are going.

I sell outside Artisan [cafe] from 11 o’clock to 2 o’clock and Hungry Jack’s [burger restaurant] from 2 o’clock onwards.

The best thing about The Big Issue is being able to eat every day, and that it is flexible – you can set your own hours. If something comes up or you’re having a bad day you can quit for the day and come back.

My son and I have housing. I’m a bit of a gamer – Call of Duty, Battlefield, first-person shooter games. Mess around on the internet with my son, got the PlayStation hooked up and we sit back and play against people from all over the world.

Depending on finances, hopefully in the next three years I’ll be able to visit the UK, see where my family comes from.

We share a vendor story like this every Wednesday, you can read more of them here.

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