Photograph by James Braund
MY EARLY LIFE – I grew up in Brighton, very middle-class upbringing. My mum was a good Richmond girl, working class, but my father was the opposite. I haven’t seen my brother in ages, lost his phone number. I started binge drinking when I was 14 or 15, then pot, and I kept upgrading, upgrading...
Well, I thought it was upgrading, but not really.
When I came to the Issue [around 1997] I was trying to give it up, to let myself know I was trying and to please other people. So I gave up, and it worked for ages, till I had a mild relapse.
I’m very single now, living alone. I was engaged – we still see each other, we’re good friends. I’m just in a rooming house at the moment, but now I’m over 55 I’m on a list – I might be getting an upgrade soon. Something with my own shower, toilet, bathroom.
I’ve totally uprooted where I worked in Melbourne, because when I kept going away to Sydney other people worked my pitches, like Piedemonte’s [supermarket] in North Fitzroy. So I built up some brand-new ones in Toorak and Hampton.
I’ve eased off, because winter’s been very cold; I don’t usually do that. But I’m at the Tok H Centre in Toorak Road, out the back in the car park mostly. On weekend mornings I work at the Domain Road cafes in South Yarra, near the Botanic Gardens.
People are basically kind to you. Even though three and a half thousand walk past you every day, a few find you; you don’t have to find them. If you’ve done it long enough, they find you.
When I got back from Sydney in 2010 my health failed, major. I had pancreatitis. The pain of it… They said ‘never drink again, you could die’. I haven’t had a drink since. These health problems have nailed me to the hospital bed, going to check-ups and that. It’s ongoing. I’ve got a hernia, had to get it operated on, and kept popping the damn stitches. I’m over it!
I’m sitting here admiring my brand-new bike. I did something positive, bought myself a new Giant commuter bike. I’m a city rider, basically. I put my bike on the train, and then I can ride home from work. When the southeaster is behind you in summer, all the way back [home], it’s good.
I listen to SEN [sports radio], watch [AFL] footy on the television, St Kilda. They’re growing up, not having a bad year, rebuilding and looking good for the future, I’d say. I can’t afford to go to the matches.
I’ve got a goal – in a few years I want to save my Big Issue money to go on regular holidays to a warmer climate and get back into surfing again. I was good at it; lived for it. Maybe sell in Brisbane, and surf.
It’s not like my life is a tragedy or anything. I’m going along, working every day and surviving. Thank God for The Big Issue. I’ll do this till I get too old to stand up!
interview by Peter Ascot photograph by James Braund
This article frist appeared in Ed#490 of The Big Issue.