11 March 2014
Photograph by Joshua Thies
Even against the backdrop of Brisbane’s vibrant West End, Alfred cuts a colourful presence. Every day he unfolds his chair outside the Avid Reader bookshop, rests his multi-coloured walking sticks on the footpath and gets down to business.
Though his legs won’t hold him up anymore after a head-on collision in 2007, Alfred glows with good health at the age of 66. “The car accident was a turning point,” he says. “It stopped me working as a carer. But you just move on and find something else to do. Life is more important than any amount of money.”
Selling The Big Issue gets Alfred up on his pins and out of the house. “I love every minute of it,” he says. “As in all things, you only get out what you put in. I’d like to thank my customers and the [Avid Reader] bookshop people for their conversation and support. They have really embraced me.
“In West End there’s a mixture of lifestyles. People aren’t afraid to show who they are. It’s been a bit different for me. It took an identity crisis and two marriages before I was able to come out and live a gay lifestyle. In the 1970s the taboo was so great you had no choice but to get married. It took me 20 years to accept who I was. Times changed and now it’s easy. Even gay marriage. I say go for it; you have as much right as anyone else.
“I don’t think Mum and Dad ever knew. But it did cause a rift between me and my identical twin brother, which lasted 14 years. I’m happy we reconciled 10 months ago, just before he passed away suddenly. I didn’t think it was fair that it should split us up. Once we got back together we had a lot of fun.”
Alfred is a traveller and plans to hit the road again soon, selling The Big Issue wherever he can. “I’ll go north for a recharge, then maybe Lithgow, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. I’ll never stop travelling. I love to drive. I’ve got a 1996 EL Falcon. I pace myself these days; put the music on, turn it up and let it rip. I’ve got friends all over the country whom I can visit, share expenses and have a laugh. But don’t worry, I’ll be back! I’m not going to forget all my friends.
“I’ve always found it easy to make new friends. My dad had a lot of friends, so maybe that’s where I got it. I even look like him now. I’ll listen to people’s problems, give advice – but if they don’t want to take it on board I don’t mind. I accept people for who they are. I don’t judge them. If I can make them laugh I’m happy.”
And it seems Alfred is happy. “Mr Right might come along but until then I’ll just take life by the horns and get out there!”
Interview by by Judy Johnson/photograph by Joshua Thies
Alfred sells Alfred sells The Big Issue outside Avid Reader bookshop in West End, Brisbane.