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6 March 2019


Vendor Claire

Claire sells The Big Issue in Perth.

I’ve been told I have a memorable smile that lights up a room and a cheeky glint in my eyes! I’m an optimist at heart. It is my quickness to laughter, and ease in seeing the funny and absurd side of life, that has got me through the good and bad times.

I have fond memories of growing up in Rhodesia. I remember Mum making milk, butter and ice cream on our farm. My dad worked as an insurance broker, and although we didn’t always spend lots of time together, I loved him dearly. He had an excellent sense of humour.

My sister, brother and I went to boarding school, going home every other weekend and school holidays. I used to dread going home and then dread going back to school, but once I was home I was happy and once I was back at school I was happy. Recently I have been trying to remember this lesson: when there is doubt in my heart, but my gut feels good, I say go for it.

I moved to Australia in 1982 when I was 17. We moved because it was too dangerous to stay, but I didn’t want to leave. I was distraught to leave my cat and dog. In my twenties I wanted to understand myself, and I became curious and philosophical about my inner world.

On this search, I met some beautiful and interesting people, but also some dangerous people. Sometimes people pretend they want to help you, but they actually demean and demoralise you. I lost my sense of self. I got into drugs and, looking back, was in quite a vulnerable situation.

Around 30, I realised that something was not right. I wanted to feel safe, and get away from controlling and negative people. I went into hospital. It was scary as hell; I was forced to take medicine. On reflection, it made me sicker.

This led to a period of uncertainty. I ended up in various homeless hostels. Being homeless is not easy but, for the first time in my life, I made real and deep friendships. Before that I think I had found it hard to find my people. I had always felt a little left out.

I have been in stable independent accommodation for a long time now. It is great to be independent, but it is good to know I have people to talk to if I need.

I have always loved working, I’ve had about 20 different jobs – bookkeeping, car decaling, a secretarial job… I even managed a Jeans West store.

I found out about The Big Issue from my hero, David. He is a vendor, and we became fast friends living in the same place. The first time I sold the mag was alongside David. We had a ball. That was September 2016 and I have not looked back.

I like selling The Big Issue because people are so kind. It is amazing to have quality time with strangers. It gives me something to do, it’s flexible and I love the magazine. The content is great, better than any other paper or magazine, and there is always something that makes me laugh.

It’s tiring putting yourself out there, and I need time to recharge by spending time alone. I meditate, I work on my art, play guitar, cook vegetarian meals. Who knows what the future will bring? I have a strong need to nurture, and I have always wanted to raise children. And of course I want to keep laughing!

Photo by Ross Swanborough

Interview by Andrew Joske
Claire sells The Big Issue at Town Hall, Perth.