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14 January 2020

George G

Photo by James Braund

I was born in Egypt and came here in 1952. My great-great grandfather was Maltese and his wife Italian. My mother is Greek but she was born in Egypt too. I grew up in Clifton Hill up to the age of seven, then I lived in Broadmeadows.

When I was seven or maybe six, my father said to me, “If anyone hits you, you fight back, son.” You don’t tell these things to a little boy that age because something might go wrong, and it did go wrong. When I went to school, I pushed a boy in the trough, and he went and told the nuns. I told them I’m not doing my schoolwork anymore – I couldn’t learn, I couldn’t do my work. The thing is, I was terrific at art, turning and fitting, and woodwork. I was the best artist of the whole school. I was one of the best at woodwork. But maths, science, geometry… I flunked.

When I was in Form One I didn’t pass, so with my brother I went to Broadmeadows Tech. I did an apprenticeship but then I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t remember, I suffered from insomnia… I didn’t finish my apprenticeship; I left when I was 17. After that I had jobs but couldn’t stick to them.

I was a happy boy when I was a child, but now that I’m older I sometimes fear death. I’m 70. How old do you think I look – 44, 50? Do I look 21?!

I had three sisters but the eldest passed away. I’ve got a younger brother and two sisters left. My mother passed away when she was 71. I get sad when I think about my parents and my sister dying.

I’ve been selling The Big Issue for eight months. I sold before – maybe seven years ago – but I didn’t last that long. Didn’t like it that much. But when I tried it the second time, I loved it. I have lots of regular customers. They always stop for a chat, they’re friendly, they smile. I love the kids, they are so cute, and the puppies – I live on top of the world when I see that. My heart fills up with a lot of joy. You know, I never had kids but these kids feel like my family. I adore them. When I tell people the magazine costs $9 people give me $10 and tell me to keep the dollar. They are generous.

The best thing about selling The Big Issue is that it helps me with saving money. It’s good for my mental health.

I want to go back to exercising – walking and doing push-ups. I also want to go back to doing art and carpentry, I’m trying to get some tools and timber.
Susan is my girlfriend. We haven’t been going out for long. I’m a grumpy old man and I can argue every now and then, but I hope to marry Susan. I adore her. She’s the one for me.

Photo by James Braund

Interview by Anastasia Safioleas
George sells The Big Issue on Station Street, Fairfield, Melbourne