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30 April 2020

Jeromy

Photo by Barry Street

I was born and raised in Tamworth, New South Wales, the country music capital of Australia. At one stage I was living literally 200 metres down the road from The Golden Guitar.

At school, I only went as far as Year 10. I think that the teachers gave me just-passable grades to kick my butt out of there quick-smart. I didn’t know it until I left high school, but I was ADHD my entire life, so I was very hard to manage. One teacher actually said, unless it’s something I want to learn or something that sparks my interest or is something a few grades above me – work that actually challenges my mind – it was hard to keep me interested.

From age two onwards, you couldn’t prise me out of my dad’s pocket. Basically, once I was able to walk, I was always tagging along with my dad. He got me into building speedway cars, repairing my own motorbike – he gave me an old clanger of a bike – and things like that. I’ve always been into motorbikes, cars, BMXs, mountain bikes: basically anything that can go fast and you can do something stupid on.

It was extremely hard when Dad died. I was 15. At the time I was still undiagnosed ADHD. I went on a bit of a stupid rampage, tried to join my father a few times. I eventually ended up getting myself a nasty habit with alcohol and painkillers due to a bad car accident. I thought that by trying to join him wherever he was, that I might be able to save him or bring him back. Thirty-odd years later it still hurts.

I became a labourer – a carnie – travelling with the show. And with the show I did about six or eight years up and down the eastern seaboard with a group of guys. I ended up always doing the Ekka [Royal Queensland Show], because I loved it. I mostly worked on the kids’ jumping worm and the Phantom Loop – it’s a roller-coaster basically. It takes you around about six or eight times at 80km an hour in a giant loop, while you’re strapped in. I used to love going on it because one of the comics I’ve always read was The Phantom. Of course, the Phantom Loop was the first thing I picked out because it’s giant, it’s purple and it goes really fast. It was everything I wanted!

I moved to Brisbane about 24 years ago. One day, we were walking past Queens Plaza and I ran into our now recently passed-away vendor, Brian. He was a great guy. He’d literally give you the shirt off his back. And you could just see how it made him feel good to go out and sell. It gave him a bit of pride, a bit of happiness, to be out there meeting people. So three years ago when I started selling The Big Issue, that was one of the reasons why. The main rule that I live by is that if you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know.

Interview by Melissa Fulton
Jeromy usually sells The Big Issue outside Officeworks on Adelaide St, and at Valley Malls, Brisbane