15 December 2016

Magoo, Brisbane

Photograph by Jacob Pedersen

My name’s Magoo and I used to live under a bridge. Now I live under a BBQ.

I had a lot of issues with my family growing up. My folks didn’t want me around, and I was picked on at school. When I was 14 I was kicked out of home and basically told to make my own way in life, so I left school too and have been homeless ever since.

I started off on the streets in Newcastle, mostly squatting in houses, or sometimes I’d work as a fruit picker, sleeping out in the parks. The streets were a way of having your own family; there was always a group of people looking after each other. These days not everyone’s like that. Good mates are hard to come by.

I’ve seen a lot on the streets – there’s a lot of drugs and other stuff out there. Seen stabbings, people getting bashed, seen people jump on heads and break legs. Even found a dead body once – that kind of stuff sticks with you. But the other side of that is when you’re really down you’ve got nothing to lose, you can really only get better.

My health’s suffered from being on the streets, too. I caught Hep C and have had cirrhosis of the liver, but the worst was 13 years ago when I had cancer in my kidney. They messed up the kidney removal and had to do emergency surgery to keep me alive. They got the cancer, but I still suffer a lot of pain and discomfort from it, and I know it could come back any day.

I gave up all sorts of drugs when I got cancer, and have been clean ever since. But that’s not the only good thing that came from going through cancer – I also met a woman. She was working in the ward, helping the people who were fighting cancer. She’d lost her husband to cancer a couple of years earlier, and that’s how we connected.

We never got married, but I do love her. She lives with her family now so we can’t live together, but I sometimes think about what might have been. I head down to visit her every week or so and do the mowing and the weeding, and she washes my clothes. I do little things, like take her out, cook her dinners or buy her chocolates to cheer her up.

I was a Big Issue vendor 13 years ago, and since coming back 18 months ago I’ve come a long way. To anyone who comes past to buy a magazine or help me out with a feed, I thank you. Selling the magazine has made me more positive, more confident talking to people, not as shy. Whenever someone stops to buy one now I’ll come out of my shell a bit and have a chat.

Stuff like that can really keep you going, you know? You get that rush, not from a drug, but just from a basic human connection. That kind of thing makes you want to get up again tomorrow, get out there and give it another go

This article first appeared in Ed#518 of The Big Issue.

Interview by Kurt Maroske
Magoo sells The Big Issue at cnr Albert and Adelaide sts, Brisbane.