Friday, 13 December 2013

Homeless Big Issue Seller speaks of Preston life

As winter draws in, Andy Devonshire, a Big Issue seller, talks about life on the street, uppity Prestonians and battles with the local wildlife.

With a steely exterior that could only be carved out by our harsh northern weather, and a soft southern drawl, Andy Devonshire is not your everyday bloke. He is a man who lives by his own rules, as I found out recently.   
Andy sells the Big Issue to shoppers in Fishergate, Preston. He typically sells 10 to 15 per day, but it can vary.

“My heat is more important to me than a five minute fix.”

“I don’t make a lot of money, and I don’t apply for the dole,” he says. “That’s why I rely on drops, it happens more at this time of year. Sometimes I get a 10 or 20 pound drop. During the day you don’t think about heat and light but at night it matters.” 

“I’ve got a routine to my life and thats‘s the way I like it,” Andy admits.

A typical day begins at 4am. He wakes up and walks to McDonalds at 5am. After breakfast and some reading, he sells the Big Issue until 8am when he takes a break. At 9 am, he buys more issues from the local depot and sells until 3pm, at which point he eats. He is back asleep by 4pm.
Andy changes location every few months, preferring the change in location: “You find more interesting people moving from city to city than you ever would staying in one place. The way I live, every single day I meet someone new.”
However, it was a ‘big mistake’ coming to Preston as he finds the locals arrogant.

He says: “They’re so uppity here, it’s unbelievable. People in this town will sooner give a pound to a smack head than buy a Big Issue from someone like me. They’re giving the smack head drugs, but not giving me food.

“I don’t drink. If I could afford it I probably would, it would probably keep me warmer. It’s too expensive, and if I did, people wouldn’t buy from me. To be a Big Issue seller, you can’t be on drugs and you can’t be an alcoholic.

“My heat and my light is more important to me than a five minute fix.”

His didn’t always live this way. Andy had a successful contracting business until one day 20 years ago, he came home to find his wife cheating on him with his best friend.

“I paralysed him from the neck down. Got four years in jail for it. When I came out, everything was gone.”

Andy has lived alone in a tent since his time in prison. He keeps warm with a small brass cooker, which he also uses to cook stews and rice. Many would find such a lifestyle intolerable, but Andy would have it no other way.

Andy Devonshire Fact File

    47 years old

    Originally from Torquay

    Living in Preston since August

    Released from prison in 1997

    Has lived rough since release from prison

    Enjoys reading and listening to the radio

    Last used his National Insurance number in 1988

“I think because I spent so long in jail, I have a fear of being in rooms. I don’t like being inside buildings. I see houses and think I could never live there.”

In doing so, he experiences a closeness with wildlife; a fox in particular has taken a liking to him.

“Where I am, I could tell you every little sound outside my tent, whether it’s a rat, fox or badger. I can tell by the way it’s walking, by the way it’s sniffing, by the way it’s scratching the door of the tent!
“A fox keeps nudging the tent at night. He only does it when I’m cooking! Then last night he
tried getting into the tent. He got into the first part stayed there hassling me all night. I think he’s getting tamed.”
One particular gripe of Andy’s is dishonesty. “Always hated it,” he says, giving an example from his youth:
“I always remember that when I was a kid, St Johns Church. Every year they had a fete, and every year it was for the same thing, a new roof. In all those years they had the same fete, I never once saw a new roof.”
Andy Devonshire is a man with unconventional views, but despite all that life has thrown at him, he is adamant that his beliefs have never changed.

“I live my life the way I want to live it.  I don’t owe anyone anything, and nobody owes me. My attitudes haven’t changed, I’m still the same person I was before prison. I kept my integrity.”
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