When I finally decided to give up busking, I felt a mixture of emotions. Part of me was angry, however, another part of me began to see I had an opportunity to put the past behind me. I knew I couldn’t carry on singing on street corners all my life. I had to move on.
That was all very well in theory, of course. But no one was going to give me a job. It wasn’t because I was stupid, I knew that. Thanks to the IT work I’d done when I was a teenager back in Australia, I was fairly knowledgeable when it came to computers. But I didn’t have any relevant experience in the UK to rely on and if a prospective employer asked me where I’d spent the past ten years, I wouldn’t be able to say I’d been working for Google or Microsoft. So I had to forget that. There wasn’t even any point in my applying to do a training course in computing because they wouldn’t accept me. I had been homeless for years and didn’t even have an O level to my name.
I realised that there was only one option – selling the Big Issue1
. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for something else to turn up. So the next day I set off for Covent Garden. I had to find Sam, the area’s Big Issue
Selling the Big Issue
is not easy. People often come up to you and say “get a job”. They think that the sellers are given the magazines for free but it’s not the case. The philosophy of the Big Issue
is “you have to have money to make money”. You get a small number of free magazines only on the first day. Once you’ve sold them, you purchase further copies for £1.25 and sell them for £2.50, thereby making a £1.25 income per copy. You need to plan carefully how many magazines you buy every day because if you make no money, you can’t afford copies to sell the next day.
I had tried it once, yet, for me it hadn’t worked out. I gave it up after a few months but I could still remember some of the grim, monotonous days I’d spent trying to tempt Londoners to part with their cash in return for a magazine. But I’d been invisible. They would turn their backs on me or do all they could to avoid me. That’s why I’d turned to busking, at least then I had my music to attract people’s attention.
I wouldn’t have considered going back to selling the Big Issue
if it hadn’t been for my cat, Bob. He had transformed my fortunes on the street incredibly. If I could do as well selling the Big Issue
as I’d done busking with Bob, then my life would take a turn for the better.
1Big Issue – a magazine published on behalf of and sold by homeless people.
adapted from A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen