‘Hello my love!’, the big, cheeky grin accompanied the cockney greeting that bellowed out. ‘You alright? You ‘ave a lovely day!’
My local Big Issue seller near Euston was always smiling, a trendy looking guy with curly hair, maybe late thirties, very personable and always up for a bit of cheeky but fun banter with the commuters. It became a routine part of my journey to see him either on the way into work, or on the way home, come rain or shine.
For the first couple of days he was missing, I didn’t really think too much about it, I just missed seeing his smile and exchanging the brief but regular ‘hello’.
When it became a couple of weeks with no sign of him, and a new Big Issue seller was in situ – a middle aged foreign lady who adopted a completely different, more woeful approach, sitting on the floor wearing a headscarf, rocking backwards and forwards and barking out the occasional single word to passers by – then I felt uplifted, hoping he had got himself sorted and off the streets.
Then much to my surprise, he reappeared one night as I was rushing for my train. As I walked closer to him, he acknowledged me with a grin and having a couple of minutes to spare, I couldn’t resist saying I’d missed seeing him around.
‘Well’, he started. ‘I ‘ad a letter from the Tax office a few weeks ago, but you’ll never believe this..’ He looked at me, holding my attention, and I began to imagine the worst, that he’d been in jail…’they told me they’d made a mistake and they’d sent me a tax refund of £700! So I blew the lot on a flight out to Los Angeles!
I stared at him, my mouth wide open in shock but then I couldn’t resist sharing his big grin as he continued ‘And I can tell you this..it was THE BEST Fxxxin time I’ve ever had in my LIFE. It was amazing!’
I was literally ‘gob smacked!’ My grin still on my face, I had to continue my journey but I gave him a hug and honestly replied that it sounded amazing and what a fab thing to have happened to him.
He was absolutely over the moon and my grin remains, even now, as I think about the adventures he must have had over in the US. Where and how he stayed I dread to think… I can only imagine.
But a few months on and he is once again ‘missing’ – he only stayed a short while after his ‘adventure’ so unless he moved his patch, he must no longer be a Big Issue seller.
I only hope this time he really HAS had an opportunity to move his life on..whether it be off the streets in the UK or maybe – and now I’m grinning from ear to ear again – he’s gone back to the US!
My imagination runs riot, but whatever you’re doing Mr Big Issue near Euston, I wish you well and much happiness…