‘Big Issue, Big Issue’ a phrase heard by most of us quite often unless we live in the remote countryside. Until last week I always said ‘No thank you’ or slipped by in the crowd, feeling guilty when the seller said ‘Have a nice day.’
Lots of people no longer carry cash, but that was not my excuse. There is no issue with selling the Big Issue; it is not begging, but a straightforward transaction, without the minefield of indecision when faced with people begging. The police and councils urge us not to give directly, but to support homeless charities. If someone is busking, playing an instrument well without electronic backing and cheering everybody up, I’m happy to put some money in the violin or guitar case.
I have always thought, are there not other jobs in the warm, not standing all day, that these people could be given? One thing I know about the Big Issue is you should always take your copy. The Big issue Manifesto says ‘…a handout up, not a handout… always take your copy.’ A while back a family member told me ‘I bought a Big Issue, well I told him I didn’t want a copy, but I gave him £2.00 and told him to keep the change.’ ‘No… ‘ I cried ‘what about his pride… and anyway, it costs £2.50!’
Magazines have a strange habit of piling up unread. Over the years I have bought magazines I need or want, Radio Times because I love the radio, ‘Parents’, gardening, knitting, writing. I avoid glossy magazines about ultra successful glamorous women or ‘Real Life’ supermarket mags about distinctly unglamorous women.
So it would be hypocritical to buy a magazine I wasn’t sure I wanted because I couldn’t browse through it in a shop. Are the many Big Sellers I have passed grateful I have spared their pride? The other issue; even if you buy a copy every week, you will probably pass half a dozen different sellers and have to apologise that you already have a copy.
The other week we passed a new chap on our way for coffee and my friend remarked she had seen him before and he wasn’t selling many, because he wasn’t engaging with the public; we had soon invented a back story for him, ex serviceman etc. Before we got to the table to meet the other friends she had delved into her purse and disappeared back outside, returning with her Big Issue. I felt doubly guilty, so last week I bought a copy off the same chap and had a nice chat with him.
As I had a long bus journey that evening the lightweight magazine was ideal and in a couple of days I had read it from cover to cover; it was full of engaging articles about people of all sorts and what could be more interesting for a writer? I was filled with virtuous zeal and determined to buy the next issue and tell him how much I enjoyed it. I passed by another half dozen sellers in the meantime, but this week he wasn’t there!
Plan B; the least I can do is e-mail the letters page of Big Issue to enthuse and buy this week’s copy from the next seller I see.