Big Christmas Issues

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It’s hard to believe three years have gone by since I wrote a blog about the Big Issue. A lot has changed since then, Bob the Cat has become famous… and a lot has not changed. The price of a Big Issue is the same, £2.50 and £3.00 in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Sellers buy it for half that price.  Homeless people are still with us. Not all Big Issue sellers are homeless, but I’m pretty certain they are not living at the better end of the housing market.

James, the chap I bought my first Big Issue from, was on his pitch for a good while and was easy to chat to; Big Issue sellers are as varied as any group of people and the ones standing up, who are easy to talk to make it more comfortable. It is better to be looking up to someone as an ordinary person earning a living, than looking down on someone huddled on the pavement.

One day James wasn’t there any more, then another chap, Mark, appeared and said James had got a job and a place to live. The page I first turn to is the seller of the week, giving a glimpse into lives on a positive note. Mark has somewhere to live, but it doesn’t sound very secure or salubrious.

Of course the issues remain the same as in my first blog, you pass other Big Issue sellers and feel guilty because you already have this week’s edition. We have a woman at our local shops who I often buy from and have ended up buying the same issue from her and Mark. But buying the Big Issue is a much simpler issue than our attitude to the homeless or those who approach you asking for money.

Shoppers, eyes lowered, pass hurriedly by people huddled in shop doorways; they are embarassed or not sure, or wonder why people from all over the world have jobs in their local shops and restaurants, while this young able bodied person is just sitting in a doorway. Perhaps they would rather spend their hard earned money buying goods for the food bank box. The local council has homeless outreach teams, but people aren’t always easy to help. On local Facebook groups it is always a topic guaranteed to raise disagreement; give food or money? Genuine or con artist?

If we have very cold weather this happens…

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)

St Mungo’s, the rough sleeper team, will be making every effort to offer shelter to all people sleeping rough during extreme weather.

Does that make us feel less guilty because we know for sure  something is being done?

 

As for the magazine, it is a good read, so if you have never bought a copy try it, spalsh out three pounds on a Christmas edition. The cover in the picture was the winner of a competition for children to design a cover and had many entries.

Read my blog from 2016.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/christmas-issue/

 

Christmas Issue

‘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.