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Big Issue vendor uses magazine sales to fund Philippines retirement

London Big Issue vendor AJ hung up his tabard at the end of last year as his health declined. Now the 67 year old has retired to the Philippines with his wife

A Big Issue vendor has used his magazine sales to retire to the Philippines to live with his wife after saving thousands of pounds.

AJ, 67, sold the magazine outside Sainsbury’s on Townmead Road in Fulham, west London, before being forced to retire last year due to his declining health.

His 16 years selling the magazine have now put £6,000 in savings towards his retirement to the Philippines to join his wife who he met while on holiday in 2016.

“I have used my Big Issue earnings to get a mortgage on a condo in the Philippines and I have bought two bits of land over there,” said AJ, who made the move abroad at the end of November.

“I’ve inherited two more bits from my wife’s parents and we want to build a nice little place on that in the fullness of time.

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“It’s all thanks to The Big Issue. I’ve been saving my mag sales towards it. The bits of land we bought together were basically from my Christmas earnings. Now I’m off to the Philippines.”

AJ first met his wife after his friend was unable to join him on a holiday to the Philippines. 

The pensioner did not feel safe travelling alone and agreed to meet the woman who would become his wife after meeting her on a Facebook group.

The pair married in 2017 and now are embarking on a new life together in the country.

“The only person I knew over there was a young lady in the same group on Facebook. We met and we just clicked absolutely perfectly,” said AJ. “It wasn’t supposed to happen but we met up and clicked.

“I’ve had alcohol addiction problems in the past but they’re under some kind of control simply because this particular lady has given me a reason not to drink my bloody head off. 

“We spent most of Covid apart sadly as I couldn’t get back into the country because of the entry requirements in the Philippines. Now I’m going back for good.”

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AJ started selling The Big Issue in 2006 after falling into homelessness when he struggled to find regular work as a lorry driver.

The Big Issue offered him a steady income in between jobs. AJ said vending became a full-time pursuit when he was diagnosed with arthritis but he was forced to give up the role last year after he began to suffer with arterial thrombosis.

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“I was homeless when I started selling The Big Issue. I had a few nights sofa surfing and it was in February 2006 so it was bloody cold,” said AJ. “I started ringing every advert in the news agency and about a week after I started doing it I managed to get a bedroom to rent in a shared house. Then I got a section 21 eviction notice and after that I was housed by the council.

“It’s all thanks to The Big Issue. My customers are great people and they were always interested in how life was getting on. I do miss them and selling the magazine. I’ve actually got phone numbers from some of them and we stay in touch. They’ve become friends over the years rather than customers.”

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