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Gordon Davidson, 59, Co-op, Telford Street, Inverness

Inverness Big Issue vendor Gordon Davidson relied upon The Big Issue and the generosity of his regulars during the pandemic – being back on his pitch has given him plenty of opportunity to make new friends.

Apparently I’m the first vendor co-ordinator in Scotland – I find out something new about myself every day! That means the magazines get delivered to my digs on a Monday morning and I supply the other vendors. I do all the counting and the tallying up. I’m around to see if anybody needs any books or if there are any problems I can help them with. I’ve got a few health problems myself – my eyesight is not so good and I have a bad back – but even if I have to have the day off I’ll go out and sort the other vendors out.

I’ve been doing the job full time since the end of the last lockdown but I’ve doing it unofficially at Christmas and New Year for at least seven or eight years. I like the role. I wouldn’t say it’s stressful but some days throw a spanner in the works. But I like the responsibility and when things run smoothly it’s great. But that’s life – everyone has bad days.

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I’ve been on my pitch for at least 10 years. I was sofa surfing at a friend’s house and saw a few people selling the magazine, so I asked them how to get involved and went from there. It’s been a lifesaver for me. You never know how much you’re going to make but you know you’re going to make something. It’s not just about the money – it’s about having a purpose.

‘My customers are not just customers, they are friends too’

Around 85 per cent of my customers are regulars so I know that if I don’t see them one day I’ll see them later. I keep magazines for them. I’ve had several subscriptions since they started too. They helped so much during lockdown – it was great checking your account in the morning and seeing some money there while we couldn’t sell the magazine. The shopping vouchers from The Big Issue helped so much too – I wouldn’t have got through lockdown without that. Getting fresh food in and getting some exercise going to the shop was good for me. You can live off tinned food but you need fresh milk and fresh bread.

My customers are not just customers, they are friends too. And I’ve made a lot of friends on my pitch who aren’t customers but it’s still nice to talk to people. During lockdown I had one of the staff at the Co-op calling to check I was OK and one of my customers asked me to come down the store and bought me a load of shopping. I got a few customers texting me, asking how I was. It was nice to have that.

I’m never pushy with The Big Issue – I won’t ask you to buy the magazine unless you approach me. Every vendor has their own way of doing things. In the modern world someone is always trying to sell you something so I do the opposite of that. I had a card reader for over two years before The Big Issue started doing them. I’ve got a little sign up that I made myself to advertise it.

I recently recovered from Covid. It was horrible and I’ve had both vaccine jabs. I was struggling to breathe and had a headache for four or five days. I can still feel it in my legs and I get tired quickly. I tend to walk everywhere and I was finding I could only walk 100 metres before I had to stop. I didn’t get out for 12 days and lost my appetite – I think I had two yoghurts one Friday and that was all I ate for five days. I was glad to get back on my pitch for my mental and physical health.

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I’m an outdoors person and like wild camping. I tend to go on a Saturday afternoon and come back on a Sunday afternoon. Waking up to the hills covered in mist – I love that. I’m lucky that I’m from the Highlands because I get it for free.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Co-op Food - Telford Street, Inverness, UK

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