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Mary Daly, 45, High Street, Weston-super-Mare

Weston-super-Mare vendor Mary Daly talks about her Jack Russell Cooper keeping her company and the confidence that comes from selling the day’s first copy

I started with The Big Issue 20 years ago and I sold it for 10 years. I stopped doing it and, what can I say, I’ve started doing it again.

I spent about 15 years on the streets, just travelling around Brighton, Bournemouth, Poole, Cambridge… To be honest I was in a bad way with drink and drugs. I used to work as a carer untilI got sacked because of my problems. But I’ve been clean now for four years.

The Big Issue has helped me to live because I really wasn’t getting anything else. So I started doing it again, because I need an income for one thing, and for another I’m a hermit so I was just deteriorating. It forces me to go out and speak to people. It saved my life.

Yesterday was a really shit day though, I had a person spit at me and tell me to get a job. I don’t need that. But the police came round and they looked after me. They’re sound here. But you get nasty people everywhere, don’t you?

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I’m a very anxious person and people say, “How can you sell magazines? You must have confidence.” I don’t. But it’s helping me again and all I can say is I’m doing my best.

It takes a while sometimes to sell one but when I do it picks me up and I can start shouting, “Big Issue!” – because I am a happy, bubbly person really. That first sale brings it out. It gives you a bit of oomph to get another one sold.

When I think about being on the streets I think, “Oh Jesus, I couldn’t go back again”. I’ve got a little one-bedroom place now with my Jack Russell, Cooper. I’ve had him nearly five years and if it wasn’t for him… he’s my little protector. He’s brilliant on my pitch, I let him off the lead and he just sits down.

When I got my photo taken for my tabard I said, “Can I put Cooper in it?” and they said, “Why not?” So I put my arm around him and it’s me and Cooper in the picture.

The other day this bloke came up and asked if he could take a picture. So he took quite a nice photo with me holding The Big Issue. It was raining so I had an umbrella over my dog and he had his teddy bear beside him. And the bloke put it on Facebook.

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I love art and I make clothes. I try to make my own clothes a lot of the time. I’ve got a hand-sewing Singer machine and I’ve also got an electric one, but I’ve never used it. But otherwise I just hand-stitch. I started out when I was 10 years old and I make my own skirts and leggings. I’ve got my own style, people say I stand out.

My friend Den Brady has been in my life for 20 years. He’s 87 and he met me selling The Big Issue on the Isle of Wight. He means the world to me so when I told him I was selling it again I worried he was going to say I was going backwards.

But he went, “I’m so proud of you.”

I told him it’s doing me brilliant. I also have two children and two grandchildren, and I just want to make them happy.

There are some days I don’t want to go into town but once I get that first one sold I do like it. Den buys The Big Issue every week because of me. I told him I’d have my picture inside and he’s waiting for it.

Mary Daly was speaking to Sarah Reid

High Street, Weston-super-Mare, UK

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