Kate Maryon's new book, Invisible Girl, focuses on the issue of living on the streets. In her novel, a young girl is forced to live on the streets when her parents leave her, alone, with only a brief idea of where her brother may be. The Big Issue mission is to connect vendors with the vital support and solutions that enable them to rebuild their lives; to find their own path in their personal journey away from homelessness. To find out more about The Big Issue and what you can do to help, go to their website by clicking here.
Today we have a guest post, which shall be called 'Peter's Story'. Peter was one of the vendors.
"I awoke to the sound of a road sweeper. Man, it was cold. I had absolutely nothing at all, and I was all alone in the world. An unkempt young lady on the street took me to a day centre, a place to eat and wash. I was in a desperate world. I didn't feel able to tell anyone how I ended up living on the streets. I drank tea. I was lost, I was homeless.
Soon I was sleeping out under the footpath to the Tate Modern with a friend - without him I would have not been able to survive. He showed me all the different ways of living on the streets. Eventually he went into rehab and I was alone again. I missed him but I knew this was his best shot.
One cold night under the footway I saw a small bedraggled fox; I threw it a few sandwiches and watched as ‘Foxy’ ate some and then bounded off some distance to eat the rest. For months this went on and each night she would come a little bit closer until eventually she took it from my hand. We had a mutual respect and when I woke one morning to find her a few feet from me curled up, I welled up. When I moved, she shot off . Night after night this went on until I had to move - the curator had found my little den, and one day when I returned all my blankets had gone. My alcohol dependency had taken over, I was drinking day and night not caring about the damage I was doing to myself.
I was almost always drinking. Many people won't understand how cold it is for people living on the streets, you feel constantly chilled to the bone. The drink helps. I began walking, looking for hope. I circled London and ended up at Waterloo, and it was here my life would change. On Waterloo footbridge I met a man selling The Big Issue, his name was 'Peter' and he was well known by many - he was a homeless help desk. We got chatting and I resolved to try selling the magazine.
We went to the Big Issue offices and they told me that I could have 10 magazines to start me off . Peter told me to stick by him to learn how to make some sales, and how to keep the right amount to buy more magazines. I slept next to Peter for many, many nights, rising at the crack of dawn to catch the early commuters through Waterloo. And one day when I was selling I met Alison. She would stop and chat and sometimes buy an Issue, and then she would go off to work. I sometimes saw her going home, but not often, as I would be looking for somewhere to sleep.
After a while I would buy her a Boost bar to give her energy (she always seemed worn out) and she’d chat if she had time. A summer passed and each day I bought a Boost for Alison. Sometimes during the day I sat in the Peace Garden at the Imperial War Museum and drank White Lightning. I had some coloured pencils and a pad of artist’s paper and I would sit there drawing whatever came into my head. A rabbit, a hare, birds, snails. One day I drew a picture of Foxy (right), had it framed, and gave it to Alison.
Our friendship was growing but I would get on Peter’s nerves talking about her and one day he said either ask her for a coffee or shut up! So I asked her, the very next time I saw her, to go for a coffee with me on the station forecourt. She said she would think about it.
A few more weeks passed and one day out of the blue she said yes, let’s go for a coffee. I nearly fainted. I didn't have any clothes for a date so the staff at a hostel let me go through the ‘lost and found’, from which I got a pair of white trousers and a white jacket which I washed and ironed at least three times - I looked like Lawrence of Arabia.
When I walked to Waterloo station to meet her my knees were wobbly, my mouth dry, I must have walked around Tie Rack about 22 times. And then, to my delight, there she was. We eventually went for a drink at a little bar not far from the station and it was in here that we both relaxed and really got talking, we just had so much in common. As I walked Alison to the bus stop I so wanted to kiss her, yet I didn't want to, I didn't want to spoil the night we had had. That evening was probably one of the happiest times of my life. It’s now almost 11 years on, and Alison and I have our own home, an amazing 8-year-old daughter, three cats, and even though we face the same problems as everyone else making ends meet, I couldn't want for anything more in my life. Alison is still as beautiful to me as when I would see her on that bridge at Waterloo East."