The Big Issue in the North office, 7 Nov 2012
the warm /&/ the cold project
Here's an interview with Peter, a very cheery homeless man in Manchester who we met at The Big Issue in the North office today. This is one of many such encounters, documented as part of our project with homeless people in Manchester, discussing their lives. Peter comes from County Mayo in Ireland, but has his sights set on getting to as many places in the world as he can that begin with the letter M. Manchester is just the start. We've heard many accounts of just how punishing life on the streets can be, but Peter has a different point of view.
I like sleeping out, I find it natural. I've an awful addiction to television. No problem with that on the streets. I'm qualified to be a farmer, I'm just one who doesn't have a farm. If you want to be a farmer you have to get yourself a farm. It's a good life outside, it is THE life. You have happiness with the time you've spent. I wouldn't be happy with a history of well-watched Coronation Street.
It's very cheap on the streets, no rent, no heating bills – no heating. I find a log fire or a turf fire to be the best way of heating. It's a free life. I've been moving around the last two years. Money can be a problem, but I've always worked, always been able to make the money in one industry or another. I want to stay on the road awhile then at the end I'll buy a house and a farm. When I settle, find true love or whatever is out there.
I ran out of money, the cheques started bouncing. Got a heavy prison sentence which ran me out of money more. Sold the farm - got me debt-clear but I didn't have any way of moneymaking. I started travelling, doing work. Cards for cash in Dublin, had fun with that. Kept farming, WOOF-ing (Worldwide Organisation of Organic Farming) doing odd jobs and now I've found The Big Issue.
From here, truck driving or farming, see whichever comes in. See the world while I've the chance: Amsterdam, Spain, Holland, Europe, Russia, Australia – the whole lot. When you own a house you're un-free, it's restricting. It buys you a safe place to stop but you can't run out the door and be a player. You're either a jet or a homeowner.
I've never come across that rough a time on the street, I'm a fairly happy-go-lucky fella. I know what a hammering is – know what a fight is and how to dodge it. Usually it's at night these things happen. I go to sleep through all that, it's the right time to be doing it anyway, at night. Find somewhere to sleep, stay in hostels, shelters, or parks, wherever you can pitch a tent. I have a tent, never leave home without one.
If you'd like to follow Peter's travels, go to his Facebook page: Patrick J Larkin at facebook.com