Saturday, 11 February 2012

Crisp Cold Sunny Day in Chelsea

That's how it was late morning when I set out along King's Road for Chelsea Library (based in the Old Town Hall). I was snagged by a Big Issue seller outside one of the express supermarkets so common around here (Tesco, I think, and of course, there are many other types of "express" and "local" branches available). She was cold, with a woolly knitted hat tied under her pink and trembling chin. "Please ..." she implored, holding the last two magazines out to me, "I'm cold and I want to go home."

Kermit was on the front cover and I thought it was a safe bet that I might read it this afternoon, waiting in that desperate room known variously as the "canteen", "cafe" and "restaurant" at Clayponds Rehabilitation Hospital (yes, I'm talking about you), barren and overheated like the rest of the place, with the addition of ear-damaging mechanical noise from the various contraptions and machines and banging and crashing of kitchen utensils and large pots, with the radio on full volune over the top of it all, Lana Del Rey droning out her dirge, not an ear protector in sight.

"How much is it these days?" An increase to £2.50. I remember the good old days of just one pound, exchanged with my favourite seller in his pitch in Bold Street in Liverpool. Opposite there was a guy who begged everyday, eight hours a day, seeing off any competition for that lucrative spot.

I asked her how much she made: ten copies cost £13, she took £25, she was selling about ten copies a day, not many she said, "because there are so many other vendors over there ..." (pointing at some place out of sight), plus her return bus fare to get to her pitch: £1.40. While she was working out her answers, I was thinking, well, I'd guess she gets all the cover price because the printing costs would be covered by advertising revenue. But I was wrong.

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