If I had to describe myself, I would say I’m pretty out there. Definitely outgoing. I wasn’t always that way though, especially when I was younger – I wouldn’t say boo to a ghost. I grew up in Adelaide. Mum and Dad were fabulous, I never heard them arguing in 40 years. My mum was more reserved, but Dad was a scream, a red-headed stirrer – he was very comical. That’s where I get my sense of humour from.

I grew up as an identical twin. There was an hour between us – he pushed me out first. We were pretty close as kids; he always tried to get me into trouble but my parents realised what he was up to! We didn’t speak for 15 years after I told him I was gay. I don’t know what happened, but he got back to me, that was the main thing.

In 2012 I was up in Townsville, and I’d heard he was around. I wanted to settle things, so I contacted him and said, “You don’t know what’s happened to me, I don’t know what’s happened to you – but I’ll leave it to you to contact me.”  He got in touch and I saw him in person for the first time in Brisbane. He was staying in a hotel, and I confused the poor receptionist when I got there. It actually turned out that he was gay, too.

I had planned that year to spend Christmas with him, but it didn’t get that far. He died before I could do it.  We had reconnected only a few months before he died.

Back in the early 70s, it was taboo to be gay. You were supposed to settle down, get married, and have a family. That is what I did. We were married for 17-and-a-half years. My wife and I divorced in 1992, and she cut contact between me and my daughters. I just had to accept it at the time. I travelled over to Perth to work for a while after that. I did a certificate in nursing and worked in nursing homes. I loved it.

I spent most of my working life in government. It was mostly clerical work I was doing. I started in the tax office and then went to social security – I was there for 25 years! I did some work in charity fundraising, but I didn’t know that the people I was working for were dodgy, so I finished with that. That’s what led me to The Big Issue.

The last time I had a Meet Your Vendor profile in the magazine was 10 years ago, in 2014. That was the year I started at The Big Issue. I sell six days a week. I leave the house at about 5am and don’t get home until 6.30 at night. I like selling The Big Issue, just the fact that you’re out there meeting people, and being outdoors. When I’m not working, I like looking in op shops; you never know what you might pick up. I get little knicky-knack type things, some pictures I put up on the wall.

Right now I take each day as it comes, it’s the way Mum and Dad brought us up. But I’m not going anywhere until He tells me too – well, until He forces me! I’ll just keep on taking each day as it comes, that’s the only way you can do it.

Alfred sells The Big Issue at GPO in Brisbane CBD

Words by Lou Abson
Photo by Barry Street

First published in Ed#713