Simon started working life with 14 O Levels, 4 A Levels and an honours degree in philosophy. He worked as a carpenter for the National Theatre, before becoming Master Carpenter at the Bristol Old Vic. But when he got made redundant, things started going wrong.
“A lot of people work because they have to – they don’t particularly enjoy their jobs, but they’ve got bills to pay. But I really loved my job. Being made redundant broke my heart.
That’s when it all started going wrong. I got depressed and started drinking quite heavily. Then my wife decided she didn’t like me anymore, and shot off with my two young sons and my dog. I don’t know where my family are now.
I lived in Bristol for a while afterwards, then moved to Haywards Heath with a new girlfriend and a new job. But neither worked out. I had no money after we split up, and I couldn’t get accommodation, because it wasn’t where I came from. Those are the rules, apparently. So I had to come back to Bristol.
I had an Audi estate car so I lived in the back of that for a while. Then I went to the Compass Centre and they found me a place in Easton, a room in a shared house. I’m still living there now, but I’ve got my name down with Home Choice. Soon I’ll be able to start bidding for somewhere else to live. Because I almost died last year. My pal found me unconscious. It was winter time, and it’s freezing where I live, and damp and horrible. He called the ambulance and I woke up in the BRI, with tubes and wires sticking out of me.
They said they suspected I had tuberculosis – TB. They told me I wasn’t going anywhere until my blood tests came back. I ended up being in there for a fortnight over Christmas. But it turned out to be pneumonia – from living in a damp, mouldy dungeon I think!
I still wasn’t very well. I was suffering from depression, confusion, hopelessness, basically. Then one of my housemates said, “Do you know there’s a place round the corner, a café, that’ll help you?” I explained I didn’t have any money, but he said, “No no, it’s free!”
I’ve been coming [to the Wild Goose] most days for over two years now I think. Not every day – I think it’s cheating a bit if I’ve got enough to get by. It’s a bit of company, apart from anything else. I’ve made friends here. There’s a gang that plays chess, a strange sort of club!
Without the Wild Goose, I wouldn’t be here. They’ve saved my life. It sounds a bit melodramatic, but that’s the truth! I would’ve just spiralled into depression and drink. They’re really, really kind people, in there. You get all sorts of help. It’s just nice to know that somebody cares, really.”