Chris, Selfridges, Manchester
How’s life since the pandemic?
I’m doing terrible, to be honest. Covid has totally changed everything for me. There’s a lot more begging in the city and some people are begging using the magazine, which is not right for the legitimate vendors. I know people who used to sell the magazine who are now back on the street and back begging. It’s not good at all.
I like Big Issue North. I love it. I love going out and doing what I’m doing. I love talking to people and seeing my regular customers but it’s hard. I don’t want to give it up but it’s hard to keep going. I need to make some money. I’m keeping up with my rent but getting behind on my bills. I’m trying to get on my feet but I can’t get into a routine.
How are sales going?
I’m not selling all the time these days. I’ve got to look after the dog because he’s not well enough to come to the pitch with me, and I’ve got some personal stuff going on. Plus the city is much quieter than it used to be. I don’t see a lot of my regulars that I used to see first thing in the morning, because nobody is going to offices anymore and they’re not coming out on their lunch breaks – things like that. It’s gone dead slow and no one has cash.
Do you have a card machine for people to use instead of cash?
I do but there’s that much dodgy stuff going on in the city centre, a lot of people don’t want to give you their card details. It would be good for people to understand it’s safe to pay by card.
How easy is it for you to get access to your money if people pay by card?
It comes straight to my bank. It takes a couple of days to reach me and they take a percentage from each sale but it’s good to have it because less and less people use cash.
How is Taz, your dog, doing?
He’s a bit poorly. He’s got something wrong with his stomach. He’s keeping me up most of the night crying at the moment. He’s going to the vets tomorrow. The PDSA and Street Paws are helping with it. I hope he’s going to be all right. People are always asking where he is.
And how’s your health?
My mental health has suffered a lot recently and I’ve got some mobility issues. But I’ve got my family at least. They’ve all been worried about me and have been helping me.
Andy, your friend, died last year.* How are you coping now?
I still miss him. We had a good system, us. A good partnership – not just selling the magazine but in life. We just got on with it, you know? We had everything worked out.
When was the last time you had a holiday?
Ha! Eight years ago – more. It was when Andy was alive. We went to Wales for a weekend. If I could go anywhere, I’d go down to Cornwall. I wouldn’t go abroad, not with all this Covid about. There are nicer places to go in the UK. I love Cornwall. That would be a nice place to go. Maybe next year. We just got to hope. That’s all we can do.
What do you hope for in the future?
I just hope things are going to get back to normal, but I don’t think they will. Not for a very long time.
Madalin, Shaw, Oldham
How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
I’ve done this for about seven years. I was 18 when I started and I am 25 now. I started because I needed a job. There was no other job and you have to survive doing something. I have also got work in a factory, but it is casual – for Christmas and stuff. When another job comes up I can take that up and stop selling the magazine, but I know that I can always come back here when I need to. Selling the magazine is not a permanent job, but it’s a good way to just keep going.
What would your dream job be?
It’s hard to think what my dream job would be. I’ve only ever sold the magazine and worked in factories so it’s hard to imagine what I might be good at or what I might want to do. I used to play a lot of football. That might be my dream job but I cannot make a living from doing that!
Did you go to school?
I did and I liked it. But I only went for about four years. We left Romania in 2007, when I was a child. My parents came to England and I came with them. I went to school in the UK and I left with some qualifications and my English is good, although sometimes I can’t understand what people are saying to me.
Do you play football now?
I haven’t played for over a year because I have been working hard. It’s more important to work and earn money to look after your family than do things for fun. If you lose a day’s wage that can mean £100 or something. You can’t just go out and play football and forget about your family. You have to work, otherwise you can end up homeless and on the street. You have to think smart.
Do you ever miss Romania?
I do miss it, of course. It’s my country and I am proud that I am from there. England is where I live but it is not where I am from. In Romania there is no work. Here there is work and it’s quite easy to get a job.
If things changed in Romania economically, would you go back?
Oh yes, for sure! We came to the UK to work, not for fun. At the moment you can’t make anything in Romania.
Do you enjoy selling the magazine?
Yes. I sell the magazine to make money because I have to, but it is more than just the money. To do it, you have to enjoy it, you have to like it. I like to speak to people from my heart when they come and talk to me. I have some good customers in Shaw, though I don’t think of them as customers. They are people who come to see me regularly and they like the magazine and they buy it from me.
What makes you happy?
Family. That is everything in life.
What makes you sad?
Nothing makes me sad.
What about the pandemic?
Well, that made me sad, but not for me. My family was okay and I had some money put by to survive. But I am sad for the people who died and who suffered.
What do you hope for in the future?
I would like the future to be like it was before the pandemic. And I would like just to keep the family okay.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you so much for your help.