It’s all happening for Big Issue vendor Oprea, 48. Originally from Romania, he has just moved to a new selling point – at Bristol’s Temple Meads train station as part of a partnership with Network Rail – where he is perfecting his sales technique, and he has a new card reader to offer digital payments. He is studying a business course at university too.
I have moved pitch in Bristol recently from the Waitrose supermarket to Temple Meads railway station and it has been very good for me. I am here as part of The Big Issue’s partnership with Network Rail and all the staff here and the manager Fran respect me. They help me all the time and they are very, very good people.
I sell 100 magazines every week and the new pitch is good for that because I used to sell around 20. It was very hard on my old pitch. Now I have a card reader so people can pay without cash. They say to me, “Oh you have the machine?” and I go, “Yes! It’s very good technology!”
It can be very busy on my pitch – sometimes there are too many people here! It means that I don’t have many regular customers at the moment. Instead, lots of different people buy the magazine from me every day. This is good for me because I like meeting new people. I try to just say to my customers “Hello” or “Good morning.” I try not to speak too much because it’s so busy and people are travelling to where they need to be. But I make sure my pitch is very clean, that makes it easier for customers to approach me and makes me calmer. This is very important.
It can be very busy on my pitch – sometimes there are too many people here! It means that I don’t have many regular customers at the moment. Instead, lots of different people buy the magazine from me every day. This is good for me because I like meeting new people.
As well as selling the magazine, I am also studying a Level 3 business course at the University of Nottingham. I learn about management and integration in business – I study on Zoom one day a week. In one way, the longer the coronavirus goes on the better it is for me because I might have to study for two days a week on campus next year. I’m waiting to see. The course is very good for me. I need it to see if maybe I can change my job in the future. I am not aiming for anything in particular, selling the magazine is fine for me at the moment.
I have mobility problems and that means I have problems with my neck and my back. I found a job on a construction site after I came to the UK from Romania in 2014, but I had an accident and couldn’t work. I used to sleep rough, but I rent a flat now: it’s one-room accommodation and I am there temporarily. I’ve applied to the council in Bristol for a home that is suitable for someone with disabilities, but I am waiting. It is very hard for the council because there are too many people waiting for accommodation. I would like to buy a flat in the future, but I need a permanent job for that and it is a problem for me. My condition is not very good – a construction job would be too physical for me. But here in the UK, people do not hold prejudices against disabled people and I feel like you’re given a chance. If the manager at the train station said she had a job for me, even if it was part-time, it would be very welcome!
I like it in Bristol. I like the city, the people, the shopping, that’s why I’ve been here for eight years. I wanted to see the world when I left Romania, but I found a home in Bristol. Each person who buys the magazine from me helps me get everything I need. This is very important to me and I want to thank them and the station staff, the manager, everyone. It’s like a family here. Everyone has time for me.
Courtesy of The Big Issue UK bigissue.com @BigIssue