Maricica Tataru, 42, Tesco, Gloucester Road, Bristol

Big Issue vendor Maricica Tataru is hoping that selling the magazine in Bristol will help her to improve her English and her job prospects

I started selling The Big Issue after I noticed some people on the street and found out most of them started because they weren’t in employment. I thought, this looks like a job to me and I want to do it as well. At the beginning I didn’t really know how to sell; however, I’ve learned really quick and now I’ve got used to it.

Some days are really good and I sell well, and some days not so much. Mondays are good because people want to read the new issue, then sales are slow, and it picks up again at the end of the week. But it hasn’t been as good since the pandemic. It has been very difficult. The high street is not busy anymore. It feels like everyone is staying indoors because they’re scared.

During lockdown we struggled financially. We live in a rented flat, so we didn’t have enough money and it was a very difficult time. We were living from one day to another. Throughout lockdown, The Big Issue supported us with weekly payments and food vouchers. We went to the local foodbank and got various essentials. When I sell The Big Issue, there are a lot of kind people and they are supporting me by purchasing the magazine, but during lockdown we didn’t have this. I’m not used to being in the house all the time, and during lockdown it felt like we didn’t have that freedom. I felt like I was trapped in my own home.

I have a very good relationship with my clients. My regular customers missed me, and I missed seeing them as well. My customers were happy to see me back selling the magazine. They are very kind people and they’ve asked me how I was and where I was during lockdown. But I’ve lost contact with them during the pandemic.

I have a very positive message for my customers. I want them to know that I have missed them and every week that I come on my pitch I really look forward to seeing them. I want all of them to stay safe and be in good health. Since the pandemic, I haven’t seen my regulars so often. Many of my clients would come weekly to buy magazines from me, but now I get to see some of them maybe once in two or three months. It’s true! Probably because they are scared of catching the virus. But what can we do? I am still excited to see them, but most of all I want them to be healthy.

If I wasn’t selling The Big Issue, I would like to do any job, but I’m not very confident in my English skills. I would like to work in a kitchen as a chef. I really enjoy cooking. That’s what I like to do when I am away from my pitch – spend my time cooking traditional Romanian food, especially ‘sarmale’ [cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice]. I enjoy baking Romanian cakes as well.

My family and I would like to have a better life. If I met my younger self, I would tell them that I would like to have secured a better job and have a more stable income. We’ve had a hard life so far. We’re living in scary times and hopefully the pandemic will be over soon. We don’t think we will return to Romania. We will see what the future brings. If I find a good job and improve my English, then maybe I won’t sell The Big Issue anymore.

Interview: Paula Gombos

Tesco Express, Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol, UK