Viorel Parnica, 54, outside Vodaphone, Oxford Street, London

“People can be very kind here. I want to keep working hard and make this city my home”

I have a very good pitch here. People are very busy of course, but they can be very nice all the same. I love this city – there are so many interesting people from all around the world, people who tell you all about their lives and listen to my story too.

I came to the UK back in 2010. I left Romania – a village called Brosteni – because there was no work there. I used to work in the mining industry. That all slowly came apart after the revolution in the 1990s, so it made things very difficult for us, myself and other people living in mining towns. I first went to Italy to look for work, and then came to live in Britain because my sister was here.

I love this city – there are so many interesting people from all around the world

At the beginning it was difficult. I tried labouring jobs, but there was no security, no regular pay to rely on. Since I got badged up and began selling The Big Issue things have been much better. It’s given me some money, something to focus on, and helps me improve my English. I like that people respect me, and this job. I have come to think of myself as a Londoner.

I did have a great companion who was always with me until recently – my dog Vio [below, with Viorel in 2017]. He was a lurcher, and such a lovely dog. Very gentle. He had been abandoned when I found him, and I took very good care of him. But last year Vio fell ill. He had cancer in his lung. The Blue Cross animal hospital in Victoria helped to treat him but he passed away a few weeks before Christmas.

Big Issue vendor Viorel Parnica and his pet dog, Vio

It was a sad time. Very, very difficult, because I had come to think of him like a child of my own. But I’m glad we had a few years together. I’m hoping I can get a new dog from Battersea this year. I know Vio cannot be replaced, but maybe I could find a dog with the same sort of character.

I have become a big Tottenham Hotspur fan. I was pulled to them because they had a Romanian player. It’s exciting to see them doing well in the Champions League now and I think we’ll probably finish second in the league.

Because I sometimes wear a Spurs hat, I even got a Christmas card from some of the people who work at the stadium. People can be very kind here. I want to keep working hard and I hope I can make this city my home. That is my hope for 2018.

My hero… Harry Kane – what a great goalscorer. I love Spurs and Harry is the best player the team has at the moment.

If I won the lottery… I would help other people the same way people have helped me. And if there was some money left over I’d go to watch Spurs play.

On my pitch… I’m outside Vodafone on Oxford Street, in central London from 7am until 12pm.

Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Vodafone, Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom