Corneliu, Aldi, Irlam

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How long have you been selling Big Issue North for?
I have been selling the magazine for about six years. I love it. I have a very nice pitch. I work in a big car park, and it has about 300 cars there, so it can be very busy. And the Aldi managers are very good. They help me. When it is raining, they tell me I can come inside to sell. And when we were not able to sell the magazine because of the virus, a manager let me shop in the store for free because we had no money for food. 

‘Lockdown was awful. I looked for work but there was none’

What was lockdown like for you?
I was not working. It was awful. We were in the home. I was looking for some work but there was nothing. I got some help from the Big Issue North office. 

How old are you?
I am 49. Next year, in September, I will be 50. That is fine. I am not worried. I think I still look young. I look after myself but I don’t do much exercise. I drink a little bit of alcohol every week, four or five beers. Corona. Not coronavirus! 

Where are you from?
I am from Romania. I came to England for work. I didn’t have work in Romania. My English is okay but my children speak good English and they help me.

How many children do you have?
Six children. They are all grown up now. My youngest is 19. All my family live in Manchester but in their own places. 

What are your hopes for them?
A good life. A nice life. No drugs, no drinking. Jobs. Good jobs. They all work now. Some used to sell the Big Issue North, but now they have other work. 

And tell us about your wife.
We have been together for 25 years! We met when my dad introduced us. He said she is a very nice woman. He wanted me to have a big family. These days people care more about having money than they do about having family. But having a family is better than having money. And I love all my children and my grandchildren.

How many grandchildren do you have?
I have 28 grandchildren. When we have a big celebration, there are many many children there. I love a big family. I came from a big family. My mum had 12 children and my sister in law has 17 children. 

Do you miss Romania?
I would not go back to live there. This is my home now. But I did visit six months ago when my mum died. It was very difficult because it was during the lockdown and I needed to travel back to go to the funeral. I just wanted to go for three days but they told me I had to quarantine for many days when I was there and when I got back. I am very sad about my mum. I miss her very much. She had problems with her heart.

What are your hopes for the future?
I don’t think I have much of a future. I am almost 50! I know that my heart could stop at anytime. 

You could have years left!
Maybe I will see 65. My mum was 65 when she died. My dad was 68 when he died. 

Message for your customers?
Thank you to all my customers. They are such nice people. They buy the magazine every week and they are kind to me and help me.

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