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Maria Cirpaciu, 24, outside M&S, Morningside, Edinburgh

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I started selling The Big Issue three or four years ago. It’s nice here in Morningside, so beautiful and selling the magazine is great because I can work some days and be home others for my daughter. She’s five and I sell it when she’s at school, but I’m home on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I couldn’t do that with another job. 

We have a flat in the Leith area of Edinburgh. Everybody’s nice there and the shops are really good. I like Edinburgh even when it’s cold – it’s the same in Romania anyway. Scotland’s a nice country but all my family are still back in Romania. My mum, my dad, my sister. I came here six years ago because I was young and I wanted to work. When I came here they were happy for me but they thought I was a little bit crazy because it was a very long way away. I miss home a little bit but I miss my family more. I haven’t been back on holiday because of Covid and everything, and it’s too expensive so I’m not seeing them for now. It’s a little bit hard but I speak to them often.

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I have a lot of friends in this area now and I’ve become part of the community through selling the magazine. The staff, security and customers of M&S are all very welcoming and the store manager gives me a voucher every Christmas. The staff at the coffee hut next door are always chatty and friendly, too. From selling The Big Issue here my English has improved and I’ve learned how to help people and to be more chatty. It’s also taught me how to be a bit more cheeky and stand up for myself. 

I like cleaning, and I enjoy when things are tidy and organised. I like painting my nails with my daughter, or taking her to the park. She likes everything at this age, it’s so nice. She enjoys school and she’s going into primary two after the summer. 

When everybody was locked down it wasn’t possible for me to sell The Big Issue and it’s still a little bit quiet even now. The people in Morningside are so nice, I missed them when I was away. I couldn’t keep in touch with them so when I went back I was so happy wanted to give one of my customers a hug. He’s an old man and he didn’t want a hug so we just said hello instead. I have a Zettle card reader now and I get a few sales that way, maybe five or six magazines every week. Other people still like to use money. Although it’s been very slow since Covid I’ve just kept going. Every day a little bit more.  

Maria Cirpaciu was speaking to Sarah Reid and Susanne Flynn

Marks and Spencer, Morningside Road, Morningside, Edinburgh, UK