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My father and the Bulgarian big issue seller in Shipston

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 9 July 2016

It was Friday at noon and for some reason logistics had become muddled and my father and I were at a loose end. There was only one solution: the White Bear and two pints of cider. As we headed down Sheep Street with my father leaning on his strollator being overtaken by tortoises and little old ladies on their strollators, the old boy piped up with "Its Big Issue day, I can buy a copy off the Bulgarian lady."

About ten minutes later as we turned the corner into the main Square my father looked down to outside the Co-Op where the Bulgarian hassles passers by with a mildly intimidating sales pitch but the lady was nowhere to be seen. As a devoted son I offered a useful suggestion: "Don't worry Dad there is a drain over there just chuck three quid down it and you will be fine."

My father insisted that the Big Issue has a Sudoku which he finds a bit more challenging than that in the Guardian and it is this as well as his view that he is helping the poor and oppressed that prompts him to buy at ;least three issues a month. Not surprisingly the Bulgarian lady greets him warmly for he is her best patsy, ooops I meant customer.

The idea of the Big Issue is that folks without work sell it for a while so that they do not need to beg so they can feed themselves and get accommodation until they have a proper job. In that it is really laudable. But the Bulgarian lady has made a career of selling Big Issues to deluded lefties in South Warwickshire. For many years she has come to Shipston one day week and then spends at least a couple of days in Stratford - for I have seen her there outside M&S. I would assume she pursues her vocation in Alcester or somewhere else another day. She is good at it.

Selling the Big Issue earns this lady more than she could hope to earn even as a professional back home in Bulgaria. I do not blame her for making the carer change. But is this what the Big Issue was set up to achieve? And is this free movement of labour what those who opposed Brexit regard as a real benefit of our membership of the EU?

I tried to put those points to my father as we headed off to the White Bear and he mumbled something more about Sudoku and speculated that the poor woman had fled the country fearing the mass pogroms of Europeans, that the Guardian insinuates are planned by UKIP and Andrea Leadsom.

I left the pub earlier than my father as step brother T arrived for a pint. But I had to rush back quickly with good news from outside the Co-Op. The Bulgarian was back in action, she has yet to be burned out by vile racist Brexiteers as those on MarchforEurope threaten will happen. Good news Dad, you can show your solidarity with the Europeans: perhaps you might buy two Big Issues this week?

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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