Seasonal work in Europe – a young worker with social anxiety symptoms shares her passion

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Howth by Hanna* ©

25-year old Hanna* has just returned to her au pair job in Ireland having spent Christmas with her family in Hungary. She has been working in Ireland since early 2019 and spoke to me about her experiences of seasonal and fixed term jobs in different European countries. She has not been diagnosed with social anxiety but considers herself socially anxious.

I work for a family like au pair (minding kids, doing housework etc.). This is my first time working like au pair. My duties are cleaning the house, mind kids, cooking meals, doing the laundry. That’s a pretty tiring job, especially minding 4 kids but the family is very friendly. I like it so far. 

In my current job I work 9 hours per day, I have 2.5 hour lunch break and my weekends are free but some Sunday I have to babysit a few hours. Very tiring job but anyway not that stressful. They are nice but the kids are crazy :_D Sometimes I really stressed out because of them…but you know one day I will go home and don’t give a shit about them anymore 😀

Sometimes it’s really uncomfortable (having meals with the family).. but I got used with it. I’m very bad at small talk so I just try to answer shortly and close it down xD I more like to eat alone. (When talking to people) I feel nervous and sometimes I talk stupid things or just forget the words what I wanted to say.

I don’t like to go to crowded places but it’s getting easier with time. For me practise helped a lot, I interacted more and more with people so after a while it wasn’t that bad. But if I spend a lot of time alone it’s hard again. I had sleepless nights too 😀 I always have. Sometimes it’s really hard…. I could sleep only with sleeping pills.

I don’t think I’m a strong character I’m just able to adapt to most of the situations. After a while I get used with things. I try to solve it alone (social anxiety).

I had to be learn how to be capable under pressure…

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Image by Hanna* ©

When I was in High School I didn’t really think about it (working abroad). I started to learn cosmetology so I needed practise in it. I’ve seen how bad are the Hungarian payments so I decided I will try to get a job abroad. I always loved traveling anyway.

I was 21 years old (when I first worked abroad). I’ve got a job in a restaurant like bartender and I also had to prepare food like cutting fruits, cakes etc. At first it was very scary, this restaurant was a very busy place most of the time but we had so much to do that I was more tired than anxious. Living with strangers wasn’t a big deal because I had my own room so I could spend some time alone. 

I worked usually 9 hours (per day, in catering roles) but sometimes I had to do overtime what usually wasn’t paid at all. It was told that we have to stay (as long as) we having guests but we got the same money in the end of the month. I had 1 day off. 

I had to learn how to be capable under pressure but at first it was really hard to work like this. That’s not a surprise why some hotel/restaurant looking for workers all the time. People spend there working some months and they’ve enough 😀 

My boss was an idiot again (in my last job, as a cleaner and receptionist in a hotel in Switzerland) but I getting used with it.. it’s always the same. When a workplace was really bad I just quit. 

I like traveling itself and discover a new country

I worked like receptionist in Norway, but I only had to work in the reception in the mornings then I cleaned the rooms. I didn’t have fix hours, it depended on how busy was the hotel but I worked maximum 8 hours per day and sometimes I had even 2 or 3 freedays.

My workmates (there) was the best, they were kind, sometimes we watched movies together or went to car trip. I don’t like parties I rather go hiking or watch a movie at home. I made some (friends) but I don’t really keep contact with all of them. It feels like we were connected because of the same job and after a while we don’t have any common themes anymore.

I have some friend in Hungary. When I’m at home we usually meet and go somewhere but anyway we keep contact on Facebook. 

I gonna stay in my country (after the au pair contract in Ireland ends this year) for a while just to relax after it so I don’t think I gonna apply for anything. 

I have a long list about countries what I want to visit. I like traveling itself and discover a new country. I visited some really nice place (in Ireland) like Howth, Tick nock, Enniskerry, Drogheda etc. (When travelling), I try to avoid dangerous situations. Always having a map with me so I won’t lost in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately never had any bad situations, I think it’s not only about how do you prepare (there are things what you can’t be prepared of) but maybe about luck as well.

For me the most important is to get meal and accommodation where I work because anyway a lot of money would go on them. Then I check the tasks if I having any experience in them. Then the payment.

*The interview with Hanna (not her real name) was conducted online during December 2019 and January 2020.

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Poolbeg by Hanna* ©
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Dublin Mountains by Hanna* ©
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Poems by Francis Ledwidge – World War I

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TO MY BEST FRIEND

I love the wet-lipped wind that stirs the hedge
And kisses the bent flowers that drooped for rain,
That stirs the poppy on the sun-burned ledge
And like a swan dies singing, without pain.
The golden bees go buzzing down to stain
The lilies’ frills, and the blue harebell rings,
And the sweet blackbird in the rainbow sings.

Deep in the meadows I would sing a song,
The shallow brook my tuning-fork, the birds
My masters; and the boughs they hop along
Shall mark my time: but there shall be no words
For lurking Echo’s mock; an angel herds
Words that I may not know, within, for you,
Words for the faithful meet, the good and true.

From Songs of the Fields

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JUNE

Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,
And plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,
And let the window down. The butterfly
Floats in upon the sunbeam, and the fair
Tanned face of June, the nomad gipsy, laughs
Above her widespread wares, the while she tells
The farmers’ fortunes in the fields, and quaffs
The water from the spider-peopled wells.

The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,
And bobbing poppies flare like Elmor’s light,
While siren-like the pollen-stainéd bees
Drone in the clover depths. And up the height
The cuckoo’s voice is hoarse and broke with joy.
And on the lowland crops the crows make raid,
Nor fear the clappers of the farmer’s boy,
Who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.

And loop this red rose in that hazel ring
That snares your little ear, for June is short
And we must joy in it and dance and sing,
And from her bounty draw her rosy worth.
Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,
The wind wheel north to gather in the snow,
Even the roses spilt on youth’s red mouth
Will soon blow down the road all roses go.
From Songs of the Fields

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TO LORD DUNSANY

(ON HIS RETURN FROM EAST AFRICA)

For you I knit these lines, and on their ends
Hang little tossing bells to ring you home.
The music is all cracked, and Poesy tends
To richer blooms than mine; but you who roam
Thro’ coloured gardens of the highest muse,
And leave the door ajar sometimes that we
May steal small breathing things of reds and blues
And things of white sucked empty by the bee,
Will listen to this bunch of bells from me.
My cowslips ring you welcome to the land
Your muse brings honour to in many a tongue,
Not only that I long to clasp your hand,
But that you’re missed by poets who have sung
And viewed with doubt the music of their verse
All the long winter, for you love to bring
The true note in and say the wise thing terse,
And show what birds go lame upon a wing,
And where the weeds among the flowers do spring.

From Songs of Fields

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BY FAUGHAN

For hills and woods and streams unsung
I pipe above a rippled cove.
And here the weaver autumn hung
Between the hills a wind she wove
From sounds the hills remember yet
Of purple days and violet.
The hills stand up to trip the sky,
Sea-misted, and along the tops
Wing after wing goes summer by,
And many a little roadway stops
And starts, and struggles to the sea,
Cutting them up in filigree.

Twixt wind and silence Faughan flows,
In music broken over rocks,
Like mingled bells the poet knows
Ring in the fields of Eastern flocks.
And here this song for you I find
Between the silence and the wind.

From Songs of Peace

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AFTER COURT MARTIAL

My mind is not my mind, therefore
I take no heed of what men say,
I lived ten thousand years before
God cursed the town of Nineveh.

The Present is a dream I see
Of horror and loud sufferings,
At dawn a bird will waken me
Unto my place among the kings.

And though men called me a vile name,
And all my dream companions gone,
‘Tis I the soldier bears the shame,
Not I the king of Babylon.

From Last Songs

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O’CONNELL STREET

A Noble failure is not vain
But hath a victory of its own
A bright delectance from the slain
Is down the generations thrown.
And, more than Beauty understands
Has made her lovelier here, it seems;
I see white ships that crowd her strands,
For mine are all the dead men’s dreams.

Unpublished

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Francis Ledwidge was depicted as a “peasant poet” by his patron, Lord Dunsany, for his humble background in County Meath, Ireland, and his celebration of the countryside in his poetry.

In his introduction to the Complete Poems, Lord Dunsany wrote:  “I have looked for a poet amongst the Irish peasants because it seemed to me that almost only amongst them there was in daily use a diction worthy of poetry, as well an imagination capable of dealing with the great and simple things that are a poet’s wares. Their thoughts are in the spring-time, and all their metaphors fresh: in London no one makes metaphors any more, but daily speech is strewn thickly with dead ones that their users should write upon paper and give to their gardeners to burn.”

By the time this collection was published, in 1919, Ledwidge was deceased. He had enlisted in Lord Dunsany’s regiment, the 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, in October 1914 and, promoted to lance corporal, was deployed to the Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Serbia and France.

On July 31st 1917, he was amongst a group working on communication roads in preparation for the Third Battle of Ypres. It is said that as they sat drinking tea, a German artillery shell struck and killed all six men. Chaplain, Father Devas, recorded: “Ledwidge killed, blown to bits.”

Ledwidge was amongst hundreds of thousands of Irishmen who joined the British Army during World War 1. Prior to the outbreak, he had worked as a shop assistant, copper miner and road worker. He had organised for worker rights and become involved in trade union activism, including serving as the secretary of the Slane branch of the Meath Labour Union. In 1914, alongside his brother, Joseph, he set up a local branch of the Irish Volunteers, in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers.

After initially opposing the stance of John Redmond and the Irish Party who are argued that Home Rule for Ireland was best achieved by fighting for Britain, Ledwidge enlisted with the British Army in October 1914, joining the regiment of his literary patron, Lord Dunsany.

There is some speculation that Ledwidge’s decision was influenced by rejection in love but what is on record are his own words: “I joined the British Army because she (Britain) stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilisation and I could not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions.”

His views were to become more conflicted after the Easter Rising, in 1916, and the execution of its leaders by the British. One of Ledwidge’s most famed poems is “Thomas McDonagh” in memory of a fellow poet and one of the executed. Around this time, back in Ireland, he was court-martialled and demoted for overstaying home leave and for being drunk in uniform.

Subsequently, Ledwidge’s lance corporal stripes were restored and he joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 29th Division. He survived the Battle of Arras but, in July 1917, near the village of Boezinge, north-west of Ypres, he was struck by a shell and killed.