From Waimate to the world – Mairead Fox has managed to juggle careers as a nurse and florist, and has squeezed in a lot of travel over the past few years. At present, the former St Kevin’s College pupil is in the United Kingdom. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson tracks her down for a chat.
Q What have you been doing since you left St Kevin’s College?
I started by doing a gap year in England when I was 18 and worked as an outdoor activities instructor. After a week of training I was trusted to harness children on high ropes courses, abseiling, canoeing, archery and somehow became a skateboarding instructor – I still cannot skateboard. Then back to Dunedin and trained to be a nurse, and worked as practice nurse, surgical nurse and an ear nurse (glorified ear wax remover). I also wanted to pursue a career in floristry and spent every spare moment foraging weeds and forcing these creations upon my friends, and eventually got a job in a florist shop.
Q And now you’re in the UK – what have you been doing over there?
I moved to London to work as a freelance florist, and really struggled to get work initially. To afford tube tickets I picked up work in healthcare in a variety of settings.
I had just moved to Edinburgh as Covid-19 hit. As lovely as flowers are, they are top of the unnecessary list, so I had no work. I was able to get work in care homes, which became the epicentre of the pandemic in Scotland, and it has been a challenging five months.
Q What has life during the pandemic been like in the UK?
has obviously been a terrible time for so many people. The deaths were always going to be bad but it has been ridiculously frustrating how it has been handled in Britain. There was disappointing lack of leadership and a huge sense of apathy from those making decisions. Working in the care homes has been extremely sad – many, many deaths that could have been prevented with just minor changes made and access to personal protective equipment sooner. Some homes I have worked in lost nearly half of their residents. That should not have happened.
Q What do people in the UK think of New Zealand’s Covid-19 response?
Almost on a daily basis I will get a comment about how great our country is; you feel a bit chuffed. Knowing the position New Zealand was in has been such a comfort to so many expats.
Jacinda Ardern just continues to blow me away with her braveness and how she just simply makes sense. Information is power and although some might not think so, people in New Zealand were given so much more information about what might happen and potential plans, so you feel like you have a bit more control over the situation.
Q Does it make you want to come home?
Definitely! I know a lot of people who did go home and it is still a very tempting option with the way things are looking. Although getting home is becoming increasingly tricky.
Q What would your advice be to young people leaving school and also not knowing what they want to do?
I still do not really know what I want to do – I have always been envious of those who do. My advice would be to surround yourself with people you admire and ask them a million questions about how they ended up there. I also think meeting as many people as you can from different worlds to your own. Not necessarily from Uganda or Bhutan, but people who have a different opinion, or culture. Then you have so much more perspective and knowledge. Also, I wish I knew not to stress about making career decisions. It’s a ridiculous thing to ask an 18-year-old what career they want to be doing for the next however many years.