Where was I... Oh yes.... Bank Holidays - they're not all they're cracked up to be....
In one respect, like most people, I find the prospect of a four-day working week very appealing; even the weekend after seems to benefit from the fact I am not quite as knackard as usual once Friday night comes around. But I detest the way that most of the population goes completely mad with excitement at the prospect of 50% extra time in their weekend, and as a result, I am seen as socially retarded for not doing the same.
Our local, westcountry news last Friday brought us news of massive traffic jams as the whole country attempts to cram into the Devon/Cornwall peninsular. Do these people not realise this beautiful part of England is there all year round? Cornwall is not a cruise ship which pulls up alongside Devon three weekends a year. Why do people feel the urge to go during a Bank Holiday weekend?
A similar travel chaos greeted me on Friday afternoon as I caught my usual train home from Cardiff. Usually busy, but able to get a seat, on Friday there were people and suitcases everywhere and I had to stand all the way to Bristol. What’s so special about Bank Holiday weekends? If you want a long weekend on the South Coast then book a Monday off work and do it another weekend when there’ll be less people on the trains, less people on the beaches and you’ll get a cheaper hotel. Easy innit?
So, last weekend, instead of getting caught up in the excitement I had a normal weekend of lie-ins, pottering about, DIY and shopping. Normal weekend activites, but for three days instead of two. It was ace. Too often after a bank holiday, you come back on Tuesday absolutely shattered from travelling all weekend, cramming lots in and getting stuck in a traffic jam on Monday evening. This weekend was literally and figuratively refreshing. I went to work on Tuesday so rejuvenated that I was actually enthusiastic about getting started on some work. Weird.I think the problem is that we don’t get enough of these holidays, and when they do come along, it’s such a surprise and novelty that everyone goes a bit silly. We have only 8 in this country (and 5 of those are Easter, Christmas & New Year) compared to France’s 11! So discounting religious festivals, we have 3 public holidays, and the French have 6. Twice as many! And remember this is a country that strikes if made to work a 25 hour week!
There is already a campaign for St. Georges Day to be a bank holiday in England (St. Andrews Day & St. Patricks Day are holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland). But I don’t think this goes far enough. I suggest we stick another in the autumn, so that when the August holiday passes we don’t flick through our calendar and forlornly realise the next holiday is four months away. I suggest Armistice Day, 11th November. We already mark this day with a minute’s silence to remember those who died in two world wars, so it’s a great candidate to be updated to a whole day off. It also nicely dissects the August to December holiday void. Further support for this day as a holiday comes from the fact it is already taken as a holiday in France and Poland and I'm sure other countries as well.
By adding April 23rd and November 11th our public holidays would number a european average, and with a bit of luck, holidays wont come as such a surprise to everyone and they'll stay relaxed and calmly to the pub. You know it makes sense.