Can you imagine for one moment, Americans not wanting to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, the French not wanting to mark Bastille Day with a grand military parade along the Champs-Elysees or the Irish not celebrating St Patrick’s Day by downing a few pints of Guinness and painting the town green?
The very thought sounds ridiculous. So why is it that the British are so reticent about celebrating the things that are wonderful about our country? We know that there were both good and bad aspects to the British Empire – but do we need to be hung up on the bad forever? It doesn’t make sense. No-one would advocate, for example, that the modern day Germans should feel a sense of guilt about Hitler and World War 2.
On the 23 April this year we had the opportunity to celebrate the birth and 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare as well as St George’s Day at a number of events organised around the country.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a Bank Holiday on 23 April for the triple celebration for St George’s Day, Shakespeare’s Birthday and the creation of the English Counties?
Most English counties have long and colourful history that dates back as far as The Middle Ages. A visit to a Tourist Information Office in any town in the UK, will reveal a multitude of attractions large and small. In fact, I’ve found that some of the lesser known places of interest are often the most worthwhile but regularly overlooked and it is these which I take the most delight in writing about in this blog.
Last year I visited a number of County Shows and was fascinated to be able to view some of the many and varied collections on display. The question is, how many other collections are there like this up and down the country that never see the light of day?
Old Fullers London Pride and United Dairies, Yiewsley Carts on display at Chertsey Agricultural Show 2015
Collection of metal plates used on engines at Essex County Show – 2015
A Bank Holiday to celebrate all these things would give us all a chance to connect with each other and reflect on the goods points about the Britain of the past and present. It would be a great opportunity for people to learn a bit more about their own locality and on a larger scale to visit counties nearby and further afield. The publicity surrounding such a Bank Holiday would also surely stretch overseas thereby promoting tourism and interest worldwide.
Today, 16th May 2016, is Middlesex Day. Although dissolved as an administrative authority in the minds and hearts of those who live or have lived there it will always will be the place of their home rather than another anonymous chunk of London. Find out more about Middlesex and its special day here and here. Some years ago we used to have our own Middlesex County Show event held every year which sadly no longer takes place. We would love to see the re-instalment of this event and a Bank Holiday on the 23rd of April for the triple celebration of Shakespeare’s Birthday, St George’s Day and the creation of Middlesex. This would certainly awaken awareness of the culture of our county and help to make this possible.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time in and around London during the 2012 Olympics. The excitement in the air was palpable as officials and volunteers clearly identifiable by their uniforms could be seen on the tube and in the streets on their way to events. A luxury cruise liner – of type more often used on luxury Caribbean cruises – pulled into Docklands and waiters with little trays of drinks were clearly visible serving officials and members of the German Olympic team lucky enough to be able to call it home for 2 weeks.
There was a sense that everyone in London was playing a role. Even many regular commuters were allowed to work from home to free up space on the trains. Although the event may have disrupted some business activities it did increase the volume of tourists even 12 months after the event. When the main Olympics finished, we were treated to the inspirational experience of the Paralympic Games increasing awareness that went a long way to changing perceptions about people with disabilities. The new Bank Holiday would recapture some of the Olympic spirit of every year in Britain.
Many people would definately appreciate an extra Public Holiday with the average working week in the UK now 43.6 hours. Other countries have not followed the UK along the path of long hours culture. The Netherlands has the shortest work week of any modern nation at just 29 hours a week. Followed by Denmark and Norway on 33 hours a week, Ireland on 34 hours a week and Germany on 35 hours a week.
In addition, the UK has fewer bank holidays than in many other countries. Japan has twice as many bank holidays as the UK from Greenery Day in May to Respect for the Aged Day in September. Places like Spain, South Korea and South Africa also have more public holidays than the UK.
The British Philosopher, Bertrand Russell, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. As he put it, such a short working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life”. He thought that the rest of the day should be devoted to pursuit of other activities such as science, painting and writing.
Whilst Russell may have been right that society should be better managed, he and many other great thinkers of times past, were proved wrong in their view that technological advancement would bring about freedom from the tyranny of long hours and increased quality of life.
Children aged 8 to 18 now spend an average of 10 hours and 45 weeks a day online (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Study January 2010). Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report found that 33% of smartphone users see this as the most important device for going online – with typical usage around 2 hours per day. Constant users of smartphones and computers may be at risk of developing stress, sleeping disorders and depression (according to research by experts at the University of Gothenburg in 2012).
The effects of long working hours and high internet usage result can be seen in research conducted by Bisto in 2014 which found that 2 out of 3 families were too busy to eat together and that 1 in 7 don’t even own a dining table.
Britain has become an increasingly isolated society. Office of National Statistics data from the 2011 Census shows that a staggering 51% of the general population is single. This situation appears to worsen in the older age groups with two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) saying that the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014).
Surely the time has come to place a greater value on our personal time than we currently do for the following reasons.
(1) Additional hours worked don’t necessarily result in increased efficiency. A 2014 study by John Pencavel at Stanford University showed that when people worked over 50 hours per week productivity actually declined. This would appear to be confirmed by the 80/20 rule (also known as The Pareto Principle) which claims that 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of the work of its staff.
(2) It has been shown that people who take regular holidays show a decrease in blood glucose levels (reducing risk of diabetes), improved body shape (weight loss in the middle of the body lowering risk of heart disease) and improved energy levels and mood (source: Holiday Health Experiment – Kuoni and Nuffield Health 2012).
(3) Bank Holidays are not always bad for business particularly if the weather is fine. This can be great news for beach resorts and other attractions such as theme parks and stately homes. Having more people out and about and on holiday tends to result in more takings for service industries.
Although an additional Bank Holiday would not solve these problems it would surely be a small step in the right direction and, of course, an excuse for a good old knees up …….