A truly Dickensian bank holiday idea

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IT is Monday in Sheffield. It is a Bank Holiday. It is, of course, lobbing it down.

I look out the window and think of Charles Dickens.

I think it was he who noted that public holidays are important for Britain because they guarantee a quantity of rain even in the most drought-scarred of summers.

Some 150 years have passed but it seems he’s still on the money.

The British weather doesn’t change.

Or rather it does change – generally from sunny to soaking the day before a long weekend.

In any case, it’s Easter Monday as I write and it’s miserable enough to make one wish they were in the office.

Except me, of course, who’s already here.

I don’t mind working bank holidays sometimes. I like the double time, the day in lieu and the fact you get to leave early after spending half the morning watching something like the world’s best ice hockey brawls on YouTube (number six – absolute belter).

In short, occasionally I work them.

And so too will you if the jovially-titled Centre for Economics and Business Research gets its way.

These are the chaps who have spent the last few days telling anyone who will listen – which is every major news outlet because, let’s face it, holiday air time needs filling with something – that Britain’s eight annual bank holidays cost the economy nearly £19 billion.

Their argument runs that even though we have fewer days off than most of the civilised world, and America too, such dates of leisure should be scraped.


Should I tell them to stick their opinions where the Bank Holiday sun don’t shine or should you?

What bugs me about this research is that when I first heard it, I presumed it was advocating we all have eight days extra annual leave instead; that in exchange for giving up the bank holidays we’d get the time when we choose. It’s not. The CEBR just want to off your time off.

What also bugs me is it dismisses those who do benefit from bank holidays – tourist attractions, shops, restaurants – as somehow being of less significance than proper money-making sectors. You know, like the banks which we bailed out.

But what I really find repulsive is the CEBR’s apparent conclusion that pure economic productivity alone should be taken into account when considering time off.

I mean... seriously?

Because bank holidays, I reckon, are one of those things – like having a shared history and a shared knowledge of what’s happening in Coronation Street – which help bind people, which create cohesiveness and common identity.

These dates are not government diktats ordering us when we must take our time off, they have been agreed by years of consent.

They exist because it is important for a society to have an occasionally co-ordinated calendar around which one can arrange to see friends and family and organise other such fulfilment.

That many are Christian in origin matters not. They are there for everyone. Permanent yardsticks when the shackles of work can be shaken and the day can be spent in the park or the pub (or a traffic jam) with – here I think is the important bit – fellow human beings.

To get rid would be a tragedy of Dickensian proportions.

Plus, you know, when else would I get to watch the world’s best ice hockey brawls?