The thing about a bank holiday Monday in England is it really starts on a Friday. Even though our magical day off work isn’t for another three days, mentally the workforce of the country has already escaped to the blissful warmth of a pub garden with an ice-cold beer in hand. Whilst there is still a full day of work to be done, the rare treat of a national holiday already alleviates the stress of a normal working day as the thought of not having to deal with the dramas and rubbish of the office for three whole days soothes the mood of many. As we go about the duties of a normal day the thought of escaping for the extended weekend make the arduous obligations that little bit easier as the reward at the end of the day is that little bit greater.
As a nation, Britain are exceptionally efficient in making the most of this break. Grabbing their picnic hampers, towels and trunks people flock to the nearest swimmable body of water in great herds to get the best spot. The bank holiday just gone happened to be the hottest may bank holiday in over forty years at highs of 28c, topping Australia and Mexico’s climates for the weekend, so as the people of Blackburn sat amongst cans on Carling in their paddling pools they were probably sparing a thought for the holiday goers of Cancun. That said, the paddling pool is a key feature of a scorching bank holiday. Peaking in sales for the odd weekend when Mondays are just extra Sundays, the people of Britain love an inflatable water vessel that is too small for a man but too big to keep beers cool. In fact, any vestibule for cooling water is in dire need on such days where the freezing people of Sydney suffer in jealousy at the roasting temperatures of Hull. Once the shops run out of stock for temporary outdoor baths, the British ingenuity that advanced technology, transformed science and changed the world come to the forefront in the heat. Bath tubs are moved onto lawns, lilos are thrown into public fountains and public lidos are congested with sweltering teens. I’ve even driven through the town and seen a circle of lads all in individual dustbins filling up from the hose, orbiting around a water cooler and a barbeque. If that thinking doesn’t make you proud to be British, what will? The more adventurous, less willing to bathe in a bin kind, head to the coastline of our island, which is quickly filled with the inland population as they head for the nearest stretch of sand to frolic in the sea, whilst burning to a crisp in hours. Men in white vests leave with a guilty red imprint from the sun, women instantaneously lie on a towel as soon as the sun hits the sand of the beach, so they can save on the weeks fake tan budget, and kids are saturated in sun cream lotion as parents fear they will peel like a banana. Just under three million vehicles hit the road on the Monday, with most heading onto the shoreline to engulf themselves in sand encrusted sandwiches as they fight seagulls over a portion of chips. Sightings of greedy coastline birds being kicked increases by eight thousand percent on such weekends. All the increased excitement comes with increased congestion with thousands stuck on motorways as the Monday evening rush back home begins. The sadness as the end of the holiday is added to by the gridlocked roadworks, as it seems only the people gathered around traffic cones meant to be improving the infrastructure remain on their holidays, idling around shovels working instead on their third pack of chocolate magnums.
The jubilation of a nation all comes from a pagan tradition of welcoming spring, often celebrated by dancing around a maypole or dressing up for a Morris dance, but now it’s more likely to see other dances on the May bank holiday such as the drunken sway performed whilst leaving a pub, traditionally done to find one’s feet. Maybe it is because we have the least national holidays of all the G20 countries that makes our use of them so spectacular, or maybe it is just who we are, but Britain on the first Monday of May, is Britain at it’s best.