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ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS
Wednesday, 8 August 2018
The meaning of holidays to the retired
Holidays, in their origins, holy days, those few days in the year of your average mediaeval peasant when, apart from Sunday, there was a day off - no sweating over a plough, or vat of urine soaked cloth, but you were meant to go to church before entering into the topsy turviness of a feast or a licensed day of foolery/drinking. These holy days of observance are there still in many of our public holidays - Easter, Whitsun, Christmas. And depending on which country you live in, there many be even more, though funnily enough the saints days of our four nations (David, Patrick, Andrew and George) are not public holidays, unless you live in the right place, and not England.
Holidays as the legal right to be paid, not to go to work, but rest from it, apply only to the employed and are there thanks to labour movement. In the UK the Holiday Pay Act was enacted as recently as 1938, after a more than twenty year campaign. Before then workers were only entitled to be paid for the eight public holidays we have. Imagine that. Now we have as of right twenty days of paid leave, plus the eight public holidays (unless you are a teacher...). It doesn't sound like much compared to the seven weeks plus I had in France, but compared to the US, is huge.
When I was working in full time employment, these were the most precious days of the year, not to be squandered, but planned and, damned it, enjoyed, and even bought more of from the salary sacrifice scheme, if that could be afforded. They were the days to spend as you pleased, to rest, to travel, and not to be under any obligation to look at email, let alone respond to it.
One year I had a precious week of holiday ruined by a manager who insisted, on pain of I know not what, that I attend a two hour conference call on a particular Wednesday afternoon. That doesn't sound like much of an imposition. But imposition it was, involving planning the entire day for the entire family so that I could be in a spot with good phone reception at the right time for the call, and it involved bringing the right paperwork with me in my luggage, oh and remembering what it was we were meant to be discussing. Sigh, but no more.
My first public holiday is coming up at the end of August. I am not planning on going anywhere. There seems no point in driving the length and breadth of the country for a long weekend at the coast or in the hills, when any three days chosen at random is such. No more traffic jams for me. From now on, these are days when I shall stay at home and laugh smugly at news report of mega tail backs on the M5. A public holiday is then a nothing, unless it is to be spent with those for whom it is something, my working children, perhaps.
As for the two week or more trip somewhere abroad, well, I'm presently in the middle of just such a fortnight. Yes, I am wandering, looking at new things, sitting in the sun, swimming, hanging out with my daughter, eating delicious food - I'm in the south of France - drinking lovely wine, reading, writing the odd line of the odd poem, and writing my journal and this post, but there is something much less pressing about it. I don't feel at all inclined to rush about ticking sights off on a list of things I must see. It's far too hot for that kind of carry on for a start, but also, I just feel less like being a tourist than I ever have before. No doubt when I return home people will ask we whether I went to X and Y, and what I thought of Z, and I'll feel bad that I didn't and don't, but right now, I'm just chilling.
I am very content. Blessed even. This then is my life, for the rest of it. I think I can get used to it, just about. You can call that I holiday, if you like.