I’ve always hated Bank Holidays. When I was a child everything shut, so it was like a Sunday and, as they were always on Mondays, that meant two Sundays in a row. Sundays were the anteroom to purgatory, long slow preludes of misery. To some people apparently however, it meant opportunities to rush headlong for picnics in sun dappled meadows at the edge of verdant woods. Cute bunny rabbits appeared and looked fetching long enough to attract Timmy the dog, who engagingly chased them, but never of course dragged a squealing, gore drenched body back to the chequered cloth.
My Bank Holidays weren’t like that. We either sat around with too little money to go and do anything or worse yet, we (my parents bless ‘em) decided to make things more of a treat and we would depart for pastures new, sometimes real pastures as above or ‘the seaside’.
Seasides mean many things to many people.
You can have the beach holiday, where you sit on a featureless expanse of sand, if you are lucky, and cook yourself. Some people apparently find being confined to twelve square feet of sand in a human version of a seal colony relaxing. It is mind numbingly boring, painful for those of us with reddish hair and the skin that goes with it, and desperately confining. It is like being in an open air prison’s solitary confinement. There are no walls but those in the minds of social convention. And sand is uncomfortable wherever it gets.
Of course the seaside can mean Blackpool style sojourns and ‘pleasure beaches’ – just a pure hell of other people having their IQs lowered by the experience to double digits. I can’t go on.
The pastures never lived up to the dappled dream either. They were fraught with barbed wire strung across rights of way, welcoming landowners with ferocious dogs, poisonous plants of many varieties, stinging nettles, brambles, thistles, and loose bowled farm beasts of all kinds. Plus Cheshire seemed to have a breed of savage evil rabbits that attacked stray dogs, and you if they got the chance. Cute was not in their creed.
But all that presupposed that you even got to your destination of choice. The concept of the Bank Holiday seemed to bring out the intrepid traveller in everyone. It also seemed to bring out an urge, in that post WWII era, to congregate together in some postmodern textual re-reading of the common endurance of war if not the suffering. People who had no need to endure collective pain rushed to communal discomfort. How else could the ‘Holiday Camp’ be explained but as a Foucauldian homage to years in khaki? People did I believe spend Bank Holiday weekends in such places, but the spirit soared above such things and folk made their own entertainment back then.
Traffic Jams. That was the thing. You could sit in a tail back to Blackpool for just long enough on a day trip to mean that it was time to turn around and head home as you arrived. At least it cut out the overcooked, overpriced disaster that was Seaside Fish and Chips.
Rhyl was worse. At the end was Rhyl. Pebbles rather than sand, and the Mersey estuary end of the Irish Sea. Does anything more need to be said? At least the Welsh were welcoming, if you could find any amongst the Northern English chancers fleecing you.
Of course it’s not like that now. The queues are on Motorways and much better organised, you don’t have to reach your destination to experience cheap food at extravagant prices, and the destinations are rarely the country or seaside as remembered.
Destination shopping outlets are the goal apparently. The popular sport of choice in the UK is not football, nor greyhound racing, and certainly not anything as noble as the Olympic ideal, but shopping.
So the Trafford Centre, Bluewater and Cabot Circus are the places to be this weekend.
The Horror, the Horror!
I’m going to walk up to the park and kick a football about with my son.