Time for a break? No? Well, they do say that the UK enjoys, if one can put it like that, fewer official bank holidays than anywhere else. Although given the fact that it’s currently May and we can’t move for them, it’s kind of hard to see the working wood from the holiday trees, even in these times of upheaval and the “new normal”.
So it’s strange to note that tourism agency Visit Britain is lobbying for another one, to be scheduled for October, to make up the loss of the advantages usually gleaned by two in this very month of May. Although not in some places, where some communities have hardly noticed the difference, lockdown or no lockdown.
It’s a puzzle. You apparently completely beggar up the economy by taking a day off but at the same time, that day off is a boon and a blessing to the tourist trade. Go figure. Ye canna dae richt fur daein’ wrang, as my granny used to say. No sooner do they urge us back to work and school than they dangle the carrot of another public holiday where we can feel free to spend money we don’t have in places where the inhabitants don’t want us.
Maybe it’s all about getting the populace onside in times of strife. May the workforce be with you, I suppose.
And speaking, as we were, of the world of work…taking breaks and holidays is all very well but in some respects, it does kind of depend on whether the rest of the job is being done the rest of the time. Leave out whether it’s being done properly.
It did strike me as somewhat ill-balanced, not to say deeply unfair, that some poor soul in receipt (or even potentially in receipt) of the dreaded Universal Credit can be sanctioned for missing one appointment with the powers-that-be while our prime minister appears to have bypassed several emergency committee meetings and emerged with other people happily making excuses for him. Well might Michael Gove intone sanctimoniously about councils “looking to their responsibilities” to get children back to full-time education. Perhaps he ought to have a word in the PM’s shell-like about looking to his responsibilities re allegedly getting the country back on its bunions.
As usual, there is no shortage of people, however well or ill-informed, telling us all what we ought to be doing. News has no doubt reached you that the income of the royal household is going to be cut by about a third in the inevitable financial crisis, which amounts to about 18 million quid down the ermine-tufted drain. “Staff have been warned”, goes the portentous announcement which seems to imply that it will be those who take the Buck House tickets and stick the Colgate on the Oral B who will feel the pinch. I don’t suppose we’ll see much tightening of the Gucci belts and cutting down on the gold leaf orders among the upper echelons, though I’m not suggesting that the Duke of Edinburgh should do a Captain/Colonel/Sir Tom round the boundaries of Sandringham to raise funds to pay the bills. Truly, we are all in this together.
But even then, the financially beleaguered Prince Charles (or Duke of Rothesay) is now encouraging those with all this unwarranted and undeserved free time on their hands to get out into the fields and pick all that lovely fresh produce that is otherwise going to rack and ruin.
Now, the man is not wrong, in many respects. He has a point. For months – years – before the dreaded virus struck, the shadow of Brexit and its effects caused UK growers to issue dire warnings about the lack of bodies available to reap what had been sown. I can’t say that I’ve heard that the Pick for Britain campaign has had much success, given that even this government stops short of conscription, but it is a worry all round both in terms of waste and future prospects for the fruit and veg industry.
With his well-documented affinity with growing things, it should not come as a surprise to find the prince rooting for fruit but there is something here that goes, if I may put it that way, against the grain. He’s coming over a bit like the Marie Antoinette of the Covid pandemic – “Let them pick fruit!” – digging himself a bit of a hole rather than digging for victory.
If I were being unkind, I would point out that if there’s anyone who ought to know about the concept of long-term job furlough, it is Prince Charles. But I bet he’s not being described by the government as “addicted” to it, needing to be “weaned off” it or “getting used to not working”.
His statement is obviously well-meant but it leaves one feeling uneasy to say the least as does talk of “hard graft” and “unglamorous” jobs. We have news for you, Charlie – that’s what the world of work is like for most people in the real world, indoors or out. With or without bank holidays.