Bookended by trains, the quintessential bank holiday smells of oil and steam and damp tarmac; of the sickly cinnamon milkiness of AMT chai latte steam; of the ink and glue of an abandoned Evening Standard disintegrating in rain-slick hands; of the Britney-branded musk of the teenagers playing electro Banghra on their phones across the aisle, and the personally bespoke musk of their flouro varnished feet sprawled on the seats. Bank holidays are basically lengthy commutes from Grinding Normality back to Grinding Normality, with lengthy stopovers at Parental Pacification, Wet Picnic, Mandatory Culture and if you’re really lucky, Ikea.
The words themselves jostle in an uncomfortable pairing, reminiscent of the last scene of Mary Poppins when the buttoned-up proprietor of the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank starts levitating, giggling manically, into the air. Governmentally bestowed leisure always has a half-resentful bent. Are we expected to be grateful for this one day’s freedom in a lifetime of back-breaking and tax-terrorised work? Should we suck on this sop of festivity like infants blissfully unaware that, for a certain breed of Finch’s fop, every day is a holiday, and a bank is something you use to hide behind when hunting kudu in Namibia?
Whatever you might mistakenly believe, the perfect bank holiday is not a quick Parisian jaunt on the Eurostar to root through the vintage gems in Chez Mamie and catch the last of the jazz festival in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It is not an impromptu bout of country house hedonism complete with silk D&G pyjamas, crocodile print Jimmy Choo for Hunter wellies, and fragrant rose hookahs. No, it is rather a time for dwelling on frustrated dreams; a time for time for familial claustrophobia and the resumption of age-old arguments on an overfed and brandy-fuddled Sunday afternoon; a time for half-baked plans that dissolve in cold rain to become three days of leftover omelettes, long-delayed expense forms, fitful naps and reruns of Annie.
In short, the perfect bank holiday reminds us that our working lives aren’t so bad after all. The truth is, leisure time is just too tiring, pressured and disillusioning a thing for any true Brit to endure for more than forty-eight hours on the trot.