Friday, 6 April 2012

Bank holidays bonkersness

I am confused by bank holidays. I think, in part, it's because I spent 17 years working for British Airways. An airline really has to ignore bank holidays. You can hardly bring all your planes down around the world every time a country has a public day off work. You can just imagine the announcement over the PA. 'Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I'm afraid a bank holiday has now started in Surrey, where I live, so I will be making an emergency landing on the island of Bdong. I'm afraid I can't possibly work on a bank holiday.'

What I find bizarre is that outside the airline world, it often seems to be the most important organizations that down tools, while others that are less essential on a day-to-day basis carry on regardless.

Today, if you hadn't guessed, is a public holiday in the UK, as it is in many countries. This means I can't:
  • Go to my doctor's surgery (sorry, you can't be ill on a bank holiday)
  • Go in a bank (well, duh, it's a bank holiday)
  • Use the post (why would you want to post something? Doesn't all business stop?)
And yet my dustbin and recycling were emptied today, and I can happily go along to pretty well any shop and buy things to my heart's content.

I've nothing against public holidays. But I think it is time the likes of doctors, banks and the post office realised that they are essential services - certainly more essential than a gift shop, say - and they should open as usual. (Same goes for weekends.) It's a bit scary when you think they are putting GPs, who apparently think you don't get ill on bank holidays and weekends in charge of resources. ('I say, why do we need to keep hospitals open at weekends? No one ever comes to our surgeries!') Frankly, this is the best argument against the health service reforms there is.

But don't people deserve holidays? Of course they do. But other organizations, private and public, manage to arrange things so holidays are staggered and services continue all year round. It's about time these very Victorian services changed their attitude.

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