In 1976, another hot summer, the angry young John Lydon sang “I don’t want a holiday in the sun”. The punks saw the two week holiday in Marbaya as scant recompense for a year of toil in the slave pits. The lesson I took from that song was that we bohemians should find work we enjoy – then we’ll be on holiday all the time.
Well yes and no. As time has gone on I have realised that artists, philosophers, writers and creative people need holidays and days off just as much as more conventional workers. And conventional workers need to take more holidays than they currently do.
There is a horrifying piece in the FT today which says that a London law firm recently had a meeting to discuss how to persuade their employees to take their holiday allowance. Workers are staying at their desks because of anxiety about Brexit and want to prove that they are indispensable.
I’m amazed that such attitudes exist in a civilised country. John Maynard Keynes and Bertrand Russell insisted that increasing leisure time was a mark of a progressive civilisation. As technology improves, we should all enjoy more time off, not less. When did we go backwards?
Things are even more barbaric in the States where it is common for workers to take no holiday at all, and where, unlike every other country on the world, employers are not forced by law to give their employees holidays. Enlightened employers might offer ten days a year. By contrast the UK appears relatively civilised, with a standard 28 days holiday per year.
It is particularly important to make sure we take all the holiday we’re entitled to because we in the UK have the lowest number of public holidays per year in the world (apart from Mexico) with just eight. Mexico, perhaps surprisingly, has only seven. That compares to Japan’s 15, China’s 11 and the US’s ten. The most fun-loving country is Columbia which has an amazing 18 public days off per year.
If Jeremy Corbyn was PM, he would introduce four new days off, bringing our annual total up to a merry twelve.
So get away. As Mary Killen insists in this month’s Oldie, holidays need not be expensive: rent a house with friends and you will pay just £100 each per week. What I’d like to do this summer is hire a castle through the most excellent Landmark Trust. And of course I’m looking forward to our retreat to Umbria in October.