Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, at 6:42 AM
Juvenile gulls fly above Blackpool, England on August 21.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
I don't remember the first time I heard the term Bank Holiday Weekend, but I definitely remember the light bulb that ignited when I realized this was not simply a generic term for a day when banks don't open.
In 1993, the first year I lived in Britain (during my first stint here as U.S. affairs analyst at the BBC), my colleagues kept asking me what I was planning to do during the Bank Holiday weekend, and I suppose only after the first few times that odd phrase was used did it dawn on me that this might actually be the official name of Britain's end-of-summer long weekend.
Today, those of us who live and work on this island, as I do at the moment, have a day off—the end of a long weekend that takes place each year a week before America's own Labor Day (or Labour Day, as they would have it here).
This got me to thinking: In a nation with mellifluous surnames like "Mrs. Tiggywinkle" and colorfully named streets (Seven Sisters), squares (Piccadilly), insurance companies (Scottish Widows), and even Shadow Chancellors of the Exchequer (Ed Balls!!!), how can the populace stand a banality like "Bank Holiday Weekend"?
Indeed, there's even another one—the robotically named "Early May Bank Holiday," roughly equvalent to our Memorial Day. Never mind that the Left calls it May Day, the fact is "Bank Holiday" seems to be about the best they could come up with. (The English Wikipedia page on this topic makes for interesting reading).
My fellow Americans, and the rest of you, too, our British friends need our aid! Let's face it, given what "banks" have done for our countries of late, naming the two best secular holidays of the year after the scoundrels makes precious little sense. So, the nominations are opened. I'll start with two of my own, but please let's have at it, as the Brits would say.
And to all my British friends, Happy Bank Holiday weekend. May it be the last!
MAY HOLIDAY: Liberation Weekend. On June 4, 1944, U.S., British, and Canadian troops begin the Western allies' part of the liberation of Europe in World War II, D-Day. The risk that this date will go the way of Dec. 7, 1941, (largely forgotten today in spite of its alleged "infamy") is all too real now with the generation that lived it fading away. Not a bad idea to remind the French, too, whose tourist industry benefits from a smaller, more casual British invasion about this time each year anyway.
AUGUST HOLIDAY: Mountbatten Weekend. On Aug. 27, 1979, the IRA managed to plant a bomb in a small fishing boat used by the Earl of Mountbatten—the Queen's cousin—killing the storied Earl along with his grandson, a royal relative and a young employee of the boat company. Mountbatten, whose career was checkered with quasi-disasters like the partitioning of India and the poorly planned Raid on Dieppe in 1942, nonetheless hardly deserved to die like this. But beyond the man, the holiday could also serve to remind people of the foolishness of the imperial era and the importance of an achievement that remains as fragile as it is undervalued here: the ending of the Northern Ireland conflict.