“I understand why people want to make plans now, but we are just going to have to be a little more patient,” said the Prime Minister this evening.
Perhaps the Prime Minister does not appreciate how much a summer holiday might mean to many people, how much a week away can mean to those whose workaday life is very different from someone who has lived his whole life in extreme privilege.
The family holidays from my childhood days remain sharp in the memory. Our holiday was always taken in late August, once it was so late that we had returned to school before having the opportunity to go to a chalet in Lyme Regis for a week. It was never quite clear why we went just so late, much of it seemed due to our father’s work. Just once we went for a three week camping holiday in Devon, but my father spent the middle week away from us working in Scotland. On another occasion, he drove the six hundred and thirty miles from Lossiemouth overnight on a Friday so that we might leave for Westward Ho! on a Saturday afternoon. It is easy to remember the day of departure in 1977, we were packing camping equipment the evening before when the BBC brought news of the death of Elvis Presley.
Summer would culminate with the bank holiday weekend, the last Monday in August provided a last “hurrah” before the autumn had to be faced. Even the weather seemed aware of the calendar. The great heatwave (and the severe drought which accompanied it) in 1976 came to a violent end with terrific thunderstorms and deluges of rain as we travelled home to Somerset on the bank holiday. From a holiday where the sun had shone through every hour of daylight, we drove eastward on roads affected by flash floods – it was time for the autumn to begin.
The shortness of those English summers created a sense of community, everyone celebrated summer together, everyone realized that this was an important time in the year, everyone treasured that week away (or two, if they were lucky). The traffic jams on the roads to the West Country could be phenomenal, but everyone travelled regardless of the time it took; perhaps it was part of the experience, part of what it meant to go on holiday. Perhaps we could never have described it, but those holidays had a significance that lasts a lifetime.
Perhaps there are children who, in fifty years’ time will look back on the Twenties and say, “I remember them, they were the days when we were told, ‘No holiday, again.'”