Whenever I hear people (or myself) complaining about trains in the UK, I like to think back nine years when I was on holiday in California. After having explored the Golden State, I thought that jumping on a train to Seattle would be the relaxing, scenic route.
When we got to the station at Oakland, we were told the train was delayed, being British we were used to this. Until we realised just how delayed. Seven hours. So late, in fact, that we had time to have dinner and go to watch a movie and still have to wait a couple of hours for the train.
This was, of course, no great hardship, but it was a disappointment as we ended up arriving in Seattle, around 2am on 5 July, and our plans to go to a 4 July party dashed against the rail tracks.
It was a shame as celebrating other country’s national days is usually much more fun than your own. This week I celebrated Bastille Day at L’Escargot’s private member’s club in London, complete with two of France’s most popular party exports – champagne and canapés. Among our number were a group of Brits who arrived in berets, striped t-shirts and garlic strings and wielding baguettes. They seemed to be getting more into it than the locals I’ve seen when in France on 14 July.
The UK, of course, doesn’t have its own national day - partly because we are collection of countries and partly, according to some, because when others were setting their ones in the calendars, we were too busy taking and then granting independence (the usual reason for a “day) to other countries to get time to create one.
And among the union, England is perhaps the day least noted - every April, the same arguments roll around about whether St George’s Day should be a public holiday.
While the same people rehash that debate, I say it’s far better to make a habit of celebrating other countries’ days. UK town centres are often packed with revellers on St Patrick’s Day and Australia Day, so it’s only a small leap.
Follow this plan and next month alone you could be out eating and drinking a variety of things every other day as you toast a broad line-up of independence days including Switzerland, Bolivia, Jamaica, Indonesia and Moldova…
Luke Blackall is a video journalist for London Live