If previous Bank Holidays are anything to go by, I'll probably spend part of today sitting in a rowing boat, being made to row it round and round. This is what happens to me on Bank Holidays; I row round and round in a boat. My wife makes me do it. "Take me rowing," she orders, and so we go down to the boating lake and hire one.

Then, for an hour and a half, she makes me row while she sits at the other end and watches. After that we go home. Now I don't mind all this, but I think it's odd that it only happens on Bank Holidays.

She would never make me take her rowing on a Thursday, for example. Thursday is a normal day, whereas on a Bank Holiday you are supposed to have "fun". The whole country has been given the day off and is expected to turn out and damn well enjoy itself.

Some people have fun by sitting in traffic tailbacks; others by shopping at Tesco's. My wife and I do it by going round and round in a boat. But I am beginning to come to the conclusion that Bank Holidays have run their course. This is because they were invented for a different age. Public holidays were all right in the days when you could load the entire workforce of a factory into five or six charabangs, ferry them to the seaside, fill them with liquids and then bring them back again. This cost the company less than giving them a decent living wage, but the workers seemed happy with the arrangement.

If you look at old photographs of works outings, everyone is always smiling. But it is not like that anymore. Car-drivers don't smile. Everybody wants to drive themselves now, so that anywhere beautiful or interesting soon becomes no more than a giant car park for the day.

Seafront pavements once graced by Edwardian gentlefolk now have cars parked on them with stickers that say, "What are you looking at, dickhead?"

Charming. And half the people on the road act as if they are on their way to an audition for a new television police series.

But that's just the start of it. On Sunday nights when no one has to go to work the next day, all the pubs shut at half past ten. But on Bank Holiday Mondays, with Tuesday looming, they all get extensions to midnight.

Where's the sense in that? What's the point in giving everyone a holiday and then not letting them stay up late until the day before they've got to go back to work?

Most of them are exhausted by the Monday night anyway. They've spent the day traipsing round some castle or nature trail in the company of thousands of others, when all they really wanted was a bit of peace and quiet. How can you get peace and quiet when everyone else has come to the same place?

Many people end a Bank Holiday swearing that they won't bother going anywhere next time because it just isn't worth the trouble. Yet when another one comes round a couple of weeks later they go and put themselves through it all again.

Bank Holidays come thick and fast at this time of year. Which must be great for the state of British business. I can't imagine that foreign businessmen enjoy phoning up with a billion-pound order only to be told by a security officer that the firm is closed until tomorrow.

No wonder they go somewhere else. Surely it would be better for people to have their days off at different times. But they don't. They all have them at once. Which means they have to queue. They queue to get into the countryside, and queue to get out again.

They queue for hours to be humiliatingly and expensively hung upside down from the ankles on the end of a bungee. They queue at hot-dog stalls because they've forgotten to bring any sandwiches, only to finally get to the counter and discover that he's just run out of sausages.

And bread. Meanwhile, ice-cream men patrol deserted residential areas in their vans chiming out "Greensleeves", a tune which makes people who stayed at home wish that, after all, they hadn't.

All this happens because the banks are shut, which, of course, they aren't. The banks still play around with other people's money, but on Bank Holidays they do it with the doors locked. And, who knows, one day the banks, like the big shops, might actually start opening on Bank Holidays. Now that would be fun, wouldn't it?

Magnus Mills

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