Set your sights low – that’s the key to enjoying a bank holiday weekend

It was 1871 when the first four public holidays were set down in the UK; the rest were added throughout the 1970s

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The Independent Online

Oh lovely, a bank holiday.

There really is nothing better in life than a free day off work. A day to pack a picnic or fire up the barbecue. A day to paint the garage door or mow the lawn. A day to laze in the sun on Brighton/Blackpool beach. (Only a million townies will have had the same idea – you’ll be fine.) A day to roast one’s forehead and toast one’s shoulders, and turn into the office on Tuesday with a lobster glow.

Except, it is rarely a day to do any of these things. More often than not, bank holidays, like Daft Punk, the iPhone 5 and The Great Gatsby, fail to live up to the hype. The main culprit is the weather, of course. Hardly anyone has mentioned it, I know, but it is not great at the moment. Windy, rainy, should-I-dig-out-my-winter-coat-again cold, it is like a bad seaside postcard joke about the weather. We are hurtling towards January at an alarming rate. I have a wedding today and am wondering if it’s non-U to wear thermals under my dress and ditch the fascinator for ear muffs.

It was 1871 when the first four public holidays were set down in the UK; the rest were added throughout the 1970s. That’s almost a century and a half of fizzly barbecues and traffic jams, gooseflesh garden parties and rained-off DIY. And yet hope springs eternal in the bank holidaymaker’s breast. Is it daft to set so much store by these precious six days (eight if you count Christmas) off? Rather than treating them as an extra Sunday, they become three-day epics, mini-holidays, festivals. Perhaps we should recalibrate our expectations, stop trying so hard to enjoy them.

If you revel in other people’s disappointment, one fail-safe way to enjoy a dreary bank holiday is to go to work and earn double while it pours. If not, dream small. Make plans simply to stay indoors. Perhaps tackle that box-set. Set an hourly reminder that you would normally be in work and that it would be a Monday in work, at that. It’s a bonus 24 hours off the daily grind, and you want sunshine, too? Don’t be so greedy.

Twitter: @alicevjones