Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Never was the language of Shakespeare so prosaically employed as it is on this holiday
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The Independent Online

And a very happy Early May Bank Holiday Monday to you! Actually, though, plunging straight into lively controversy as usual, I do think we could do rather better with the name. This is the language of Shakespeare, after all, and Early May Bank Holiday Monday, besides being a bit of a mouthful, doesn't do it for me in terms of a lyrical description summoning memory and promise of languid delight; nor Spring Bank Holiday Monday (30 May), nor Summer Bank Holiday Monday (29 August), come to that.

Did you see, by the way, that the RSC's new Stratford season doesn't feature anything by Shakespeare? Interesting idea - and one, I should have thought, that could usefully be followed up by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Automobile Club. Friends tell me the RSC might have got the idea from the Royal Courts of Justice; I'm just hoping one of my favourite ports of call, the Royal Fish Bar in Crystal Palace Parade, doesn't get to hear about it.

But, bank holidays. Couldn't we have something slightly more imaginative? It's not as if great minds are not at work elsewhere in the country on this sort of thing. Only last week we saw the opening, for example, of Robin Hood Airport. Robin Hood Airport! The great man would be very proud, I'm sure, that his way with aerial propulsion has been so magnificently commemorated. I'm also very keen on this judicious mix of old and new; another favourite of mine used to the Virginia Woolf Burger Bar and Grill at the Russell Hotel, Russell Square. Is is still there? I've always liked, too, while we're at it, the Shakespeare Business Centre in Brixton - although you'd be well advised to avoid the bloke running the North-west Adriatic Offshore Import Export business, as I'm told he drives a particularly hard bargain.

Names. We could go for other heroes. Churchill Day has a bit of a ring, or Wellington Day. Henry the Fifth Day, though, runs into the mouthful problem, while Arthur Day might get confused with early closing.

As a journalist, I should like to see the late Sir Robin Day honoured, if only because it would be Day Day. But surely, seriously, one of these spring holidays should be named after the unrivalled poet of spring, a man who can conjure it up in autumn, summer or winter; darkness, ice or drought: Big Bill, the Bard himself? Shakespeare Day: the campaign begins!

Thanks to Lancs

Happily, this coincides with another pressing interest of mine, a greater acknowledgement of the contribution that the great county of Lancashire has made to world civilisation. Yes, I am from there - but that's merely another coincidence. Did you know, for example, that tap dancing, the artistry of Astaire, Bojangles and Kelly, is directly derived from Lancashire clog dancing? It is. And Shakespeare, of course, owes much of his art to his stay during his formative years at Hoghton Tower, between Preston and Blackburn, a place you should visit around now to appreciate proper rough wind.

And I spotted yet another example of this all-pervasive Lancastrian influence last week, tucked away in the obituary of that fine actress, Kay Walsh, David Lean's second wife. I was already aware that Lean had sensibly chosen to shoot Brief Encounter, the most romantic British film ever made, at Carnforth railway station, Lancs; what I didn't know was that, before he began his directing career, Lean had been with Walsh on the set of two films, Keep Fit, and I See Ice. And who was the star of them? George Formby! Of course: study Lean's films, and the debt becomes obvious. Lawrence of Arabia comes immediately to mind: the tension as Omar Sharif shimmers ever closer, the crack of the rifle, the dead guide: a real "Ooh, mother!" moment, don't you think?Marvellous. Now where we? Oh yes, bank holidays.

And serious news: DIY seems to be in decline. A crisis of confidence in skill and ability is seeing DIY being replaced by DFY - done for you.

Ladies, gentlemen: on this day of all days, pick up those angle grinders, squeeze that filler, measure that shelf: never surrender! This island race has got where it is today by muddling through for itself. Did Robin Hood rely on builders? Could Alfred cook cakes? Did, for that matter, Shakespeare get someone else to write his plays? Ah. Next, quickly!

Feeling the force

Not much in life, I find, is unimprovable, but there have been a few reports recently that have given pause. The first was the Darth Vader impersonator, in full fig, stopped by police on the M1 for not wearing a seat belt.

The second was Carlos Santana allegedly sacking an employee for not being "closer to God": Bruce Kuhlman, 59, head of Santana's licensing operation, claims he was wrongfully dismissed after Doctor Dan, spiritual guru to the great guitarist's wife, Deborah, decided he was too old to elevate his enlightenment. Too old to elevate! Doctor Dan! Bliss!

Head start

Transport News Latest: did you know that you can double the range of your remote car opening fob thingie by pressing it against the side of your head? You can! Your skeleton acts as an aerial. Get out there and try it. But do your DIY first. And this just in: another motorist has knocked down the sign reading, "Sonning Common welcomes careful drivers." Splendid. Forward!