Holidays – why we need more of them

Mon 30 August – Sun 5 Sept 2021

So I have written this blog based largely reflecting on the August Bank Holiday. I love bank holidays because they create abnormality in the dull routine of our normal lives. But this one is the saddest for me as it marks the end of summer and the beginning of the long, dark, cold stretch till the oasis that is Christmas / New Year. This year’s bank holiday has been made worse by the indifferent weather on the day itself as well as the sad passing of my contemporary Sara. You can read more about the latter in last week’s blog here – ‘Sad news gives perspective to our lives‘.

More bank holidays are great – look at other countries

Bank holidays give us time to catch-up (laundry, cleaning, box-sets, friends, family, etc), do nothing, and be frivolous. That is the point of holidays. They are the alternative to how we normally live – how things could be, and not just a break from it.

This is linked to my love of Spain and the non-Anglo Saxon world in general with its rejection of Weber’s Protestant Capitalist work ethic. Spain has a wonderful amount of bank holidays (generally days linked to saints or religious events). And the wonderful thing is they are taken on the day the date falls not just always a Monday. This means people often take off days around them and create real holidays.

I know people moan about the ‘manana’ Mediterranean lifestyle but that is bollocks. This is more based on living in a hot climate where you have to pace yourself. Brits and Americans are definitely as lazy if not more so. And the idea that the USA and the UK are less bureaucratic is laughable. Have you ever experienced American immigration or British banks – Kafkaesque.

And if we don’t have sufficient holidays…

…then people get stressed, insular, and ratty. We all need to pace ourselves to fulfil our potential and be as productive as possible. I have always thought of work as being about spinning plates. Having to pay attention as individual ones slow down to stop them dropping. And I think that is a good comparison for life in general.

So I have booked my holiday in Spain for the end of October / early November as detailed in last week’s blogs. There are tons of arguments, particularly coached in economic terms, for why more bank holidays would be a bad thing and we are generally conditioned to accept those arguments. But that is part of the capitalist conspiracy thinking we have been indoctrinated with. Don’t forget, you will die no matter how rich you are.

The spurious work-life balance argument

I have written before about how I don’t really believe in the idea of work-life balance. In that it is based on a spurious notion that work life and non-work life can be split and somehow kept in a perfect balance to make us as productive as possible. The reality is that no matter how hard we try, work and non-work spiral in together. Holidays are important to pace us but often it’s easier to do some work whilst on holiday. And sometimes when you are working you need to slack or take a pause to avoid burn-out. I think it is better to keep the plates spinning at an average 80% work capacity all the time rather than crazy fluctuating periods of 100% and 0%.

Perfect example last week in that I moved my days around to accommodate some necessary meetings. So rather than day-on / day-off as my favoured routine, I did one full day on Wed and 2 half days on Thurs and Fri.

Doing a good day's work

Learning for the private and not-for-profit sectors

I am learning so much in my new role. In particular, the strengths and weaknesses of the private and not-for-profit sectors. And the way that each sector could benefit from taking on some of the features of the other. This could be so useful if I go back to the not-for-profit sector in the future especially in the field of business development.

In particular I have learnt from the private sector:

  • Greater staffing flexibility / less silo-working, moving people around to projects to ensure success rather than allowing people to be tied to ‘their’ project when there are others that need assistance.
  • The importance of small financial margins to make a difference and not doing work if you can’t get paid adequately for it.
  • The focus must always be on the client’s needs and delivering results. The journey is not the most important thing, you also need to arrive.

But the private sector also needs to learn and understand the importance of not just tying everything to money. Sustainability is vital. If all you care about is profit without attention to social justice, climate change, and ethics then financial success is hollow and cannot last. Linked to this I attended a webinar last week on Responsible Tech and am looking forward to the upcoming Responsible Tech summit – both featured in my blog last week. You can find the links here.

Weight loss on pause

Holidays can make it easy to lose weight. This is due to no frequent eating based on work and life stress. But we can also over-indulge in terms of food and drink simply to ‘treat’ ourselves. I find holidays enable me to skip eating. My flexi-working last week meant times when stress-induced eating happened though also periods when I could lose thoughts of food in work issues.

Overall, result was a small gain of a quarter pound – see my weight loss pattern here. I feel this is a small, temporary blip. Pretty sure I can get back to the space where I am not eating so much. Indeed, I am working out that the whole weight on / weight off process is based more around what is going on in someone’s head rather than what is around them physically. The environment does influence things but more influential is what your brain is telling you. Or what you think it is telling you.

man weighing himself

Lovely walks and the pleasure of going into the office

Several of these happened and they are my main source of exercise these days. This included walks into the office. I am enjoying going in not only because it is giving me a reason for exercise. But also as it is a change of environment which is stimulating. Indeed, our newly refurbished office is a really nice place to work.

walking feet

But also nice to catch up with colleagues in the flesh I have only met on zoom. And to have the chance of connection with new colleagues. It is easy to get distracted in the office and WFH is definitely good for maximum productivity. But online working does take away the ability to have random meetings and so build your networks and eco-systems. You can’t meet people online unless it is planned.

Books: ‘The Overstory’

I wrote about this wonderful book in last week’s blog. Completed it last week and would definitely recommend. Not perfect, a bit too ‘literary’ at times and slightly melodramatic in parts. But it has made me look at the world differently. Perhaps it only works if you already care about the environment and are worried about the potential upcoming environmental armageddon. However, it should make you see trees in a new and appreciative ways. Without trees, we really are screwed. You can read more about this wonderful book on Wikipedia here

The importance of planting trees

And passed the book onto a colleague to read. I got it secondhand in a charity shop. And now I have passed it onto someone who will probably pass it on again or give it back to a charity shop. A perfect example of the beauty of the circular economy in action.

Books: Velvet Page failure

Good intention to attend on Thurs evening. But it followed an intense day in office and I just wanted to see Dave plus vegetate. I will attend this lovely book club again at some point. It’s nice to know it is there. But, of course, nothing lasts forever and so I need to accept that hopefully it will continue but, if and when if ends, it was great that it happened. Bit like the lovely retreats I used to go to at Loyola Hall which I thought would always be there…

Sustainability: offloading and facing up to responsibilities

Linked to Powers’ book, I have continued with my mission to live as sustainably as possible. To live more frugally and self-sufficiently with offloading of stuff. For the latter, it is the ongoing process of particularly looking through books and DVDs to let them go. Accepting that the thinking of ‘I will watch this one day – perhaps when I am on holiday!’ was the same that I thought when I bought (hoarded?) it 5 or 10 years ago. Though I am still struggling with ebay’s homophobic algorithm that identifies gay-themed DVDs as ‘restricted adult material’. Wonder which dodgy political regimes they are trying to keep happy and on board?

When time is ticking away, it is important to get your affairs in order. Not to shirk your responsibilities and just assume the next generation will sort it. As we are doing with the environment and social care. Seeking to have our cake and eat it but assuming it will get sorted by someone else probably our kids and grand-kids.

Clothes and window-boxes

Horrified to hear a debate on radio about whether a woman should wear an outfit again once she had shown it on Instagram. How crazy is that? The idea that clothes should only be worn once! If we think that is normal then we deserve the forest fires and floods. Clothes are to be worn till they fall apart.

And as my small contribution to making things better, I am nurturing the window box at my flat. The hebe and lavender will particularly benefit bees.

Spider plant

Friends: parties and Philip

Life should be a holiday, we should enjoy it without harming the planet and other living things including our fellow human beings. As such, it was great to catch up with friends last week.

Saturday – me, Dave and our friend Pierce went out to Watford for a friend’s 60th birthday. As with so many events during the pandemic, this had been postponed twice already so our mate Chris is actually now 61 and a half. A nice, relaxed event. Though further out of town than expected and getting back at midnight was a bit of a mare. Does remind me of my love of cities partly because you are not reliant on cars.

Meanwhile, my mate Philip is over from Spain for a UK holiday. Albeit he is now in quarantine for 2 weeks and involved in the racket that is the numerous expensive private tests the UK government is insisting on. Doesn’t actually seem to stop the spread of Covid (see below). Will meet up with him soon and before I see him again on my upcoming Torremolinos holiday.

Learning to live with Covid?

Does feel like this is where we are heading in the UK. That we accept Covid as some sort of endemic disease, a bit like a permanent bad flu outbreak. We are up to 40K positive test results per day and a normal of around 7,500 people in hospital + 150 daily deaths – the new normal. Interesting that we are being told that the daily release of these figures may stop in order not to frighten people…

when only bed and rest can help

It was interesting last week that I took part in two events that would have been seen as very risky a few months ago. First, a work meeting with 30 people in the same room. Then the packed tube and train journey to and from Watford at the weekend with the party at a pub in-between. Fingers crossed I’m OK but I suppose that is the risk we are all taking. Oh well, perhaps if this is the new normal then we can hopefully get back to ‘normal’ holidays taking on board the risks involved.

Personal development; art and culture

Two things that I am trying to put more into my life everyday and not just stick them in when I am on holiday. To be fair, I am doing my Duolingo language learning each day though primarily just Spanish and German – mainly to help me when I am on holiday! And I continue to do some coding practice via the Mimo app.

Art and culture is really missing in my life. I read books and watch TV but I would love to have more art and culture weaved into my everyday existence. Interesting that I can’t even seem to find the time to consume more online like just watching a film.

The Week Ahead

  • It is going to be a busy one at work though back to my day-on / day-off routine
  • Back to trying to lose weight through not eating when I am not hungry / semi-starvation and exercise via walking
  • Will finish the fun Dr Who short stories anthology I am reading and ‘Hotel du Lac’ so I can start at least one new reading book
  • Meeting up with old colleague and friend Jo on Thurs
  • Dave is forcing me to go to the theatre with him on Wed. I’m not a big theatre fan but I am sure it will be fun.
  • Spend time with mum who I love to bits but who can drive me to drink in the same breath…

And Finally…

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