Monday, 25 April 2011

Bluebells and recycling

Talking about the weather is as dull as when I last mentioned the subject, so you can imagine that I only raise it now for reasons that go way beyond the merely meteorological.

It’s another extraordinarily glorious day. And yet it’s a bank holiday Monday.

Bank holidays are a peculiarly British institution. The term comes from the fact that even the banks are closed on those days. Of course, they’re not really closed: the work of the banks goes on night and day – after all, when you’re striving to milk the economy for all it’s worth and every twenty-four hour period can add several thousand pounds to your bonus, you resent giving up even a single day to mere recreation.

The key point about bank holidays is that they always occur on Mondays rather than on the day associated with the festival they mark. This is a much better system than in France, where holidays fall on the right date. If that happens to be a weekend, well, bad luck, you lose the holiday. But if it happens on a Tuesday or Thursday, you get a ‘bridge’, the Friday afterwards or the Monday before, to make a long weekend of it. Why, I’ve met people in the public sector who get double bridges when the holiday falls on a Wednesday, or even ‘reverse bridges’: the feast day is a Friday, but they get the Thursday as well, on the basis that had it been on the Thursday, they’d have had the Friday too.

It’s to avoid such terrible abuse, unbearable to the Puritan principles of our Protestant tradition, that we’ve gone for the Bank Holiday Monday. Of course it’s a real problem for certain people: a teacher friend was telling us just the other day how hard it is to complete any courses if the classes fall on a Monday.

But bank holiday Mondays have another, quasi-mystic quality. I’ve probably mentioned before, and if I haven’t I should have, that Britain has no climate, only weather. And despite my utter abhorrence of any kind of superstitious attribution of intention or spirituality to physical phenomena, I have to admit that there is an undeniable tendency of all bank holidays to have bleak, wet weather. ‘You’re taking the day off?’ the weather seems to say to us Brits, ‘well, take that,’ and it flings floods of water at us.

And yet today the weather is fabulous. On a bank holiday Monday. The time, it seems, is out of joint. What does this portend? In earlier days, we might have thought something awful like a war might be about to break out, but we like to get involved in so many wars these days that it’s become pretty banal. ‘Let me see, if it’s April, it must be Libya,’ is the way things have become.

So that leaves me with the disturbed feeling that something must be about to happen though I don’t know what.

Which isn’t to say that the weekend hasn’t been packed already. For example, the bluebells are now out, so when we went to Ashridge Forest on Saturday, it was as though we were wading through carpets of blue.

Ashridge carpet
And this weekend has also marked a personal milestone for me: I’ve mastered the recycling system in Luton. And let me tell you, it’s not that simple. For instance we have a green bin for recycling which among other things takes all plastic, such as bottles, but not plastic tubs, except that you can put in the labels from the plastic tubs, but only if they’re made of cardboard.

Apart from that, the green bin is actually too small for our recycling, so with the agreement of the Borough Council, we’ve reclassified our green bin as grey and our black bin as green. The third bin is brown and is referred to as the ‘green bin’ because it’s for garden waste.

So our green bin’s grey and our black bin’s green and our ‘green’ bin’s brown.

Put the wrong things in the wrong bin, and I’ve been given to understand that the earth falls into the sky and the trees all hang with fishes.

So mastering all that is a pretty remarkable achievement. Which makes me wonder whether perhaps the blue skies and warm temperatures, in spite of the bank holiday, have nothing to do with menacing portents. Maybe they’re just my reward from the gods for coming to terms with a system of such staggering sophistication.

Enough of all this metaphysical speculation. I’m going to stop writing about the weather and take the dog out to enjoy it.

The green bin's grey, the black bin's green
and the brown bin's for green waste


Anonymous said...

Lovely bluebells! About the only thing I miss ...


David Beeson said...

Not the bins, then? Not even a little bit?