Learn English – Podcast: Bank Holiday


We go to the seaside. We sit on the sand and eat ice-cream…. Photo by crunchcandy/flickr Irene, who lives in Germany, is a regular listener to these podcasts. She has sent me an e-mail to suggest that I make a podcast about “bank holidays” in England and the way that we celebrate them. Most countries have public holidays at various times of the year – that means, days when schools, offices and many businesses are closed, so that most people do not have to go to work. In England, our public holidays have the rather strange name “bank holidays”. The name comes from an Act of Parliament in 1871, which required the Bank of England to close on certain days during the year. The idea was that, if the Bank of England was closed, many other businesses would close as well, and that their employees could have a day off work. And that is in fact what has happened – the “bank holidays” have become general public holidays. Some of the “bank holidays” are at the times of the important traditional Christian festivals at Easter and Christmas. But the other holidays are not religious, they are secular. Unlike public holidays in many other countries, they are not on a fixed date every year. Instead they are all on Mondays, so that people can take a long weekend break if they wish. Tomorrow, for example, is the May Day Bank Holiday, which is on the first Monday in May every year. We have another bank holiday, the Spring Bank Holiday, on the last Monday in May; and another bank holiday on the last Monday in August. In Scotland and Ireland they have bank holidays on the feast days of their patron saints – St Andrew’s Day (30 November) in Scotland, and St Patrick’s Day (17 March) in Ireland. But although we poor English have a patron saint, St George, we do not get a holiday on St George’s Day on 23 April. This is not fair. So, what do we English do on our bank holidays? We visit friends and relatives. Or perhaps we stay in bed until lunch-time. We dig our gardens and we mow our lawns. We go to football or cricket matches. We go to huge out-of-town superstores to buy curtains and things for the kitchen. We do DIY jobs around the house, like painting the bedroom or putting up a new shelf in the bathroom. And if the weather is good, we get in our cars and we go to the seaside. There we sit on the sand and eat ice-creams. At the end of the day, we get back into our cars and drive home. We get stuck in enormous traffic jams on the motorways. The children argue and fight in the back of the car. We arrive home tired but happy late in the evening. A perfect bank holiday! It’s such a pity we have to get up in the morning and go to work. Grammar and Vocabulary Note :: File Download (3:59 min / 2 MB) Less

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