Walking across the field to the north of the Castle, the ground becomes more uneven, marked by hollows and ridges. Perched on a fence looking around, it is easy to imagine the homes and buildings that once stood here so long ago. Thinking about how these people lived, I always feel very lucky that today so many of us have such easy access to the warmth, shelter and food which our ancestors had to toil so hard for. It really was all about the weather: shelter, warmth, protection and a place to relax after a day’s work.
Undoubtedly, in the past, a day’s work would have been more physical than it is for most of us today. Records from that time testify to projects of agriculture and horticulture, of building homes, churches, fences and ditches. We do, however, still do carry out some physical work here: last night a team of us helped set up for filming, moving sofas, plants and flowers, sorting out car parking and then laying down a veritable mammoth sized pile of mats. Rushing to get everything sorted as we try to fit everything into the schedule, the weekend has disappeared with no break from one occupation to another and, no down time.
In the normal course of events, each week should have a “Holy day” or day of rest: Sunday. Like the other days of the week, it is named for the solar system, in this case the sun. Early puritans went so far as to forbid all secular activities on a Sunday but even today its tone is somehow different. The newspapers tend to encourage a slower read with more considered articles, radio stations change pace and Sunday TV has a different type of offering whether it be Downton Abbey, Poldark or Call the Midwife. Even the pattern of our meals change whether it is brunch or a traditional Sunday lunch.
The strict observance of Sunday has, for most of us, been smudged over in favour of convenience in a nonstop turning world and the rules of what can and cannot be done on this day, once so universal, have been adapted to meet our more multi-cultural society.
However, over the last eighteen months, the whole structure of the week has been weakened and muddled. There is increasingly little differentiation between weekdays and weekends, something which has been quite difficult to live with. For many of us there were only two options: either working without end to help a business survive or being on furlough worrying about money and job security. There was little to look forward to, no pause and often no sense of reward for work well done. In the end, perhaps what it has achieved is the realisation that there was a purpose behind the weekly cycle with its five days of activity followed by two of relaxation and domesticity. That a regular pause is much needed.
Moreover, throughout the year, most cultures and societies have created other days of rest – Holy Days – on which to rest and stop the everyday in order to celebrate. The title has since dissolved into the world “holidays” with all its connotations of fun, rest and relaxation.
Unfortunately, for many of us, this concept too has been the subject of much pain and confusion recently, certainly in this country. After this last eighteen months understandably many of us want to find a pause button, to rest both in body and mind. All of us are framed to an extent by where we live and most of us need a change of location in order to change our mindset. Holidays may be about dreaming under a sunshade or more actively exploring other places, art and culture but either way they are a reset button. Unfortunately, for many families, they have simply become the subject of additional stress which has added to the emotionally upheaval already experienced this year.
In our busy lives, holidays play an important role in helping to maintain our equilibrium. They are not just a luxury. Without the ability to go somewhere else, and with job uncertainty, it is tempting for many to simply soldier on. Long term this is definitely not a healthy lifestyle and has definite health implications. We are made up of dreams and memories, of a restlessness and need to see other people and we all need something to look forward to as a reward for trying our best.
Of course care is needed, safety should be paramount and there are other considerations. As with all things though, it is equally important to find that precise point where the solution does not become more drastic than the original problem. Do you remember the lyrics:
“We’re all goin’ on a summer holiday
No more workin’ for a week or two
Fun and laughter on a summer holiday
No more worries for me or you
For a week or two” ………..wouldn’t that be nice! .