France celebrated Bastille Day on Friday with the traditional military parade of the four armed services, with
President Jacques Chirac presiding over the display of pomp and fanfare for perhaps the last time. (…)
The day commemorates the 1789 storming of the former Bastille prison in Paris by angry crowds, sparking the revolution that brought an end to the monarchy in France.
To begin with, the national holiday is never, ever, called “la fÃªte de la Bastille” (or whatever translation would be appropriate for Bastille Day in French) in France. It is always “le 14 juillet”. Continue reading →
Today is Saint David’s day, or Dewi Sant, so greetings to you all everywhere. As you know I am not a person with nationalist sentiment, but a good excuse for a celebration is always fine with me. One of my cousins, she must be in her seventies now, wrote to remind me:
“Greetings to you all on Saint David’s Day. Cyfarchion a’r dydd Gwyl Dewi ein nawdd Sant.
I hope you are all well. My Daffodils are out in the garden and I will wear my Daffodil and enjoy leeks – not from my garden! I am having a holiday on 1 March and so are many others inspite of Mr. Blair, who will not grant us a holiday. We will soon wear him down as the demand for a Welsh National Holiday is getting stronger every year.”
So onwards and upwards to the coalition of the willing, that’s what I say!
The Berlin Wall.To be sure, this was a busy week for the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. In addition to the obligations caused by a state visit of Queen Elizabteth II, which, not unexpectedly, took place in an atmosphere of tabloid turmoil on both sides of the channel, the autumn European summit in Brussels, and the political digestion of the US election, he managed to upset pretty much everyone in political Germany – and beyond (Bild.de) – with the most bizarre proposal to – sort of – abolish the German national holiday, October 3, in order to boost GDP growth and, as a consequence, eventually meet the fiscal criteria set out in the stability and growth pact. Continue reading →
It’s party time in Barcelona. There’s no circus in town, but there is just about everything else. In fact many of you may be surprised to learn that today is a public holiday here, and indeed it may surprise you even more to discover that the holiday is only Barcelona. This situation is strange for many outside Spain, and draws attention to the fact that decisions about public holidays (and of course, many other matters) are taken at three levels: national, autonomous community, and municipal. (Oh how well I remember the days of travelling round Europe, and needing to change money on just the day………that everything was unexpectedly closed). It also draws attention to the prevalence and social importance of public holidays and festivals here. Of note too is the way these holidays draw attention to that unique combination of the traditional and the modern which characterises contemporary Spain. (Actually, to be really pc here I should say ‘the modern Spanish State’ since this is the terminology adopted by those of its citizens who do not especially consider themselves to be Spanish, there is no equivalent of the British/Welsh/Scottish/English classification here, and Catalan, Basque, and Galician football teams are definitely not encouraged in the new ‘multicultural’ Spain). Continue reading →
European countries never do very well in the gimmicky league tables or comparative indices of nations that thinktanks love to devise in order to meet the bills. You know the sort of thing ? the World Competitiveness Ratings or the Index of Economic Freedom. I thought it was time to come up with one that plays to Europe’s strengths.
What strengths, you may ask? Well the combination of gloomy back-to-work September, and a recent report from the International Labor Organisation, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, reminded me of something the continent has in its favour ? short working hours and long holidays. And so to boost European?s international self-confidence during these difficult economic times, I would like to propose a new measure of how much time we have to spend at work, Work Freedom Day. Continue reading →