Bank Holiday Monday

The clearing is still going on, but perhaps that’s what Bank Holiday Mondays are for – there will be queues at the dump today. It is odd how we cling to the phrase ‘Bank Holiday’ as being of huge significance. Since my bank is in cyberspace, it certainly isn’t taking a holiday, and there are people waiting to take my instructions at the bank’s call centre, too. I don’t know whether the phrase exists in other countries, but it will certainly persist in this one, where change is anathema when it comes to using names. You can see this in the names of political parties – Labour (hopelessly out of date), Conservative (well…), and Liberal. Strictly speaking, the Liberals aren’t the Liberals any more, but the Liberal Democrats, and, yes, all right, the shortened form ‘LibDem’ has taken over to a degree. But most people still think of them as the Liberals. They’re only Liberal Democrats because the original Liberal Party merged with the Social Democrat Party after the ‘third force’ never broke through (the ‘Alliance’, they were called, as if they were some intergalactic army, and they had a ‘Prime Minister Designate’ in the shape of the late and rather-too-grand Roy Jenkins). The choice of name after the merger caused ructions. As I remember, the top choice of the SDP members was ‘Social and Liberal Democrats’ – something they dumped, I suspect, because the acronym might well have been SALAD, and you toss salads, and someone would have called them a bunch… you see my point.

Logic doesn’t play a part in names, of which the most spectacular illustration (well, okay, no fireworks) was at the FE (furher education) college where I worked, where there was a concept called ‘A3 remission’. A3 remission – ‘remission’ is a typical piece of edicational jargon – was time off teaching to take on a responsibility. For instance, I had an hour a week to be the college’s Press Officer, which meant trawling the college for good news stories to give to the local press. I soon got the hang of it. If the headline was arresting, and if the copy fitted on to a single page, they used it. But they always did two things – changed the headline, and changed the first sentence. The rest went in unadulterated, and, you had to suspect, unread. But I digress.

As contracts in FE changed, and not in a good way, one of the major bargaining issues was around who did or did not get this A3 remission, the quantity of which was itemised on the front of your register against a big bold heading : A3 remission. By the time the arguments about who should or should not get ‘A3’, as it was called, I had been working in the place for one and a half decades. During that time, I had not once stopped to ask myself, or anyone else, what the hell ‘A3’ meant.

The regulations covering contracts in further education were then contained in what was called, with a hint of holiness, ‘The Silver Book’. It followed that the newly hired Personnel Managers (soon to become Human Resource Managers – do you see how I’ve skewered my opening argument by contradicting it?) were despatched to find one of these Silver Books, and study it for loopholes. By that time, there were very few copies of it around. But when they ran one to earth, they found that there was no reference to A3 at all. However, there was a sub-section relating to ‘lecturers’ (God, how I hate that word) being given time off to perform special duties. The number of the sub-section was 8.3. Someone had mis-heard it or mumbled it at some moment in pre-history, and the phrase ‘A3’ had smoothly passed into existence. But even the knowledge of this error did not stop people using the term, even on a Bank Holiday.

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