I think one of the great breakwaters between young adulthood and actual adulthood – the switch–flip from 25 to 26, for instance – is the level of surprise you have when a bank holiday weekend comes up. Adults plan around bank holidays, book their annual leave bumpered up against them, take a week off for the cost of four days, send Instagram updates from Puerta del Sol. Young adults are warned not to come in to work on Monday the Friday beforehand, and are astonished at it – a day off? A free day off? – and get giddy on it, spend 72 straight hours eating beer garden burgers and going blood-red in the sun.
It will surprise no one, but: I personally have been surprised by every bank holiday weekend for the past three decades, without let up, without fail. The number of times I have turned up to work on a Tuesday looking slightly dazed and having permanent sun-damage to my white husked lips is now beyond calculation.
I say all this because there is a bank holiday coming up and it’s not going to go how you think. For some reason, they never do: gaze into the deep pool of the bank holiday and know that you cannot maintain control over all those days, all those hours. There is something cursed about the three-day weekend: you cannot possibly do as much as you plan to, and everything you want to do will grow slightly curved and wrong in the reality of it, mangled, somehow. Don’t ask me why this is! It just is! It’s a phenomenon that cannot be explained!
Anyway, here are all your bank holiday plans, and how – precisely – they are going to go wrong. See which one is you:
THE WORTHY ONE
The Plan: Three whole days to get your life together. Life – I think you and I can both secretly acknowledge now – is relentless, and unyielding, and exhausting. The past few weeks just haven’t let up, have they? And you feel everything start to slide: your diet goes to shit, your exercise routine falls off a cliff, those hobbies you wanted to catch up on became the first soft layers whittled away from your punishing schedule. This is the weekend you get it all back: 72 unbroken hours of yoga, juicing, of going to a museum, getting ahead on your tax, doing that website you’ve been meaning to do, early nights, home-made face masks, a bath, a subtitled French arthouse movie at an independent cinema, four whole litres of water a day, try to figure out if you have a cheese allergy or not. This is it. This is the weekend you get all your shit together.
The Reality: This is not the weekend you get your shit together. Friday goes well – you don’t shun after-work drinks in the sun, exactly, but you only stay for two, then home to make an egg-white omelette and do a long shower. You told yourself you weren’t going to watch Netflix this weekend – it rots and softens the mind! – but you allow yourself five episodes of Friends, and then you wake up early to do a YouTube yoga video and a little walk to Whole Foods in fitted jogging bottoms. After 45 minutes you get very bored of the museum you commuted two hours round to get to. By 3PM you have caught up on every podcast you have been told to listen to by the Guardian. You sit on a bench and catch up on your Instagram Story. Literally everyone you know is in the same pub garden, two minutes away from where you are now. You do three bottles of wine and wake up in the afternoon the next day. Monday is spent eating a whole box of Iceland Majestics, nude and alone, lying in bed with the curtains half-drawn.
THE BIRTHDAY ONE
The Plan: I don’t know how, but statistically it is more likely that you’ll have friends with birthdays that fall on bank holidays than any other day of any other week, and I don’t want to get all tin-hat-truther about it – maybe these people are just, like, lying about their birthdays? So more people come out for their birthdays? Is this feasible? Do you, really, ever know when someone’s birthday is? Before I come out for a bank holiday birthday from now I’m going to insist on seeing a birth certificate or passport – but long story short, like six of your mates have birthdays this weekend and they are all doing A Thing. Three have booked long tables in a pub, one is having a barbecue round theirs and has vague plans to go to a rave after, another one is having a Big Meal, somebody is just "going to see how it goes" but "keep that evening free", and you are trying to go to all of them
The Reality: You did that thing where you went to a Wetherspoons on the Friday and two of the people in your group hadn’t seen the app in action yet, so you got a bit show off-y and got like four rounds and one plate of chips delivered to your table, and now it’s mid-afternoon and you’ve got a wine headache and one of the parties has already started without you. Do you text an excuse, or do you not text an excuse? It’s tricky, isn’t it: texting an excuse is presuming that a party is so dire and un-jumping that everyone there notices your absence, which is wildly egotistical, but not sending the excuse makes it seem like you don’t care and can sometimes lead to an irreparable crack in the friendship. Listen, it’s only Liam from college. Don’t send the excuse.
The pizza turns up and you eat it in complete silence before having a shower and getting ready for Party #1. It’s a meal, but seeing as you’ve just eaten an entire Pepperoni Passion you figure you’ll turn up an hour late and have a starter and a glass of wine and make your excuses and leave, but when you show up they’re all behind anyway – "Join in! We ordered food enough for everyone!" – and you find yourself choking down a load of pasta and garlic bread before waddling out to the Uber that takes you to a club. [Entire deleted scene where you spend an hour, sweating and distraught, trying to find a public toilet clean and accessible enough for you to have a shit in].
Party #3 is actually quite popping – your mate seems to have some sort of booth or something and loads of attractive people wearing all-white (was this an all-white party? Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck—) are actually dancing and stuff, and then it turns into an afterparty at someone’s horrible soulless new build flat, fluorescent lights and people just really openly doing drugs off an IKEA chopping board, and then you see the sun come up from a balcony and get home with your head pounding about 10AM. Sunday afternoon is spent wondering whether to make excuses. Monday afternoon is spent wondering whether to make excuses. You somehow manage to eat four large pizzas in one 72-hour period. Your bank calls you on Tuesday to make sure Pizza Hut aren’t trying to rinse you for fraud.
THE HORNY ONE
The Plan: the sun is shining and you are aggressively horny. You know how it is: you have been texting a couple of people, Tindering a bit, right-swiping, catapulting a handful of bait into the sexy water, but one of the potentials has really taken your attention lately; they are messaging you on all fronts – a WhatsApp here, a Facebook message there, and here they are forwarding a meme to your Instagram inbox; here you are, both at separate parties, purposefully ignoring everyone to text each other instead – and you know that It Is On. This is the weekend you make your move. This is the weekend you rut like horny stags.
The Reality: Your "hey, so what you doing this weekend" text goes ignored for eight entire hours because it turns out they were on some sort of ridiculously long train journey home, a Virgin Pendolino that inexplicably snaked its way through every 4G hotspot in the entirety of Great Britain, and when they finally get back to you – "oh, yeah, right: I’m in Durham" at 10 actual PM – you’ve already gone fraught and out of your mind and also run out of free swipes on Tinder. You’d kind of been relying on spending the whole weekend shagging and neglected to make any plans with any of your mates, and when you text them to see what’s happening they’re all in Portugal, for some reason, on a combined stag–hen do of two people you met once but don’t exactly know, and now you’re just kicking around you room (tidied, just in case) in your nicest underwear (just in case) with nothing to do. You basically spend the whole weekend aggressively watching every Instagram story they drop (six videos of their mum’s dog ignoring them; one picture of their mum’s roast w/ the prayer hands emoji over the top of it) and mainlining porn. You realise mid-way through Monday that the only significant thing you’ve eaten this weekend is a load of Cadbury Fingers. The resultant sex, in two Thursdays' time, is deeply underwhelming.
THE MAKE! THE! MOST! OF! THE! SUN! ONE
The Plan: Sun's out, huns! Which means one thing: picnic in the park, beers in the pub garden, back to someone’s flat with a garden in it because they have a paddling pool, bike ride out to somewhere nice, deep lustrous tan, 200+ like Instagram selfie because the light coming through your bedroom window in the morning absolutely bangs.
The Reality: You have absolutely no clothes that look flattering in heat about 15°, your T-shirt wicks itself to your back with sweat over the course of a ten-minute bus journey, you have a crashing headache from the massive iced latte you had for breakfast, obviously you didn’t wear enough suncream, you cannot find your good sunglasses, for some reason you are wearing a kaftan?, you have eight missed calls from everyone at the park barbecue because you absolutely can’t find them and you’re an hour-and-a-half late and all you bought was crisps, there’s nowhere to sit in the pub garden because fucking obviously everyone had this idea, you don’t think that sausage was cooked properly, your bedroom at night is the hottest place on Earth (You, every summer: "This is the summer I’m going to buy a fan!" You, every summer, looking at the Amazon page for fans: "£37? For a fan? Absolutely not."), you spend the entire Monday with the curtains drawn and a wet flannel on your head, how does this happen every year.
I AM AFRAID ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS HAS DECIDED TO HAVE A THREE-DAY STAG AND/OR HEN
The Plan: Ah, god, you didn’t realise it when they were sending all those planning emails – so many planning emails, hundreds of planning emails – but that stag and/or hen do you’re going on is this weekend. Everyone who is your real friend is staying at home and drinking cloudy yellow pints of Hoegaarden in a pub garden and doing 40-strong epic group selfies, but here’s you, in Budapest, talking to some lad called Greg about how much he can bench press. Yeah, no, mate, sounds good, like you’re looking trim—
The Reality: For some reason time warps and bends on stag and/or hen parties, so the usual weekend of excess feels like two or three weeks, and a three-day bender feels like a lifetime wasted in hell. Things that always happen: two of the people there fall critically out and everyone has to have a really sober come-on-now talk over breakfast and make them shake hands; you get kicked out of one bar but let into another that stays open until 3AM; someone is so sick it is almost a medical emergency; three people go off into a splinter-group and get very legitimately lost for a while; every time you look at your phone someone your mate was friends with at uni says "COME ON NOW NO PHONES" and you genuinely wonder about the country’s murder laws; someone who works in finance very insistently books an activity for everyone that somehow ends up costing £300. You don’t land back from the holiday, in hoodies and silence, until 2AM on the Tuesday morning. Back to work six hours later. "How was your weekend?" people ask you, as you nurse a neck stiffened by sleeping on a fold-out AirBnB sofa for three nights followed by an EasyJet flight. "Yeah," you say, five years burned from your life expectancy, liver slowly dying. "Yeah, good."
THE 'I'LL GO HOME FOR THE WEEKEND' ONE
The Plan: Remember home? Lovely home: lovely little three-day weekend at home. You booked the train tickets weeks ago so they only cost about £30 more than you can feasibly afford. You let the Facebook group chat know you were incoming. PREPARE THINESELF, LADS AND LADETTES. THE PRODIGAL SON HAS RETURNÉD. TO THE PUB! TO THE SAME OLD PUB!
The Reality: Ah, two of your mates have completely forgotten you are coming up – "We’re going to a tech expo in Nottingham. I suppose I could meet you for a pint, later maybe? Between 7 and 7.15 on Sunday?" – and the rest of your mates are hanging out with this new kid who… sort of… looks like you…? And acts like you…? And sits in the same seat you always sit in at the pub? Didn’t… didn’t you always used to be the centre of attention? And now there’s a strange boy at the end of the table, all the faces turned adoringly towards him, telling some not-even-funny anecdote about how he snuck vodka into a nightclub? You try to go to the same end-of-a-night-out chip shop you always used to go to but it’s changed ownership and it’s not the same. You try to find the old magic of your town by walking around the old shopping precinct, but all the shops have changed – Wilko is now a JD Sports? Where did Argos go? – and when you go home to mope on the sofa your mum dunks a massive box of junk by your feet and tells you that you have to sort it out. Dad refuses to give you a lift to the station on Monday because "you’re a big bollocks now". Train gets re-routed and it takes six days to get home. You realise on Tuesday morning that you somehow spent £150 on alcohol this weekend but didn’t, at any moment, actually get pissed. What’s the point of it all, eh. What’s the point. What is the point.
Anyway: happy bank holiday weekend!