Wednesday 2 May 2007

Back at work but another bridge soon

Didn't much like it. It doesn't matter how much or how little time you have off from work, when you go back it's always rubbish. Still, it's May, the month of public holidays (in France).

The French have a pleasant habit that works thus: when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, it is quite common for employees to take the Monday or Friday off too, making for an extra long weekend. They call it "faire le pont" (making a bridge). With the 35-hour week and the extra leave that came with it, a new custom known as the "viaduc" has arisen, whereby folk make an extra extended long weekend by taking the two working days before or after a Wednesday public holiday.

May is the month hors pair for public holidays. Three altogether, Mayday, Liberation Day (8 May) and Ascension (always a Thursday, so always a "pont"). Until a few years ago there was also Whit Monday (or Pentecost).

Many people now work Whit Monday as a "Day of Solidarity". This was set up following the August 2003 heatwave which precipitated the deaths of many thousand old people (most of whom, it is heartless but not unrealistic to say, wouldn't have made New Year 2004). The government, stung by criticism that while the nation's oldies were dying of heatstroke they were busy sunning themselves, had the bright idea of abolishing a public holiday. The claim was that we'd all work an extra day (but not get paid...) and instead of paying us, our employers have to contribute our salary for that day to the government (a not-very-stealth tax then). They would have had us believe the extra economic output would generate sufficient funds to pay for measures to protect oldies and other persons in difficulty (handicapped people mostly), in order to prevent another public health disaster like August 2003. Economic indicators have since shown that this extra day has no discernible effect on France's economic output.

And following this brief diversion, here is the weather:
21°C | 11°C
Sunny, 18°C

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