I really couldn't say how long it has been established but it is now well and truly a part of English life. It's not something that anybody here in England can control; indeed, there is nobody anywhere who can exert much influence over this tradition. The time might come, many years from now, when that situation is altered but it certainly won't be in my lifetime and I doubt very much that it will come in the lifetime of my children or even my grandchildren.
Today, the last Monday in May, is a bank holiday in England and, true to tradition, the weather is grey and dull and there is a damp feeling in the air. Traditional bank holiday weather. Having said that, tradition went out of the window for the Easter bank holidays when the weather was glorious.
It doesn't seem so very long ago that the then Government changed our May bank holiday from Whit Monday to the last Monday in May. It must have been at the same time that they introduced an extra bank holiday on the first Monday in May. We had a Labour government at the time and they wanted to make May Day a bank holiday but rather than have a holiday occurring on a different day of the week each year, they decided to fix on the first Monday of the month. That means that when Easter is late, as it was this year, we have four bank holidays in very quick succession. This year, though, we have had five as the day of the royal wedding was declared an extra holiday.
We don't get another one until August. That one - August Bank Holiday - used to be on the first Monday in the month but that was moved (at about the same time as Whit Monday was cancelled and the Late Spring Bank Holiday introduced) to the last Monday. Then that will be it until Christmas.
There has for some time been talk of the possibility of introducing another holiday between August and Christmas but nothing seems to be coming of the idea. We will have an extra holiday next year to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The suggestion is that the Government will soon announce that the Late Spring Bank Holiday in 2012 is to be moved to the first Monday in June and the Tuesday will be declared the Jubilee holiday. I wonder if there will be an alternative plan in case something happens?