I’m sure I’m not alone in loving Bank Holiday weekends with the luxury of the extra day off. The August Bank holiday is always fun because of Spraoi. Once again this year hats off to the organisers for a superb weekend. It was great to see so many people in the city and the atmosphere was fantastic. I know I say it every year but there is no harm in reminding ourselves of how fortunate Waterford is to have Spraoi. It’s very easy to take the whole thing for granted and so it is important to take a step back each year and say, “WOW, fantastic free entertainment on our doorstep thanks to Spraoi.”
I particularly like it because of its lack of agenda. It wasn’t set up to attract tourists although that has been a tremendous spin off that has happened naturally. Supported by the local authority, it’s not a local authority initiative and yet the paradox is that Spraoi conjures more civic pride than perhaps any other endeavour in the Waterford calendar. Because there are so many volunteers involved it really is a festival for the people by the people. Although I’m careful to temper that with acknowledgement of the core group of permanent Spraoi people who put the whole thing in place.
In the last few years the move to split the Spraoi weekend from the parade has been an inspired idea: double helpings of Spraoi each summer. I have no doubt that there will be a negative comment or two in the wake of Spraoi. There will always be the detractors, the people who seem to think that the behaviour of individuals is the responsibility of the festival organisers or those who found that some of the acts or bands weren’t their cup of tea. I didn’t necessarily love every act I saw, but I was still delighted to see them. Anyway to everyone involved, Spraoi people, the Gardai and all the other bodies that contribute – thanks a million, can’t wait until next year.
Besides a Spraoi Bank Holiday weekend, that extra day in general is always welcome. It always leads me to fantasise about the possibility of a permanent three day weekend or, looked at another way, a four day working week. (I am perfectly aware that some people work six and indeed seven day weeks but I’m just considering that age old institution of Monday to Friday.) I reckon that if we worked a little harder or at least more efficiently over four days, the fifth would be quite superfluous. In fact the eight hour day could be looked at in the same way.
Many years ago I worked in an office with someone who would work like a demon for approximately four hours a day, sometimes less, and would then kick back for the remaining hours he was ‘paid’ to be there. Having had several hours of relaxation before going home he never left the office in anything but top form, ready to face a great evening with his family. I don’t think I’ll ever forget him and he left a huge impression on me. He had this theory that most people locked into the eight hour day system only worked about four to five solid hours anyway when you took out breaks, chats with other colleagues and other distractions. (It is also worth noting that these were the days before the internet, before Facebook, twitter and the proliferation of mobile phones and blackberry technology.) This approach really worked for him. He still produced quality work and met all necessary deadlines. He was excellent at his job and a valued member of staff within the company. Fortunately we also had a Chief Executive who was also quite progressive. He believed that as long as the work was done, it was up to the individual to find their own best method of doing it. There was no clockwatching in that company and, funnily enough, it all worked really well with the individual taking responsibility for their own time and projects, within reason.
Of course the danger of putting such a system in place is the human tendency to just get used to it again. I have no doubt that if we did have a three day weekend, eventually we would introduce a bank holiday, increasing the weekend to four days and the working week to three. (We could even end up with a longer weekend than working week.) The experts have even come up with a name on this phenomenon. It’s called ‘hedonistic habituation’. It will come as no surprise to learn that humans derive a great deal of pleasure from any kind of new positive experience. This can be having a nice weekend at Spraoi or even buying a new car, house or pair of shoes. However if we enjoy the experience again and again regularly we cease to derive anywhere near as much pleasure from it as time goes by. If, for example, Spraoi happened every weekend throughout the Summer I can guarantee that within a very short space of time people would get used to the fun and might even start to find fault with it. We might eventually start to resent how busy the city was on a Saturday or the obstruction that the music stages cause for example. It is just human nature. The same goes for new stuff. The initial thrill of a new car of even a new outfit fades very quickly.
Hedonistic habituation could also be one of the roots to our great love of the word ‘depression’ which seems to be interchangeable these days with the word ‘boredom’ and a tremendous insult to the genuinely depressed. I suppose hedonistic habituation is really just a fancy term for taking things or people for granted. I often fall into the hedonistic habituation trap. I’ll find myself dreaming of a holiday or wondering if I can squeeze a fancy pair of shoes into this week’s budget. I might even find myself getting disgruntled or even ‘depressed’ if I find that I can’t. And yet I sit here in good health with profitable work to do, a roof over my head, plenty of food and a wardrobe full of perfectly good shoes having just enjoyed a really great weekend at Spraoi; what in the world was I thinking?