Jayne Dawson: Help! That annual foreign invasion is with us again

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It wasn’t the biggest news in the world so I’m thinking you probably missed it.

But in the summer there was a petition signed by 120,000 people asking for two new bank holidays, to mark the Muslim celebration of Eid and the Hindu festival of Diwali.

No need to go rushing off for your diary to book in the dates though because the request was refused by the government, which thinks we have quite enough time off already thank you very much.

I find this a pity since I like a bank holiday, and would have welcomed a couple more. Because bank holidays are great aren’t they?

There is something charmingly outdated about the notion of enforced, joint leisure time in our flexible, fragmented, every-person-doing-their-own-thing world.

Granted, we don’t all fill a flask, grab a car rug and head for the seaside any more.

We don’t even all make a dash to the shops for stuff to demould the shower or bung up that leak in the guttering any more, since these days it’s more about GSI (Get Someone In) than DIY.

But still a day off is a day off.

I know some people would object. If not on the grounds that a bank holiday costs £2.3 bn in lost industry, then on the grounds that this is a country based on Christian belief , and so it follows that only Christian festivals should be officially marked.

I understand that point of view too. I like being British, I like our British culture, which is why at this time every year I find myself annoyed.

It’s that Trick or Treat business. I mean, come on. We’re a proud, independent isle - so why exactly have we imported this custom that is American to its very core?

It might not command a bank holiday, but it has taken over one whole evening.

What will you be doing on Friday night - awkwardly handing out sweets - or hiding?

Everything about this imported celebration goes against our national character.

There is too much fraternising with the neighbours, too much dressing up, too much indulgence of the kiddies and way, way too much pumpkin, a vegetable grown by native Americans and then taken up by the early Pilgrim settlers as a way of staying alive.

We’re more swedes and turnips, surely?

None of it sits well with us. Until the American WalMart entered our lives, by taking over supermarket Asda, Halloween was a nothing kind of a festival.

The real action began on November 4, known as Mischief Night, and the time when any self-respecting child spent the evening knocking on doors and running away.

Annoying, but at least there was no need for the victim to then open the door and offer sweets. And it was the mere curtain-raiser to Bonfire Night, that time when we gaily celebrate the killing of a troublesome Catholic. It’s bloodthirsty, but it’s all ours.

But Trick or Treat is only one of many American invasions: we watch American films, read their books, listen to their music. We eat those giant cupcakes, forgetting that for years the fairy cake and the butterfly bun were our more modest teatime treat.

We spend billions in Starbucks and on Amazon. We know the name of their president, and we mourn their dead as much as our own.

We have become as American as apple pie - though why they claim our fruit pie I don’t know: meanwhile, Americans think of us as some small, quaint place of little importance, just off Europe.

So please don’t let anyone suggest Thanksgiving as a British national holiday because, unlike with Eid and Diwali, I think the answer from the government might just be a big: “Hell, yeah.”

You need to know - fashion trouble is about to flare

There have been many false prophecies - but this time it’s true.

Enjoy the rest of this year while you can because next year something big is going to happen.

I say big, what I really mean is wide - because the flared trouser is on the way back.

Next spring they will be all over the catwalk. The twiggy lower leg of every model will be obscured by swathes of fabric .

“What’s that to do with me?” I hear you say. “I’m never going to wear them” I hear you say.

Ah. That’s what we people of a certain age said when first confronted by the straight leg trouser.

“What’s that to do with me...etc” we said.

A year later we had all kicked our loon pants and platforms into the back of the cupboard and were self-consciously stepping out in narrow things that made us look fat. Because say what you like about a flare, it definitely has the effect of making the rest of a person’s body look thinner.

The problem lies not with their width but with their length. As a flares veteran I am here to tell you that length is everything.

Wear them short enough to go with your flat shoes, and they look “half-mast” with anything else.

Have them long enough to cover your high heels, and they balloon ridiculously around your feet in anything flatter. Plus they are dangerous, with a nasty tendency to trip a person up.

Which is why I won’t be wearing them - and this time I really do mean it.

Tess and Claudia are Strictly good friends

Much is being made of Claudia Winkleman’s new role on Strictly Come Dancing. The woman who presented the BBC Two spin-off for years is being judged a huge success.

And so she should be. Those of us who have been Claudia fans for years already knew she was funny, quirky and fun to watch. In fact ratings for the show have gone up in recent weeks.

It’s all good news for Claudia and Tess Daly, the first all-female duo to present a hit primetime TV show. They must both be thrilled.

Except the news is being presented differently. There are stories about Tess being eclipsed by Claudia, about rivalry, about how threatened Tess must feel.

I can’t help but think the coverage would be different if these two presenters were male.

Claudia is the funny one, Tess is the sensible one. That is how television partnerships always work.

Why should Tess feel threatened? I imagine that as more people are tuning in, she has nothing but a smile on her face at Claudia’s antics.


Caroline Verdon: Nothing quenches your soul like the taste of a great cuppa