SlowCast Episode 9: Muses and Saint Monday

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Below is a transcript:

Once again a month seems to have passed since I last produced a Slow cast, it is certainly not because I have been being tardy. Far from it. I wish I had!

I have been busy, busy, busy (and those of you that have been reading my most recent blog entries will know that being busy is very different to being productive).

This is no way for an idler to behave!

Between this post and last I have been on a very steep learning curve. I have been teaching myself a lot of techie stuff so that I can take much more of my online activity into my own hands without relying on other people. I have done this for a couple of reasons, but mainly to save money…

I have never made an excuse or avoiding stating the fact that I do this for a living. I am a full time coach and trainer who has turned to helping people slow down. So, please, just for a moment excuse a quick advert for my upcoming stuff.

I have decided to bite the bullet and put on some seminars this autumn, they will be held in Birmingham in the UK and are £55 per seminar (which are a whole day.

Welcome to the Slow Life on the 10th October is a general introduction to the history, principles and philosophy of the Slow Movement including practical advice and tips to help you start (or continue to Slow Down)

Finding time to be Slow on the 7th November is about Time management, the Slow Way! The biggest excuse I find from people is that they don’t have the time to slow down. This day will talk you through a tried and tested process to get everything you need get done more easily and quickly so you can find the time to be slow.

And finally…

“Zen and the Art of Going Slowly” – A Day of Mindfulness on the 21st November. Which is exactly what it says! Slow is about savouring the minutes not counting them. But how much attention do you really pay to the present moment?

Present moment awareness is at the core to the Slow philosophy and in this day you will learn ways to be more mindful in your day-to-day life (without needing to spend hours contemplating your navel – unless you want to of course!)

And talking of work and money. One of the reasons I have been working on a lot of web stuff is to set up some “muses”. I was inspired by 2 things: Tim Ferriss’s excellent book “The 4-hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” and by the “Afterward” in the recent Edition of the New Escapologist (also inspired by the The 4-hour Work Week) (If you don’t read the New Escapologist I highly recommend it).

And whilst I am on the subject, a new Idler is out: Issue 42 Smash the System. It has changed and matured a bit in this incarnation and now is an annual rather than biannual publication that concentrates on being a collection of thought provoking essays rather than the lighter hearted magazine it used to be.

Anyway back to what I was talking about, inspired by the “The 4-hour Work Week” and the New Escapologist I have been setting up a Muse.

A Muse is essentially automated small business capable of generating a desired level of income. With a muse you set things in motion and then the business should be able to run itself with minimum input from you (hence the “4 hour work week”) freeing up your time to concentrate on higher pursuits (remember being Slow is not about being Lazy, it is about pursuing what you want to do).

This is where the Internet has really come into it’s own, It would have been very difficult to create muse even 10 years ago!

The New Escapologist suggests creating a muse that delivers £356 per week because, according to them, in his book “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More”, John Naish suggests that the secret to material contentment is to earn on or slightly above the average earning-level of your country of residents (in the UK that is £18,000 or £355 a week and the New Escapologist has added a pound to be nice).

It doesn’t mean you need to give up work all together, but it creates that safety net of a regular income that will allow you to do what you want, whether that is travel, do volunteer work, go back to college, set up your own business, re-train, change job/career, go part time, move, write, craft, paint, become a lord or lady of leisure and take long strolls in the country. It gives you that freedom (but also security) to finally slow down!

So, that is what I have been working on, my Muses! I have set up 2 so far, an audio programme “Welcome to the Slow Life” giving more details of how you can start slowing down. You can have a look at www.WelcomeToTheSlowLife.com and an ebook for people who want to set up their own coaching or therapy practice (something I have been “unofficially” doing for some time), called (originally) “The Professional Practice Builders Handbook” which you can find at www.ThePracticeBuilderHandbook.com

I am currently struggling putting together a couple of new programmes, and been suffering a little bit of creative block.

But it hasn’t all been work, work, work….
Oh no.

I have also been out and about a lot: a couple of trip to sunny London, and a trip to Bristol to see the Banksy exhibition, which is just fantastic and I urge you to go and see it before it closes…

But talking of working. I have long been a great believer of a Four Day Working Week, being a bit of an Idler at heart, long before I formalised it by coming across The Idler and Carl Honore’s excellent book “In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed“, in fact, I recall conversations with my boss Charles at my second Proper Job at the age of 19 as junior accounts clerk in a carpet factory (that was fun, fun, fun) discussing exactly such a thing (Charles was somewhat of an Idler himself and considered a job a necessary evil and treated it that way!)

So, when I first came across Saint Monday in Tom Hodgkinson’s book “How to be Idle” I was astounded that this idea of a 4-day workweek had been around for centuries in an almost formal way. So much so it had a name (and has it’s own Wikipedia Entry! Don’t believe me? Check it out!)

Since then I have campaigned for a return of Saint Monday and each week on my blog, place a holding post on Monday stating I am celebrating Saint Monday and don’t do any “work” that day, although I will often write or read or research.

I have a short post on the blog I link back to that explains Saint Monday in more detail but thought, for you non-blog reading podcasters out there and to those blog readers who want a little but more detail I would dedicate this SlowCast to a little bit more of a detailed history and description of Saint Monday.

The thing that really got me when I found out about Saint Monday was that there have been a number of academic papers written on it! I had to PAY to get hold of them!

So, for this SlowCast I draw on “The Decline of Saint Monday 1766 -1876” by Douglas A Reid, as well as Tom Hodgkinson’s “In defence of skiving” article in the New Statesman.

Saint Monday is the tradition of absenteeism on a Monday (Saint Tuesday is the less common extension of this to a Tuesday)

The tradition of taking Monday (unofficially) off has been common among craft workers since at least the seventeenth century.

To understand Saint Monday you have to understand the context in which it came about. During the industrial revolution there came greater pressure on workers to adhere to a timetable, whereas before they would work as and when they wanted to get the work they needed to get done, done. But as the industrial revolution rolled on they were expected more and more to work to shifts.

Of course the old habits of working as when they wanted was hard to break and, especially in Birmingham (my adopted home city I was very pleased to find out) the workers rarely paid attention to shift hours and continued to work as and when they pleased. The demands of the clock were yet often subordinated to the desire for sociability:

“…the industry of the people was considered extraordinary, their peculiarity
of life remarkable. They lived like the inhabitants of Spain, or after the custom of the Orientals. Three or four o’clock in the morning found them at work. At noon they rested; many enjoyed their siesta; others spent their time in the workshops eating and drinking, these places being often turned into taprooms and the apprentices into pot boys; others again enjoyed themselves at marbles or in the skittle alley. Three or four hours were thus devoted to “play”; and then came work again till eight or nine, and sometimes ten, the whole year through.”

(Birmingham Journal 26 Sept. 1855, “Hints for a History of Birmingham”)

It was on this custom and working practices that Saint Monday was born.

The prime supporters of Saint Monday were often the higher skilled and therefore, better paid craftsmen and artisans. High piece-rates could provide good wages for skilled men, but they more often elected to take a moderate wage and extensive leisure.

But even the lowest paid workers would try and support the custom and as late as 1842 it was said of factory owners “that they often have great difficulty in getting their men to work on Mondays, unless by that time they have expended the earnings of the previous week”

At it’s peak at around 1840, business owners in some industries had become accustomed to workers not arriving on Monday, and were willing to tolerate it, even putting on provisions for entertainment including rail journeys, plays and games such as cricket. Entrepreneurial-minded leisure facilities such as the railways and botanical gardens would offer special prices on admission on Mondays and noticed swelling working class visitors.

Not surprisingly, business leaders found Saint Monday (and all it represented in irregularity and insobriety) an irksome, not to say, a ruinous characteristic of the labour force! And undertook a programme of publicly denouncing Saint Monday, bribery, coercion (offering half holidays on Saturday  – which were slowly eroded after the eradication of Saint Monday) and threats (locking workers out on Tuesday who did not come in on Monday, stopping them from working, thereby earning) by business owners. But…

“Astonishingly, even the cultural attitudes which had sustained the Saint Monday of the eighteenth century survived in some measure into the 1860’s and beyond. It seemed that the “inward notation of time” of heavy steel-toy workers of the 1860’s was still oriented to the task (or to leisure) rather more than to the clock. These piece-workers would come “what time they please”; perhaps in summer they will come at 5 and leave by dinnertime”. On Mondays very few went at all.”

Eventually though, Saint Monday waned to nothing during by the mid nineteenth century.

I am very great believer that in these days of the modern technology we have, it could finally live up to the promise of it being “a labour saving devise” and free us from some of our work, meaning a 4 day working week is totally possible! OK, it only gives you one extra day a week, but 1 day is better than nothing.

So, join the Saint Monday celebration, skive off on a Monday, petition you boss for an extra day off, if you are business owner, give your workers that time off and let then enjoy themselves! Why not even take them somewhere nice? Promote the 4-day work week!

Or am I being too idealistic? I dunno. Maybe Saint Monday is somewhat unattainable (in the short term) but we have to do something to reverse the growing trend of longer working hours, which are not productive and are damaging to our physical, mental and social health…

Thanks for listening, until next time try and celebrate Saint Monday in some way!