I know how to relax

I know there is a view held by some people – Baroness Murphy has variously expressed it, for example, on Lords of the Blog – that I don’t take holidays.  Well, it is sort of true.  I don’t see the point of sitting wasting time on a beach and I have never seen the point of partying.  Because of the number of speaking invitations I receive, I regularly travel to different countries (sometimes for quite a period of time) and as a result have seen a good deal of the world.  I regard this as far more worthwhile than swanning around not doing anything.

I do, though, occasionally take weekends off – sometimes long weekends – and disappear, usually to the continent, either on my own or with a friend.  The two  things (weekends off, going somewhere) are inextricably linked: if I don’t discipline myself to book somewhere, I will get on with work.  I rather like working at weekends – Saturdays especially are great for research – but it’s nice once in a while to have a change.  And by travelling by train to, say, Paris or Amsterdam I can get lots done on the train.

What’s more, in 2009 I did take a week off to go on holiday (to Belgium and the Netherlands) with a friend.  I won’t say it was a traditional holiday – my friend’s interest in churches is on a par with my interest in legislatures – but it did qualify nonetheless as a holiday.  And to prove it, here’s a jolly picture, taken in Bruges.   Admittedly, it was the first week-long holiday I have taken since, I think, 1973 (unless one counts a US coast-to-coast car trip of several days in 1975).  No point in overdoing things.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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52 Responses to I know how to relax

  1. Dave H says:

    Sitting on a beach is something I might manage for a day if I was tired and wanted a rest, but then I’d be bored and want to go do something else. I much prefer active holidays, whether it’s walking in the British countryside or snorkelling in Hawaii (which does go well with sitting on the beach, it is true). Sadly, finances mean that the former is much more likely than the latter. I don’t get all the speaking invites so I have to use the excuse of holidays to see other countries.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Dave H: It is certainly true that invitations get me to different parts of the world. (I should perhaps say that I sometimes go to conferences at my own expense.) Getting invitations to speak in some faraway exotic country may sound wonderful – to me, it invites an inward groan: there’s long-haul flights involved. They don’t all get accepted!

  2. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    When I see 2045 coming up on the calendar then I will have to see if we are both still on this mortal coil and fit for travel and then perhaps I will be able to insinuate myself into a train trip or a visit to Louisiana or something else involving Your Lordship. The good thing about your post is it gives one a bit of time to plan things and make an appealing proposal if you stick to pattern… One does not feel unduly rushed in coming up with something Your Lordship might find appealing.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Frank W. Summers III: My academic activities have not yet brought me to Louisiana, but I have spent time not that far away in Georgia and Alabama, as well as Oklahoma (I once drove to Oklahoma City from St Louis) and Missouri (part of a Mid-Western lecture tour, encompassing Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois; I drove rather than flew from venue to venue – I thoroughly enjoyed it). Whether or not Louisiana is quite ready for me is another matter.

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Lord Norton,
        My life is unusually complex in so very many ways. Yet, I feel I can assure you that should our paths cross here in my native state then I could find some hospitality that would be sufficent to fill your Lordship’s limited schedule. I would be pleased if indeed that should happen. The home which I do not own but where I currently reside has six buildings at least four of which are houses and several of my family own more houses nearby than they use daily. My family have a house that sleeps dozens in Mexico and the two most formal homes in our family circle nearby but not on the site where I live were built for a dozen or so and house one to three people. On the other hand our life is usually rustic and Spartan in many ways (except for Holidays), there are about twenty-five nonfamily persons who are also not domestic servants and are here at Big Woods for the next few weeks and we are overrun with dogs and horses of the most disorderly sort. This is most assuredly not Balmoral. Nonetheless, I doubt Your Lordship would be left in the cold should it come to that…
        Beyond my family I do know the hotels though I frequent them less than before. There is assuredly plenty to do. We have for four hundred years survived in part by hosting guests of varied titles and inclinations.
        My earlier comment was directed to your full on vactation which apparently occur every 35 years. That deserves a real plan.

  3. Howridiculous says:

    Dear Lord Norton,

    I would not equate ‘swanning around’ with ‘doing nothing’. Indeed, in my experience ‘swanning around’ can be very hard work and involve quite a lot of activity.


  4. Carl.H says:

    My Lord, having looked up your publications recently and seeing they number far in excess of Tolstoy, who is frequently used as a measure, I would think if you slowed down your brain may well explode.

    As far as the holiday to Bruge goes this is in keeping with your data gathering accountant image. Belgium being noted as possibly the most boring country of the World, though I am told it`s chips are exceptionally good.

    I remember seeing data recently that 50% of Lords members have more than 4 holidays a year, you`re obviously exceptional but I suspect you knew that. 😉

    I was once kidnapped by the wife and kids for seven days away from home, it`s something neither they nor I will repeat. One can relax better in familiar surroundings and to be honest a saw, a piece of wood and some imagination makes for a far happier Carl.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: Many thanks – exceptional is a nice way of putting it. It has been said that when I was born they broke the mould.

      Absolutely right about familiar surroundings. (But ,then, I am a conservative.) I am quite happy at home or in the office, as long as I’m getting on – and there’s tea to hand. I don’t mind where I am in the world as long as I can find a nice cafe or tea room with a good cup of tea. Don’t tell Frank W. Summers III, but I’m afraid Americans don’t really understand tea. Something, I suspect, to do with their early history.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Carl.H: I forgot to address your point about Belgium. I spend quite a bit of time in Brussels, but that is principally because it is the location of the European Parliament; walking from the station to the EP and back is great exercise. Otherwise, apart from visiting for a weekend with a friend on a couple of occasions (likewise Bruges), I know it because it is the connecting point for my trips to other parts of nothern Europe. I am well versed on the layout of the station.

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Lord Norton,
        We had the tea exchange back when I commented on LOTB and in quite the early days — you had a teapot in the post. Now as far as high tea meaning the drink and a few biscuits, scones and sandwiches at a high table, while tea alone means what we call dinner and “a cuppa” means what we call tea you must never build an empire and then misplace it. I lived only one year in the UK as a wee lad it is true but I also lived as an older person in New Zealand and Tonga, toured extensively in Canada and Australia and spent a weekend in Hong Kong. The Commonwealth generaly gets the language for such things. In addition, I am such an unabashed coffee lover that I need no subterfuge to draw the limits to which my tea interest will carry me as regards tea. However, in Beijing I spent a sizable amount of time and money in the marvelous teahouses.

        I do not believe I an likely to look for tea even once in my life the way Your Lordship has many times but I enjoy it in every sense of the word. Without an establishment rules are not the same but here we have three time designations for meals. Breakfast, lunch and supper (not counting minors like brunch) and dinner means the real and most formal meal offered whether it replaces lunch or supper. Thus Tea at the HOL would be much in the line of Dinner at our best clubs I would think. Unless of course London has dropped the “High” from high tea and you are doing that sort of thing. I do not try to keep up with London and they return the favor by being almost entirely ignorant of the social contexts that have mattered most to me…

  5. tory boy says:

    Well Lord Norton all I can say is that we are all different. I think life is for living and therefore one should enjoy oneself on holiday with a stiff drink in mind sitting by the seaside RELAXING with family and friends. I presume that this would be your idea of hell but I can’t say I would find working every Saturday a bucket of fun either. But as i said we are all different. As my old school headmaster would say to us make sure you take time out to re charge your batteries!!

    • Lord Norton says:

      tory boy: “..but I can’t say I would find working every Saturday a bucket of fun either.” You haven’t lived. If you want advice on life on the edge, let me know.

      • Carl.H says:

        I think there is a vast difference between those few of us that have found a vocation in life, that is something we enjoy doing but are also paid for, and those that have a job.

        There are drawbacks though such as a lack of what others percieve as social contact and the fact that regardless of what it pays you`d do it anyway, which in some cases will mean you are taken advantage of in others eyes.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Carl.H: I don’t lose any sleep over the drawbacks!

  6. Croft says:

    Thinking of trips I don’t know if you seen BBC R4 which is running a series of programmes called Lords a Living with peers visiting the places their titles denote. The first three are The Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford, Lady Richardson of Calow and Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe. Not seen any as yet – I wonder if it will work for life peers as presumably they chose their titles because they know well or have some connection to the area whereas many hereditary peers may not have had connections to the land of their titles for hundreds of years?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: Indeed. I wonder if they have asked Viscount Montgomery of Alamein!

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Historical esoterica and especially Hellenic is my standerd contribution so here goes. The all-time record for that probably goes to the Byzantine Imperial Court which like the UK used territorial titles (not all royalist monarchies have) and for the last one hundred and fifty years most of the upper nobility and princely royals at court had never been to their namesakes because they were occupied by the enemy. Yet because thay had homes and wealth in the city and continued to work (even more) at court and in the military they kept their titles to the bitter end.

  7. Paul says:

    It’s a shame there’s not a legislature behind you. You could have added the photo to the annual competition then!

  8. Carl.H says:

    Yeah but it looked slightly better than the Alabama Legislature which was one of the first I found and it`s a far better picture than his Lordship in Bruge with his friend.


  9. ladytizzy says:

    Quote from David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd last night, another Northener who evidently prefers his work to a night out, even in Sydney:

    “Listen, I’ve see that bridge umpteen times. It’s there all the time – and that Opera House, and the sea.”

    Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

    • Lord Norton says:

      ladytizzy: Hmm, not sure how you are defining a ‘Northerner’. Hull is not North and Lincolnshire certainly isn’t.

      • Carl.H says:

        Hull is most definitely North. In the services northerners would call anyone who came from south of Watford a Cockney, it worked in reverse as well.

        Anyone outside the home counties is either a northerner or a tractor driver, some both.

        If one sections the map of England Hull is clearly up North, a lot more northerly than the midlands and Birmingham.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Carl.H: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is classed as being in the north-east. Hull is way to the south of Newcastle, so how can the north be south of the north-east? Hull, like Lincolnshire, is in the east.

      • djb13 says:

        Hull… I believe that’s north of Islington. That makes it North to me.

        Oh, I’m such a Londoner…

      • djb13 says:

        By the way, I am aware that this definition means that Enfield and Barnet are considered North. I am quite content with this definition.

      • Carl.H says:

        Djb13 I was born in Barnsbury…..I`m sure you know where that is unlike most people who think it ooop north.

        Of course now I live in Sarfend which is not in the south at all but in the east unless you`re in Shoebury then I`m in the west. Infact I`m in the west cos Britain is part of Western Society and the East is in fact China…No wait forgot the Eastern Block…China is Far East…unless you carry on walking in which case you`ll be in the west.

        Now if we use McArthurs Universal Corrective Map…..

      • ladytizzy says:

        Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is classed as being in the north-east. Hull is way to the south of Newcastle, so how can the north be south of the north-east? Hull, like Lincolnshire, is in the east.

        So, Newcastle is in the north-west, then?

        It’s quite simple – northerners fly pigeons, southerners eat them.

      • Carl.H says:


        “There are eight city regions in the North. They are:

        Central Lancashire; Hull and Humber Ports; Leeds; Liverpool; Manchester; Sheffield; Tees Valley; Tyne and Wear”

        Parliament has declared Hull to be in the North unless ofcourse you are thinking of moving boundaries ? 😉

      • ladytizzy says:

        What is about Hull folk that makes them so determined to be not Northern? Do you still have white telephone boxes?

      • djb13 says:

        Barnsbury is the South (being in rather than above Islington). But, only just *suspicious glare*.

      • Carl.H says:

        Djb13 it was the Old Royal Free, it was definitely Liverpool Road, I was dragged up after that in Hackney. That`s definitely South unless you`re from South London then I was a Northerner.

        Had a look a KCOM Ladytizzy, seem`s they are still going but with help now from BT, it seems initially the local authorities did try to setup everything independent of the Nation. KCOM started as a Local Authority backed project, as far as I can tell they still have cream telephone boxes .

      • djb13 says:

        Carl.H: I was somewhat joking about ‘anywhere north of Islington’, as I’m sure you figured. I’m originally actually from a small town just north of London, although I was born in Enfield. I count myself as a Londoner because a) I was born in London, b) I strongly dislike my home town and spend every minute I can in London, c) my home town would be part of London were it not for the Tory-controlled council blocking it from being so, d) I’m broadly aware that there are places outside of London, but these are scary and parochial places, that all look the same and e) everyone I talk to who’s not from London accuses me (probably rightly) of being London-centric.

  10. Carl.H says:




    It`s not only facts that come into it eg., anyone born in London is perceived as Cockney. The first map shows what many in the south would perceive as North.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: Most of the maps prove my point that Lincolnshire (or most of it) is not in the north. They also rather bear out my point that there is little recognition that there is actually an east in this country, clearly assuming there to be only a north and a south. Perhaps it is about time I led a campaign for recognition of England’s east coast. Lincolnshire now has a county flag, so we have a banner…

    • franksummers3ba says:

      Carl H.,
      You and several other here (including PLNBoL of course) seem pretty knowledgeable about the USA so you may be able to appreciate this:
      These are just the ones without coarseness and obscenity…

      • Carl.H says:

        One thing I have to say Frank is that it always amazes me how the Civil War in the US has never completely finished in terms of argument.

        The USA is of course extremely large in terms of the UK, often speaking with people there who think nothing of a quick jaunt 3 or 4 hundred miles or more. Speaking to a mother from Kentucky who regularly takes her child 200 miles to a hospital absolutely astounds me.

        One of the great things about the internet is that it has broken down so many barriers and the isolation that people within Countries have felt in the past.

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Carl H.,
        I believe William Wallace, Cromwell, Charles VI, the the later Plantagenets, the Diggers, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Irish R0yalist resistance to Cromwell and some others still have real admirers in your realm. Serious people with serious nostalgia. However, You are certainly right that The Confederacy and the Grand Army of the Republic are still among the most important socio-political forces in this country. I mean it — among the most important. Oddly as may seem they are often allied agaist other views of America while retaining a respectful enmity.

      • Carl.H says:

        Frank we have some Republicans but I wouldn`t say Cromwellians, the rest seem to be mostly from devovled “Countries” which make up our Union. There is a north/south divide in many ways, in the South we are called soft and it is fact that financially the South is better off than the north where most industry now seems to have to have ceased.

        There are of course many minor divides such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, North London and South London and even those can go to more sub divides. Infact no matter where we populate we seem to find divisions or invent them and it takes hundreds of years to get over most of them. It seems we work harder to divide than we do to consolidate.

      • franksummers3ba says:

        Carl H.,
        I am not a Freemason but it might be an easy answer to blame my perspective on my many Masonic ancestors. I think societies and people have to be built and maintained constantly as well as having had a solid basic building at the start to get anywhere. However, I will say that while I personally do not see differentiation winning out overconsolidation as the main event i heard a story in graduate school about an American Historian who was trying to describe the flow of historiagraphy in our time. He was known for a rather formal use of vocabulary and diction and so his final summation to his graduate students (of whom I was not one) was all the more memorable. “Fellows, it boils down to this, in looking at history there are lumpers and there are splitters and in your generation the splitters have it all their own way”!

  11. djb13 says:

    I rather agree with about holidays. I can’t stand beach holidays, besides the fact that they separate me from the internet, which usually makes me more productive intellectually, but then I have no manner by which to apply that productivity. I tend to go insane two or three days in…

    Nor am I a fan of party holidays. Not that I’m not a fan of partying, and I have been on a party holiday, but I spent rather too much money, doing what I could have done in England, more expensively, and being unable to communicate with the locals.

    I am a fan of the city break, although I suppose academic work gives you pseudo-city breaks on a regular basis, so I can understand where you’re coming from.

    • djb13 says:

      Now, why did Firefox’s spell-checker convert “two or three days in Greece.” into “two or three days in…”? Anyway, apologies for that.

  12. Lord Norton says:

    When I’m away, you seem quite capable of chatting among yourselves. 🙂

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